By: John Molori
December 28, 2004

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THIS WEEK:

- 21-Win Salute
- Papa Gino
- Pennington's privilege

Patriots, Parker, Pro Bowls and Pennington

Here a few football media presents found beneath the rubble of torn wrapping paper, tattered ribbons and credit card bills that will keep several generations of descendants in debt.

Al Michaels, the veteran, and almost venerable "Monday Night Football" announcer, has surpassed Howard Cosell as the ultimate voice of the prime time fixture. His interview with Shaquille O'Neal at halftime of the recent Pats-Dolphins game was shameless cross-promotion, but Michaels' talent made it legit.

I am back in the Chris Berman love tank. For a while, I was one of those guys who pleaded with ESPN's Berman to lose the K-Mart blue light special ties, tone down the volume and ease up on the nicknames. Now, I want him to up the dosage on all of the above. Berman is an original who actually has fun with the NFL. He gets it.

Last month in this space, I wrote that the Patriots have a multitude of star players who get plenty of credit. The team as a whole, however, deserves more. Their recent 21 game winning streak along with their sustained excellence at home, on the road and when leading at halftime or heading into the fourth quarter make them, OK I'll say it, as good as ANY team in the history of the league. Incidentally, advanced sales of "21," a DVD chronicling the Pats' 21-game winning streak are available at Patriots.com.

Consider this item a heartfelt plea to Deion Sanders to please quit the Ravens and return to CBS. Shannon Sharpe, Sanders' "replacement," is absolutely brutal. He is as big a mouth in studio as he was on the field, but is less entertaining, and he showed his true colors by taking some cheap personal shots at former teammate, Broncos' Jake Plummer on the air recently.

Next to a full body rub from the cast of Desperate Housewives," Comcast's On Demand NFL Network edited game packages are the best thing going. Subscribers with Comcast digital cable can enjoy edited versions of every NFL game on a weekly basis. It is paradise for the Monday morning quarterback. Now, about that body rub.

Frank Caliendo, Fox's "NFL Sunday" resident comedian/impressionist, is outstanding. He has provided hilarious parodies of Dr. Phil and President Bush, and his John Madden impression is the best since Dana Carvey's George Bush, Sr. With all due respect to the well-meaning likes of Dennis Miller, Jimmy Kimmel and Tom Arnold, Caliendo truly mixes comedy with football.

Glenn Parker, the ex-NFL lineman and current NFL Network analyst is the latest in a growing line of insightful blockers-turned-broadcasters. Along with ESPN's Mark Schlereth and Mark May, and CBS' Dan Dierdorf, Parker proves that the men in the trenches are also the men with the talent.

Here's hoping that 104.1 WBCN Patriots analyst Gino Cappelletti will soon be honored with induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. The Patriots all-time leading scorer was a true AFL star who never got the chance to fully showcase his many skills after the NFL merger. Former HBO "Inside the NFL" host and Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti has stated publicly that Cappelletti belongs in Canton. Let's hope that the dream soon becomes a reality.

Mark CBS' Ian Eagle down as the next great football play-by-play man. In the mold of former CBS stalwart Gary Bender and current colleague Dick Enberg, Eagle brings an understated drama to his calls. He knows that he is not the show, but makes you want to stick around to listen and watch the show.

During the recent Pats-Dolphins Monday Night tilt, Miami's superb defensive end Jason Taylor gave a great compliment to Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady. In a taped interview, Taylor said that Peyton Manning has the numbers, but Brady is the best in the NFL in terms of simply winning games. He stated, "If I was starting a team today and they gave me a load of money, I wouldn't give it all to Tom, but I'd give him a lot of it."

I don't dislike the performances of current HBO "Inside the NFL" hosts Bob Costas, Dan Marino, Cris Carter and Cris Collinsworth, but I do pine for the steady excellence of Len Dawson and his longtime co-host Nick Buoniconti. That pair brought chemistry and real football knowledge to another level. Memo to HBO sports prez Ross Greenburg: How about a guest appearance for the HBO legends soon?

During the recent Pats-Dolphins Monday Nighter, John Madden noticed a unique New England defensive scheme. He bellowed, "There are no defensive lineman. I've seen three defensive linemen or even two, but never none. You are looking at a defense that has never been seen in the history of the NFL." One problem, we didn't see it. Furthermore, we had to wait until several plays later for New England to run that same defense to finally get a look at it. Madden earns credit for noticing the alignment. ABC's technical crew earns criticism for being asleep at the switch.

HBO's "Real Sports" is currently featuring a year-end special reviewing the show's most memorable topics from 2004. A must-see is "The High Life," an interview with Pat Summerall from June. Reporter Mary Carillo chats with the NFL broadcasting legend about his liver transplant surgery and his longtime bouts with alcohol. The discussion is moving and eye-opening. It re-airs Monday at 8:00 p.m.

Several members of the local media have been carping about the so-called Pro Bowl snubs of several Patriots, most notably Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon and Tedy Bruschi. While all three men have had great seasons respectively, they were not snubbed. Harrison has made his own bed by fostering and feeding a reputation as one of the game's dirtiest players. Dillon is victimized by playing in the running back-rich AFC and Bruschi is simply not the type of player who garners individual honors. The media cannot buy into the "no individual stars" credo and then be upset at Pro Bowl snubs.

Speaking of Curtis Martin, his phenomenal season takes me back to 1998 when he left New England for a then-lucrative deal with the Jets. Upon his departure, several "experts" labeled Martin as replaceable and harped on his not quite four yards per carry stats. While New England has had serviceable to great backs in Robert Edwards, Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon, one cannot help but wonder what type of numbers Martin would have logged running behind a two-time Super Bowl caliber offensive line and a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. Moreover, while Martin's physical skills may have been arguably replaceable, his attitude and leadership are unquestionably unique.

Jets' QB Chad Pennington has taken tons of media heat for recently saying that the press should feel "privileged" to cover the NFL. The truth is that he is correct. Many reporters have forgotten what a privilege it is to have the type of access that they enjoy. Simply put, they have forgotten how competitive their business is and how many hopeful reporters never achieve such status. I am not saying that it is a privilege to personally speak to all NFL players or coaches, but free meals, free seats and access to a great game sure beats working.

John Molori's Media Blitz column is published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, The Lowell Sun, Patriots Football Weekly, PatsFans.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, RedSoxNation.net and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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