The NFL regular-season opener tonight could either erase a painful memory or create a whole bunch of new ones.
The Green Bay Packers brave the roar of the 12th Man to face off against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at home in CenturyLink Stadium. Even though it’s a Thursday night game, it’s on NBC (8:30 p.m. ET, 5:30 p.m. PT), so it features the Sunday Night Football team of Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels, and Michele Tafoya.
Speaking in July to Breitbart News and assembled press in Beverly Hills, California, with the rest of the broadcast team, Michaels said, “[The Seahawks] play Green Bay in a game they played two years ago on Monday night, which ended in a crazy, end-of-the-game, controversial catch in the end zone, which gave Seattle the victory. It’s as discouraging a loss as any team could suffer, in this case, the Green Bay Packers.
“So we’ve got [Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson. We’ve got Marshawn Lynch. We’ve got the Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl champions, against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. We have been to a lot of crazy stadiums around the country, but believe me, Seattle is the craziest. Hands down. There is no argument there.”
For Packers fans who may have scrubbed the game Michaels referenced from their memories, it took place on Sept. 24. 2012, during the NFL referee lockout, with replacement officials on the field. On fourth and ten, with eight seconds to go, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, playing in only his third NFL game, sent a “Hail Mary” from the Packer 39-yard-line into the end zone, which ended in a dogpile of blue, green, and yellow.
Replacement official Lance Easley, a banker, ruled that Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate had simultaneous possession with Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings, and called it a touchdown. The call was reviewed and upheld, giving the Seahawks the win, 14-12.
Angry Packer players and fans dubbed the play the “Fail Mary,” and within two days, the NFL settled with the refs.
But, to this day, Easley defends his call. As a story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel from Sept. 2 said, “He is convinced this ‘Fail Mary’ play was ‘Immaculate Reception’-rare, the type of play any official could botch. He wouldn’t change anything. Heck, he even misses officiating.”
If there is a questionable call, no matter which team it favors, one shudders at the decibel level the 12th Man could generate this time around.
As for the rest of the season, Collinsworth said, “Seattle’s the best team if they don’t do the Super Bowl hangover thing. Denver, in my opinion, is the most motivated team in the league. They got humiliated in the Super Bowl. So if I had to pick one, I’d take Denver. And the team that I like is Philadelphia.”
“You go to the racetrack,” said Michaels, “you’re not looking for a 3 to 5 shot; you’re looking for a 15 to 1 shot. So, San Diego will meet Arizona in Phoenix, and Arizona will be the first team to play its Super Bowl game at home, and the Los Angeles Kings will win a third Stanley Cup in four years next year.”
For the record, on Wednesday, Sept. 3, NFL Network analyst Heath Evans, a former Seahawk and New England Patriot–who correctly picked the Super Bowl teams last year–picked his two former teams for the next Super Bowl, with the Pats coming out on top.
The official start of Thursday Night Football on CBS and the NFL Network is on Sept. 11, with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens, airing on both networks.
Also speaking to Breitbart News and other press in Beverly Hills in July, on a panel with CBS honchos, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who’s also on the broadcast committee for the NFL, said, “We started [NFL Network] over 10 years ago…it was like the birthright of ownership, where we always had our own network we could depend on. And now we’re at a point where we wanted to partner with someone who could be an enhancement to the NFL Network.
“That’s why combining Thursday Night Football, having CBS do all the heaving lifting, really, in terms of the announcing, the broadcast, their support people, taking the best people from the NFL Network and combining it–we thought it allowed us to bring a bookend kind of mentality to weekends in America.
“By Thursday night, because of fantasy football and all the other things we try to bring as enhancements to the game, people want football.”
Fans can look forward to some new technological bells and whistles, starting with the shoulder-pad sensors previously reported by Breitbart Sports, which make their debut at the first Sunday-night game on Sept. 7, and will be featured mainly at the Thursday games. They will allow commentators and fans (and maybe, eventually, teams) to track players moment-to-moment on the field.
Also, as explained at same press event by CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, “We have a super-high-definition 4K camera that’s going to be suspended on wire over the sideline and over the goal lines for a look that’s never been seen before on network or cable television. Right over the goal line, right over the sidelines.
“So, if a player steps out of bounds, or he’s inbounds, you’ll see an incredibly high-definition look.”
In terms of officiating, McManus said, “We’ve hired very well-known and prominent [former] NFL referee Mike Casey to be our rules analyst up in the booth.
“We’re also going to mic players, which has been done sporadically in the past. But we’re going to have at least one player from each team mic’d during the game for quick-turnaround audio on a big play, touchdown or something else.”
Of course, Thursday is prime real estate for CBS, and it won’t be carrying Thursday games for the whole season.
Said CBS Corporation President and CEO Les Moonves, “From our point of view, we’re open to the conversation about it. It’s great right now to have Thursday night going through the end of October and able to sprinkle our programming elsewhere. And if the NFL would like to go longer, we’d certainly be interested in talking about it.”
For now, broadcast television and the NFL remain the best of friends.
Said Moonves, “If I may paraphrase a line from The Godfather, the NFL has always been good to their partners. We pay a lot of money; we get a lot of money. It’s the highest-rated show on television. We do extremely well, we do make a profit, even though the rights fees are high. So, we couldn’t live without the NFL.”