Airwaves: Networks on the mark with tributes to vets 

Kudos to all the major networks who paid tribute to our armed services this past week in a celebration of Veterans Day. Words don’t, and can’t, describe the bravery and pure resolve of our troops that have perished in meaningless war and risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us from the moronic evils that exist across the oceans. While watching TV or listening to the radio, tears came to my eyes more than once marveling at some of the heroics that have been achieved.

One issue that came across loud and clear was the definite connection between the military and sports. Listed below are a few of my personal highlights and feelings about what was on the airwaves this past week in relation to Veterans Day:

- Fox went above and beyond the call of duty in integrating the NFL with our troops overseas. As predicted in this column last week, Fox had a very emotional two-hour pregame show. The entire crew was on location in Afghanistan. As always, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Strahan and Curt Menefee were entertaining and their true feelings about our troops clearly came across on the tube. In addition, I was delighted to see that Fox brought information man Jay Glazer along on this trip. Jay is one tough dude who fools with karate and other forms of martial arts. He really understands what the meaning of war and battle is.

At the end of the show, dressed in Army fatigues, the six broadcasters came on stage to a thundering ovation from the troops. Great stuff!

- ESPN was not to be outdone. From a moving interview with Marie Tillman, the wife of ex-NFL star and San Jose native Pat Tillman who was killed in action in Afghanistan five years ago, to endless interviews with athletes who have served in the military, the network was all over it.

- On the radio, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic spent Tuesday broadcasting their morning show from the USS New York. The ship is made from steel that was taken from the Twin Towers, after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The ship looked awesome and it is a tribute to our nation’s ability to build the unthinkable. It also fittingly salutes the brave policemen and firemen we have in this country.

But beyond the floating city, ESPN had great guests all day long on Tuesday and Wednesday. Vet and former Steeler Rocky Blier recounted when he was wounded while serving our country. ESPN’s NFL reporter Sal Paolantonio talked of his days while serving in the Navy. Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who played at and coached at Army, talked about life at West Point and the connection between sports and service.

- On Wednesday, ESPN’s “SportsCenter” was broadcast from West Point.

 

Oregon right to give Blount another shot

Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount was reinstated to the team this past week and is eligible to play in the remaining games for the Ducks. Blount issued a statement, which was undoubtedly written by the Oregon sports information director, stating: “Now it is up to me to prove to people that their lasting impressions of me are not what they saw in Boise.”

Blount received a great deal of national attention after punching a Boise State player on national TV following the season opener between the Ducks and Broncos. I hope things work out for him. We all deserve a second chance. I applaud the Oregon coaching staff and athletic department for the way they have handled this situation.

- I really don’t like football analysts who stand during a segment. While watching the NFL Network this  past week, ex-Raiders personnel executive Mike Lombardi was standing next to Charles Davis. Problem is that Davis is around 6-foot-4, while Lombardi is 5-10. It just looks goofy. I wonder what the producers are smoking.

- “30 for 30,” an ESPN documentary series, featured Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder this past week. “The Legend of Jimmy the Greek” was on the tube five times this week. It presented the former commentator for what he really was, a true character who had a shady side. While growing up, he was one of sports TV’s biggest stars.

- Matt Millen is back where he belongs: In a booth for an NFL game. He and play-by-play man Bob Papa did a yeoman’s job on Thursday evening while broadcasting the 49ers versus the Bears on the NFL Network. Millen, who admittedly had a hard time as an executive for the Detroit Lions, has not missed a beat returning to the booth. That being said, I like him much better in an NFL booth as opposed to a college setting.

 

On target

In the spirit of Veterans Day, the Navy football team sailed into South Bend, Ind., last weekend and beat Notre Dame 23-21. It was a great game, but Navy should not be beating Notre Dame on the gridiron. This is the second time in three years the Midshipmen have done this. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has done a brilliant job at Annapolis with his spread option attack. Players attend our military academies because they want to, not because they are recruited.

 

Who said it

Terry Bradshaw
“This is the Fox family and you are our military family. The bottom line is that it’s all about love. We love you,” the emotionally charged Fox NFL broadcaster said to the troops he was with during last week’s pregame show broadcast in Afghanistan. Bradshaw was very emotional and it is easy to see why this former QB is so popular. He speaks from his heart.

Jay Glazer
“Make no mistake about it — the bad guys are out there and they are gunning for us,” Fox’s NFL inside-source man delcared after giving his final injury update on last week’s NFL Sunday pregame show from Afghanistan.

 

One to watch

Two of the top teams in the Western Conference square off today in Chicago. The Sharks will meet the Blackhawks at 4 p.m. in what should be an entertaining battle. The Sharks, led by Joe Thornton, are one of the top offensive teams in the league, while the Blackhawks are one of the best teams in the league at keeping their opponent off the scoreboard. Comcast SportsNet California carries the action.

 

By the numbers

$4.4 million USC football coach Pete Carroll’s annual salary

$4.3 million Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops’ annual salary

$4 million Florida football coach Urban Meyer’s annual salary

Artie Gigantino spent 25 years as a coach at the major-college and NFL levels, was lead college football analyst for Fox Sports Net for seven years, was with CBS for one year and was an executive with the Raiders for three years. E-mail him at agigantino@sfexaminer.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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