By: John Molori
September 10, 2007

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THIS WEEK:

- Gaudelli's gridiron
- Miserable Meadowlands

Gaudelli leads "Sunday Night Football" team to success Jets show no class as Pennington fights through injury

The under card is completed. Bring on the main event. NBC's second season of "Sunday Night Football" rides into Gillette Stadium this Sunday for a prime time grudge match between the Chargers and Patriots, both successful in their season openers.

"Sunday Night Football" producer Fred Gaudelli brings a selective bag of technological tricks. "I try to focus on things that will provide clarity and make the viewers' experience better," says Gaudelli, who spent eleven seasons as producer of ESPN "Sunday Night Football" and five more producing ABC's "Monday Night Football."

"Last year, we acquired a microscope and applied it to our taped replays. We called it NBSee It and it allows the viewer to get a closer look at a play. Using surveillance technology, we can enhance pictures without losing quality."

Technology aside, the success of "Sunday Night Football" is about the people. Says Gaudelli, "John Madden and Al Michaels are as good as it gets. They can easily move from discussing the best cheese steak in Philadelphia to the cover 2 zone.

"(Sideline reporter) Andrea Kremer's appetite for news is insatiable and she gives us a great safety blanket on the sidelines. Andrea had to make an adjustment last year from longer feature stories to working live and within a shorter time frame. People respect her work, but they know if she is calling, it's like hearing that Mike Wallace is here to see you."

Flex scheduling will again help NBC's cause. Beginning in November, the best and most important NFL games will be moved to Sunday night. "It could not have gone better last year," says the 47 year-old Gaudelli.

"People know that NBC will be doing a showcase game later in the season. When you have a meaningless game, it's kind of depressing and can kill your ratings. We might not have the best game of the week, but we are assured of having a meaningful game."

NBC doesn't have to wait until November for a meaningful game in 2007. This week's Chargers-Pats tilt is drenched with playoff implications and memories. Says Gaudelli, "The NFL did a huge favor for us scheduling this game when they did.

"San Diego couldn't put the Patriots away in the playoffs last year and Tom Brady, as always, made the plays he had to make. You have two teams with legitimate Super Bowl shots.

"The Chargers will show us this year if the NFL is about the coaches or the players. San Diego takes a backseat to no one in terms of talent, but can they overcome the loss of their head coach and two coordinators?"

As for the Pats, Gaudelli sees a shift, "New England stepped out of their philosophy and went deep into free agency. Everyone knows Bill Belichick is a top coach. This game could decide home field advantage.

"I remember when the Patriots beat the Colts in a season opener a few years ago. Tony Dungy told me that that loss put them behind the eight ball for the rest of the season."

Gaudelli has been through the prime time wars and is not shy to comment on news of the day. NBC analyst Tiki Barber has come under fire for criticizing his former Giant quarterback Eli Manning. Gaudelli says it might be a necessary evil.

"When a guy retires, he has to talk about the team he played for. I actually found Tiki's comments interesting and Eli's response interesting. When you move from football to broadcasting, you have to be honest. How critical you are is up to you."

Last season, Gaudelli said that Tony Kornheiser would have "a short-lived tenure" on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." He remains unimpressed stating, "I still think that Tony Kornheiser is very niche. If he were not a sportswriter, I think the media would be more critical of him. Writers protect one another.

"I was at ABC for Dennis Miller's second season on "Monday Night Football" and he brought more than Kornheiser. I just don't see what he brings to the broadcast and if he has a place. He is not negative or positive. He's just there."

Gaudelli is also frank in his assessment of a former ESPN booth analyst. "I'm sorry for the way it ended for Joe Theismann. It was messy and ESPN was so disingenuous. When someone tells you that you did a great job, but they are replacing you, they are not being completely honest."

Last year, NBC's "Sunday Night Football" finished in the top 6 prime time shows and was far superior to ESPN's broadcast in on-air talent and technical presentation. NBC provides the best NFL game broadcast in the business, but Gaudelli wants more.

He states, "Roone Arledge used to say, 'Give them something they can't see anywhere else.' I'm not scouring Fox, ESPN or CBS to see what they're doing, but I want our show to be distinctive.

"I view last season as a good start. We are every bit as formidable as the old "Monday Night Football" on ABC. People know that the big game is now on Sunday night, not Monday night."

J-E-R-K-S

Fans often use the word arrogant to describe today's professional athletes. Funny, that same word can be used to describe many of today's fans. High ticket prices and fan-based blogs have truly given contemporary fans a false sense of worth.

In yesterday's Patriots at Jets game, we saw the lowest common denominator of fans and, no surprise, it happened at the Meadowlands. When Jets quarterback Chad Pennington suffered an injury in the third quarter, an eruption of applause emanated from the Jets faithful.

The valiant Pennington fell numerous times and pulled himself up, finally hopping off the field on one leg.

At first, I thought the applause was for Pennington's tenacity, but when backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, ran onto the field, the applause grew louder. Jets fans were actually rejoicing in what, at the time, appeared to be a serious injury to Pennington. It was gross.

New York fans like to view themselves as something special, but much of their fan base is quite sadistic. Remember the New York Ranger fan who took a swipe at several Bruins players with a hockey stick back in 1979.

The action incited then-Bruins Mike Milbury, Terry O'Reilly and Peter McNab to go into the Madison Square Garden stands and pummel the perpetrators. Too bad that trio wasn't at the Meadowlands yesterday.

How do you think the heroic Pennington feels about his hometown crowd now? The guy has led the Jets, a hopeless organization since Joe Namath slapped on his last splash of Brut 33, to multiple playoff appearances and has fought through numerous injuries, and this is the thanks he gets.

New England fans are brutal, but even in the darkest days of Jim Plunkett, Steve Grogan and Drew Bledsoe, the Foxboro faithful never cheered a potentially debilitating injury.

Amid the Meadowlands cheers, CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms had the guts to scold the crowd for its lowbrow celebration.

On Sunday night, ESPN's Chris Berman also admonished the cheering fans saying that Jets fans are better than that. I don't think they are. Here's hoping that Pennington eventually leaves the pit that is New York and finds his way to some fans who don't dabble in chew toys and finger painting.

As for those in attendance who cheered, maybe you should become Packer fans. Rats like cheese, don't they?

John Molori's columns are published in Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, New England Hockey Journal, BostonSportsMedia.com, BostonSportz.com, PatsFans.com and several newspapers and websites throughout New England. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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