December 12, 2010
Thanks to confusion in the FOX announcing booth, viewers watching Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins thought a potential game-tying touchdown occurred on an extra "fifth" down.
With the Redskins down seven points and driving for the equalizing score, the team gained a first down at the 3-yard line after a Donovan McNabb(notes) pass to Anthony Armstrong(notes). The FOX booth, unaware that the play resulted in a first, believed the next play was second-and-1 instead of first-and-goal. As the plays continued, FOX showed the wrong down and the booth of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa announced the action as such. So, what they thought was third down was actually second down, and so on.
You can imagine the confusion that ensued:
They never realized what was going on. It wasn't until the Redskins botched the subsequent extra point that the booth figured out the problem was on their end, not on the field. The players and officials knew the proper down. FOX didn't.
Consequently, viewers at home believed what the announcers did. I received three texts saying "fifth down!" like it was a replay of the infamous Missouri-Colorado football game in 1990. Rich Eisen of the NFL Network Tweeted that everyone in his control room believed the same thing. It just goes to show how much viewers rely on the announcing booth to guide them through game action.
And if that booth happens to get something wrong, don't expect an apology or a correction. There was none in the aftermath of the game. If you didn't have a rewind button, you'd still think the Redskins scored on a fifth down.
It was an honest mistake, but an inexcusable one. None of the three guys working the game could figure it out that the first-down marker wasn't on the side on the field? (It gets taken down when there's no first down to gain.) Nobody else in the booth, like a spotter, mentioned it either? When Johnston was amazed that the down marker changed from third to fourth right after the third-down play (just like it does in every football game played across the country), you're telling me there wasn't a single person listening in on a headset that couldn't put the pieces together?
This was a failure on a colossal level.
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