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Why the NFL’s Rich Eisen is sport’s best anchor

June 1, 2011 1 comment

“I passionately believe that’s it’s not just what you say that counts, it’s also how you say it – that the success of your argument critically depends on your manner of presenting it”

The Premier League season has concluded and the NFL’s off-season remains stagnant due to the lockout. So this seems a perfect opportunity to pen an ode to the best broadcaster sport has to offer, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen.  

The position of anchor is not one which instantly suggest respect. Richard Keys was a constant source of derision and frustration with football fans and despite becoming synonymous with a generation’s television coverage, he is missed by few.

Adrian Chiles was lauded on Match of the Day 2 but his distinctive style hasn’t translated as well on ITV whilst Colin Murray remains the nearest thing to Marmite that television has.

Eisen completes his annual 40 yard dash

In other sports, anchors such as Mark Nicholas, John Inverdale and Hazel Irvine tend to transcend opinion.

It’s a thankless task. With the exception of Nicholas, they are not reared on the diet of their sport like the analysts. Armchair viewers are therefore perhaps inclined to shun their views. They are there to entertain, to inform and to engage. They must present but in debates they must also raise pertinent issues, the questions which every viewer will want answering.

But Eisen has the innate ability to captivate all viewers. It doesn’t matter if he is speaking with players, owners or with his analysts; Eisen gets the best out of the situation. What’s more he makes it fun.

Take this clip from a few weeks back when Rich put Steve Johnson’s “swag” bag on. Can you imagine Chiles, Murray or Keys donning a snood or an Alice band without causing an earthquake from the nation’s collective shuddering?

Then there is this, the annual 40-yard dash where Eisen opens himself up for ridicule by competing against the NFL Draft’s top prospective talents. It is not the type of thing which Richard Keys’ ego would ever have sanctioned whilst he was in the hot seat. Yet it is exactly the type of thing which endears Eisen to his audience.

And because he’s respected and well-liked, off-the-cuff comments which could be construed as smarmy actually come across in the humorous manner they were intended. Take this little back and forth between Eisen and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez last week.

Eisen: “How attuned are you to the labour negotiations?”

Sanchez “There’s a lot of legal jargon…”

Eisen: “But you rely on Cromartie to figure that one out for you right?”

Cue laughter from a clearly tickled Sanchez. The reference, for those of you who didn’t know, relates to Sanchez’s teammate Antonio Cromartie, a man who is accustomed to the inner workings of a court room due to fathering nine children with eight women in six states.

Would the same response have been elicited from a Ryan Giggs or a Frank Lampard had Keys made a similar cheap shot at Wayne Rooney or Ashley Cole? Highly unlikely. Perhaps that’s the strong upper lips we Brits possess or perhaps it’s just part of Eisen’s appeal.

The bold, brash world of American football is no place for the States’ answer to Alan Shearer. Monotonous, beige and lifeless characters will soon be dwarfed by the larger than life figures that are egotistical.

British viewers may find Robbie Savage less than palatable but he is merely a drop in the ocean of irritation compared to Deon “Primetime” Sanders.

Yet what Sanders fails to acknowledge is that without trying to throw himself in front of the cameras, Eisen easily steals the show.

There are plenty of broadcasters in all sports who could learn how to entertain, inform and engage in the way Rich Eisen does.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.

Ryan’s Hype Has Assisted Revis in Contract Pursuit


“Self-praise is no recommendation”

You might forgive New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for thinking the sun shines out of his derrière. There has been universal praise for his shut-down abilities and when discussing Revis’ extraordinary season in 2009, pundits trip over themselves to shower him with plaudits. In a recent NFL feature, Brian Baldinger cooed that he was the best player in the entire league.

His own coach Rex Ryan is among Revis’ biggest fans and like anything concerning his Jets, he isn’t afraid to tell anyone in earshot just how good he is. The trouble is Ryan and the Jets have created a monster. He has hyped Revis up to the high heavens and back down to his very own island. The player’s are certainly enjoying breathing in this air of confidence, Revis it seems, more than most.

Ryan has hyped up Revis in the media

This has become an issue now Revis wants more money. He believes he is deserving of it and the praise Ryan and others have lavished on him is only reinforcing these beliefs.

Does Revis deserve to be paid more? Sure. Does he deserve to be the best paid corner in the league? Possibly. But Nnamdi Asomugha’s gigantic deal means that the Jets will have to cough up a lot, an awful lot.

The trouble is, if you listen to Rex, the Jets also have the best players everywhere else. This surely means that the offensive-line, the linebackers, the punter and the kit man will also want to be the best paid in the league. There’s only so much pie to go around and Revis’ demands threaten to take a large slice of New York pastry. The Jets know that if they load up Revis’ plate, Nick Mangold, David Harris and others will be doing their best Oliver impressions in front of owner Woody Johnson, “please sir, can I have some more?” It may well set a dangerous precedent.

Had it not been for Ryan salivating over Revis and the rest of his troops, you’d think the Jets would be in an extremely strong position when negotiating with Revis and his agent. He has three years left on his current deal, a deal he fought tooth and nail to acquire and the Jets have strength and depth at his position. The defense is extremely strong and has been strengthened again since last term. No more so is this evident than at Revis’ own position, cornerback. The Jets traded for Antonio Cromartie and they used their highest draft pick on Kyle Wilson. As a result, Revis’ absence may not be as significant as he would like to think. The Jets are considerably better with Revis but they have covered their back by loading up in his position.

Revis Island's own mayor wants more money

However Revis can draw upon a plethora of soundbites from his own coach to provide compelling evidence for his own case. Rex’s most glowing reference:

“This year was the best year a corner has ever had in the National Football League.”

Ryan has shot himself in the foot. Whilst his brash demeanour appears to be doing wonders for the team, this is the other side of the coin. Revis believes this contrived hype and he wants the dollars to match it. It will be fascinating to see how this one transpires.