Jim Nantz, Tracy Wolfson, Tony Romo

Only 3 1/2 weeks into an awful NFL season, you look for some glimmer of hope, some silver lining.  The owners and coaches are taking sides with the players who are pissing off fans to the point of making them tune out or stop showing up for games.  Fans are burning team gear or boycotting team stores, bars and restaurants are turning off games, and the pressure to cave in to the players anti-cop, anti-military, anti-American message is unbearable.

Where is that optimism this year?  What sign is there that something will break the sport out of its funk?  Even the NBA, weeks away from the start of its season, is sounding like it will be more of the same.  Every day a new player or celebrity picks a fight with the President, who rightly points out the NFL is killing the goose that lays its golden eggs. Every poll shows Trump has the back of the public on this issue.  You can’t name one player having a breakout season because the National Anthem protests are such a distraction it’s impossible to celebrate the sport on its own merits.

Maybe the bright spot is in the CBS broadcast booth and it’s Tony Romo. The likable, if injury prone former Cowboys quarterback is lighting a fire under a brand that hasn’t had a play-by-play team you could name check since Summerall and Madden.  Romo’s blend of exuberance and clairvoyance has elevated the capable but unremarkable Jim Nantz to a must watch broadcast.  I’ve only seen one game called by Nantz and Romo.  Granted it was a Packers game and I’m a fan.  But I didn’t feel the same way last season when Nantz and Phil Simms called a certain Packers – Lions game.  You know, the one that was capped off with the Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary with no time on the clock. And any Packers fan will tell you network blowhards like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman ruin the game.  I’ve watched Romo’s highlights and can tell you the buzz on this rising star is all good from coast to coast.

Almost all good.

Play-by-play curmudgeon Brent Musburger is not happy Romo threatens the old guard in booth.

“Tony, get off it. First of all, you’re intruding on your play-by-play man Jim Nantz, who’s just trying to give us the scene … and the more years you spend away from the league, you’re going to know less and less about the personnel that’s out on the field. So I’m blowing a ‘stop the hype’ right now.”

First of all, Nantz hasn’t complained.  Of course he would not do so publicly, but this far into the season he could see to it the word got out, if he wanted to leak it. Romo can always dial back the surplus energy – it’s impossible to fake it if you don’t have it.  Second, Musburger’s biggest gripe is that Romo knows the play calling too well.  Since almost all analysts are former players, can you name one who made an impact like Romo in his first season, when they, too knew all the players?  Is it Tony Romo’s fault that Troy Aikman is boring and Cris Collinsworth is corny and just a straight man to Al Michaels, who pretends he knows a lot for someone who never played the game?

Listen to Brent’s pathetic critique:

I mentioned Madden and Summerall, but there is another team of storied men in the booth who drew fire not unlike Romo.  That would be the original ABC Monday Night Football crew of Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and Don Meredith.  Sports broadcast snobs similar to Musburger could not stand Cosell because he was a lawyer and not really a broadcaster.  Cosell could not stand Gifford and Meredith because they were ex-jocks.  So understand professional jealousy is as old as televised sports itself.

Tony Romo is blowing up the “ex-jock in the booth” stereotype and bringing some excitement to the NFL at a time it needs it desperately. Somebody recently asked me what the big deal was about the Beatles coming to America in early 1964.  I’m not making comparisons to the months after the death of John Kennedy, but a country in a dour national mood gravitates toward something hopeful and exciting. The left is killing football – alright, I guess I did make a comparison.  Tony Romo is staging a one man invasion of broadcast coverage that otherwise seems mired down in the Bob Costas caliber, man caused misery of the NFL at this time in history.