The Free World is on the verge of finding out what Odell Beckham Jr. is worth as a television product.
No, not as a product endorser, but as the face of a football team going nowhere.
The 0-4 Giants are riding the road to irrelevancy and will continue their cruise to oblivion if they lose to 0-4 San Diego on Sunday in Jersey. Yet, working without a map or a safety net, the NFL schedule Gnomes have plotted a TV course for the Giants that’s anything but irrelevant.
Six out of the Giants’ next eight games are either in primetime or in the Sunday afternoon late doubleheader window. League suits, like many others, expected big things from the Giants and built a schedule designed to record big TV ratings.
Like any other NFL season the fate of a team can change quickly. And when things go south in a hurry, like they have for Ben McAdoo’s squad, there’s no way (outside of late season flex scheduling for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”) to alter the schedule. So, next Sunday it could be the 0-5 Giants taking on Denver on “Sunday Night Football.”
How exactly does NBC promote that telecast? How does it sell a winless team to America on the NFL’s marquee TV property? That’s where Beckham comes in. Here’s a guy who began building his legend (it’s turning into a myth) on one one-hand grab in a loss against the Cowboys on “SNF.” Can NBC simply run ads saying: “Watch OBJ take on the Denver Broncos?” The promo might not produce results but it is the only thing NBC has to hype an underachieving Giants team.
Odell Beckham might be the only thing the TV networks can sell about Giants if losing continues.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
The other unknown factor has to do with Beckham’s quirky personality. The local football media has feasted on the unpredictable side of Beckham to the extent that it has become his calling card. Does this sell on national TV? If the Giants lose Sunday we are about to find out.
There’s a chance the Beckham factor could work. A part of the NFL’s fan base is addicted to celebrity players and dysfunction. OBJ earns high marks in both categories. There’s no doubt a variety of eyeballs tune in to see if, and how, he will orchestrate his next sideline meltdown.
Having Beckham as the front man for an underachieving team, with a coach whose stock is plummeting, is not exactly the image Giants brass wants to project. If this is to be a down, disastrous season for the Giants, it’s best to play things out quietly, undercover, so to speak.
The Giants TV schedule, and Odell Beckham Jr., will make that impossible.
The executives at Fox (some reports said it was bossman, Rupert Murdoch) who pulled those FS1 Knicks subway advertisements, not only were gutless but did damage to the image of an already lightly watched national sports cable network.
FS1 constantly hypes itself as the place for outrageous, edgy, and controversial sports chatter. They promote Gasbags such as Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharpe, Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd as fearless practitioners who tackle the hottest topics.
Yet what happens when the marketing department launches an eye-catching, peeper-popping, no-holds-barred subway campaign (on the Times Square-Grand Central shuttle) taking on the hapless and, as the campaign said, “hopeless” Knicks, including a reference to James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan? The suits’ onions shrink and they discontinue the Knicks campaign a day after its debut.
How can anyone take FS1’s hype seriously when the powers-that-be don’t stand behind a campaign designed to enhance the network’s edgy image? Also, after this fiasco went down, do any of FS1’s yakkers really believe management will stand behind them if “pressured” by some powerful outside force?
CALL ON GARY
SportsNet New York’s Mets crew is just one voice away from having its entire booth involved in the postseason.
With Ron Darling continuing as Turner Sports No. 1 MLB analyst and Keith Hernandez joining Fox’s panel of postseason pre and postgame Gasbags, only play-by-play voice Gary Cohen is left without a postseason microphone. There’s absolutely no doubt Cohen has the chops for a national gig. It has already been established he is the premier TV baseball play-by-play voice in the city.
Since his partners now have a piece of the national stage, we wonder if Cohen will be in play to replace Dan Shulman, who has already said he won’t be back on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” next season?
ESPN has a deep roster of baseball play-by-play mouths but the Bristol Faculty would not be covering all its bases if Cohen is not on their radar.
EASE YOUR LOCAL ROLE
When baseball’s postseason rolls around, there is no shortage of mouths clamoring for the halcyon days when national networks added a local voice from each of the participating teams to their playoff or World Series broadcast booth.
While it sounds like a good idea, it ignores the reality of the business. MLB’s Network partners (Fox, ESPN, Turner, MLBN) have such a big financial stake in the games, they want their own talent to work the booth.
Maintaining this consistency is the only way they can keep fans identifying with a specific telecast. With the entire playoffs airing on multiple networks, viewers can get confused. Rotating local voices into a national booth would only add to that confusion.
Was that the REAL Jerry Recco working with Norman Julius Esiason last week on WFAN?
The dude sounded like Recco. And on the CBSSN simulcast it looked like him too.
Seriously though, there was something different. Recco had more edge and attitude but it sounded forced, even contrived at times. Recco is pulling out all the stops to become Esiason’s new morning sidekick, but he is at his best when he stays true to himself. Don’t go changing now.
By the way, whatever happened to the FANdroids’ search to replace Mike (Sports Pope) Francesa? The search, which began in June, is taking so long the suits must think they are actually replacing the real Pope. After two months of auditions, they must have found at least ONE talkie they like.
Are they squeamish about FINALLY making the move and naming Francesa’s successor?
CLOSE TO HOME
Well-embedded radio moles say the brass at ESPN-98.7 is into some major belt tightening, throwing nickels around as if they were manhole covers.
How does this affect you, the fan?
Well, take last Sunday night. After the never-ending Jets postgame show actually ended, there was still a need for quality local sports talk. The Giants had lost again, the Yankees were a few days away from their wild card matchup, the Knicks were getting into the preseason. And the surprising Jets were still worth talking about.
Instead of staying local (and having to pay a Gasbag to yakk) ESPN-98.7 went to its ESPN Radio national programming. The two talkies started talking college football. Very lame. No reason to listen.
On her Monday evening FAN football show, Kimberly Jones, working with Carl Banks, told the former Giant his analysis of the team was “fair and honest.” Does this mean she thinks others on the Big Blue beat are not “fair and honest.”… Considering Katie Nolan, who has moved from FS1 to ESPN, sometimes works blue and isn’t big on censoring herself, it apparently now is open season for other ESPN mouths to speak freely with no repercussions from management.
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DUDES OF THE WEEK: JIM KAAT & BOB COSTAS
For keeping it real. The two MLB Network voices were an oasis in a playoff desert of non-stop talkers and stat-happy stalkers. Simply put, Kaat, the analyst, and Costas, the play-by-play voice, let Red Sox-Astros NLDS Game No. 1 breathe. Kaat and Costas, while engaging in game-enhancing conversation, did not feel compelled to fill the air with needless words ultimately designed to either justify their existence, turn a baseball broadcast into a sports talk show, or provide viewers an excuse to hit the mute button.
(John Salangsang/John Salangsang/Invision/AP)
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: ANTONIO BROWN
Who does this guy think he is, Odell Beckham Jr.? The Steelers’ super wideout threw a hissy fit — he dumped a bucket of colorful liquid — on the sideline last Sunday after Ben Roethlisberger neglected to throw to him. Man, is it me or are the best receivers in the NFL all graduates of I-Me-Mine University. Very childish.
What Jeff Hornacek said: “We’re not going to be the greatest defensive team to start out.”
What Jeff Hornacek meant to say: “Phil and Melo are gone but old habits die hard.”