The accelerated work week makes for some rather haphazard action, and all-in-all, Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network makes for some substandard football. Factor in that terrible opening song–although that girl is absolutely gorgeous–and you’ve got a borderline unwatchable production that we just so happen to watch anyways, because… hey… it’s football.
However, there’s something good about Thursday Night Football beyond the fact that it’s just more football stuffed in our fat football faces like some week-long all-you-can eat football special at an Old Country Buffet. That’s play-by-play man Brad Nessler and analyst Mike Mayock.
The pair combine to form the Thursday Night Football booth, and now that they’re a regular yearlong pair, I think it’s safe to say that they’re the best broadcasting team in the game.
Brad Nessler is a skilled veteran who has been a household name in college football (you know him as the voice of EA Sports’ NCAA series) and college basketball, and he’s as skilled as they come in the industry. His voice has a certain machismo to it that we’ve come to expect from the voice of a sporting event, and he’s got an ability to flow seamlessly into a building moment rather than lean on it or suffocate it like… say… Chris Berman.
Meanwhile, Mike Mayock continues to be one of the more insightful analysts in all of sports. The one seemingly common knock on Mayock is that he certainly loves himself some Mike Mayock, but it takes a certain kind of brashness to command authority as an analyst in a booth.
And, when you boil it down, there’s just not many better X’s and O’s guys out there than Mayock. He’s not quite on Gruden’s level when it comes to breaking down sets, but he also does his spiel without (most) of the ludicrous behavior and the blowharding of players.
And when you put an analyst who knows what he’s talking about with a pro’s pro like Nessler, you get a booth that flows naturally. Mayock interjects freely and Nessler stays out of his way, yet, at the same time, Nessler also always brings the appropriate amount of enthusiasm to the moment.
The fact that they do all this during some particularly dreary football games makes their performance even more noteworthy. When Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth (the pair I consider to be the second best booth in football) catch a snoozer, they have a tendency to divulge into Collinsworth telling stories that seem more contrived than anything.
Nessler and Mayock stay mostly on task, which is a little easier to appreciate in this day and age because of the era of football watching that fantasy sports has presented us. Fans are a lot more engaged to games from start to finish these days, and I know I prefer a booth that is on point when I’m watching the end of a blowout that might have some sort of fantasy implications.
And let’s face it, even a bad football game is usually better than someone like Phil Simms spewing complete and utter nonsense to fill up airspace in lieu of a compelling narrative.
The problem that I do have with the Thursday Night Football booth being the best, is that they’re far and away the best. The Sunday Night Football crew is good, but after that it drops off significantly.
Joe Buck is so smarmy that he sucks the life out of Aikman, who I actually find quite entertaining compared with a lesser adversary like a Thom Brennaman.
Jim Nantz is very good as a golf announcer and at selling Titlelists, but he’s gotten so corny that he’s become almost unbearable on any football or basketball broadcast. That’s before you factor in that Phil Simms is a blithering idiot.
And those are the first stringers for the two most prominent networks showcasing NFL football.
The NFL is our most popular sport, but all too often I find myself annoyed with the broadcasting crews. I guess I just expect better.
Luckily, on Thursday Night Football I get three hours where the broadcast booth is smooth and the focus is on the football. It’s just a shame that the football has been so damn bad.