During the Buffalo Bills’ 45-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Fox showed a brief clip of play-by-play man Dick Stockton going into the radio Hall of Fame at Syracuse University.
I’ve always been a fan of the 73-year-old Stockton, especially of his calls of pro basketball and major league baseball games.
That is why it was so sad to hear how badly he has lost his fastball.
Stockton still has a strong enthusiasm level and sees the big picture. However, he constantly confused Bills running backs, mangled the name of the Bills owners, missed a fair catch and penalties, and had difficulty knowing the yard lines where plays ended.
I don’t know if there was an issue with his spotter. But it was far from a Hall of Fame performance.
Stockton was fortunate the game reportedly was seen in only 7 percent of the country.
You might have expected Fox would bring the game to a larger audience and it would have sent one of its top announcing teams because controversial 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was starting his first game of the season since he generated massive attention for his protest of the national anthem.
One of Stockton’s unintentional funny moments came late in the game when he referred to Bills backup quarterback EJ Manuel as “Eli Manuel,” perhaps confusing him with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
By game’s end, Stockton might have gotten back some Bills fans by comparing the Buffalo market to Green Bay as a football town and saying this about the Bills: “I have to say they are a strong playoff candidate in the AFC.”
That was pretty similar to the remark made by CBS’ Kevin Harlan a week earlier when the Bills beat the Los Angeles Rams. “The Bills are one of the major stories right now in the AFC,” said Harlan.
If the Bills keep winning, perhaps the networks will send more of their top announcing teams to cover their games.
David Diehl, the former New York Giants offensive lineman who is the analyst alongside Stockton, was understandably strong seeing blocks by lineman and analyzing the line assignments on rushing touchdowns by Bills star LeSean McCoy.
However, he has such a low-energy level that you almost wish that he had been given some of the stuff that Donald Trump laughingly claimed over the weekend that Hillary Clinton was on during the second debate to juice her performance. OK, I’m kidding. I just wish Diehl was more lively.
It didn’t help the analyst that sometimes the sound of the New Era Field crowd drowned out what Diehl was saying.
Here are more highs and lows of the broadcast:
Doctor, Doctor: Twitter was blowing up thinking McCoy was joining Sabres star Jack Eichel on the injury list before the first half when he started holding his leg after a tackle: "This stadium has gone completely silent,” said Diehl. He immediately played doctor after looking at the replay and said “it didn't look good.” After McCoy started doing exercises and running on the sideline, he changed his diagnosis and said: "I would say he is OK." McCoy was back in the second half, proving once again it is never a good idea for analysts to play doctor.
Where is WikiLeaks? Fox’s cameras pulled away from the lengthy conversation that Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had with Kaepernick after the game was over. You wish Wikileaks would hack that conversation, which one suspects was about more than just football.
Surgical Response: The announcers were complimentary of Kaepernick’s early play even as he badly missed open receivers, including on one pass to 49er receiver Torrey Smith that could have been an easy touchdown. By game’s end, he was about as inaccurate as Stockton, which Diehl attributed to his loss of strength after three surgeries. It would have been a good game for Fox to send a retired quarterback to analyze Kaepernick’s game rather than an offensive lineman.
The New Math: Stockton thought the Bills had “a 12-point lead” when they were ahead, 38-16. He corrected himself after a commercial. At least he added 140 and 150 accurately when he noted that McCoy had run for 290 yards in the last two games.
A New Restaurant: Stockton noted that a charity event was held at the "Pelugas' " Restaurant downtown, which is owned by the Bills owners, Terry and Kim Pegula. Stockton likely was referring to 716, proving again that he is bad with numbers. I’ll give him a pass on that. But there was no excuse for mangling the names of the Pegulas.
The Good Diehl: Diehl, who played 11 seasons for the Giants, praised Lorenzo Alexander's past work as a special teams player and said Kyle Williams was "the most underrated defensive tackle in the game." And he said he didn’t rest as an offensive lineman when the Giants played McCoy, when the back was a Philadelphia Eagle: "I had to get out of my seat and watch him." Diehl also gets credit for noting the 49ers defense was getting tired shortly before McCoy’s third touchdown run.
Calling Listerine: When Tyrod was shown using mouthwash on the sideline, Stockton asked: “Is he angling for a commercial?” Diehl said it was the “first time I’ve ever seen mouthwash on the sideline.” When the mouthwash jokes started, the game officially became a laugher.
Avoiding Controversy: After the start of the game, Fox pretty much avoided talking about the Kaepernick controversy. The announcers didn’t seem to realize Bills fans were audibly chanting “USA,USA,” apparently aimed at Kaepernick for his refusal to stand during the national anthem. The announcers didn’t mention it. By the way, Fox only carried a few chords of the anthem before the game as it showed footage of Kaepernick and a couple of teammates kneeling during it.
100 Percent Right: When Diehl noted that Bills receiver Justin Hunter had "two catches, 34 yards and two touchdowns in two weeks," Stockton noted that it was 100 percent before cracking: “If he could just improve on that.” He didn't remark that the Bills receiver jumped into the stands in an area of New Era loaded with 49ers fans. That was pretty funny.
He’ll Need Them in December: After tight end Nick O’Leary caught a key pass, Stockton said to Diehl: "Your guy without the gloves." O’Leary doesn’t wear them during games, but he may need them when he goes shopping and it is 20 degrees outside.
There Goes Nobody: Faked out by a McCoy keeper , Stockton said on one option play: "They give it to ... nobody." Pretty funny.
Best Line: Stockton after McCoy went to the sideline with the ball after his second touchdown: "How many footballs is he going to keep today?" He scored another touchdown but he didn’t keep the ball.
Coverage Issue: Diehl analyzed the blown coverage on the 49ers' touchdown pass to Torrey Smith but he didn’t or couldn’t say whether Stephon Gilmore or Ronald Darby blew the coverage by going after the same receiver and leaving Smith alone. After the underthrown ball ended in a touchdown, Stockton said Kaepernick "has delivered so far." That was an example of being kind.
Timing Issue: For a good deal of the game, there was no play clock in sight.
Those Are the Breaks: Diehl noted the Bills were fortunate early when a face mask penalty wasn’t called against Zach Brown early in the game. Those are the kind of breaks a winning team usually gets.
Debatable Issue: When 49ers Coach Chip Kelly made a Doug Marrone-like decision to punt on the 49ers first position with a fourth and two at the Bills’ 40-yard line, you might have expected Stockton to ask Diehl if the call was debatable. “That will force the 49ers' to make a decision,” said Stockton, which left an opening for Diehl. He didn’t say anything.
The Greatest Wardrobe: Fox cameras showed that Kaepernick came to the game wearing a shirt with an image of Muhammad Ali on the front.
All You Need Is Love: In the Fox pregame show, host Curt Menefee asked if it is time to give Bills Coach Rex Ryan, who is often criticized on the program, some love after three straight wins. "Love, love, love Rex Ryan," responded Terry Bradshaw. After a fourth straight win, Bills fans might even have changed their tune. You wonder if Rex might even get some love from ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, who has remained mad at him for firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman four games – and four wins -- ago.