PHOENIX, AZ--Referee Ed Hoculi was reportedly extremely frustrated on Sunday when he was forced to watch promos for My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss and Nanny: 911 before viewing a crucial replay during the the Giants-Cardinals game. The Fox network defended the airing of the promos, claiming that it was all part of an aggressive campaign to publicize their fantastic and groundbreaking new fall lineup.
“Let’s not rush to judgment here,” Fox producer Sandy Weil told a group of reporters yesterday. “Have you even seen the shows in question? I think if any of you had actually viewed them, you’d have a change of heart. You’ve seen My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé, right? I bet you thought you’d seen it all. Well, My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss throws the whole premise on its ear. You won’t believe what these Ivy League ‘smarty pants’ will do to get a job. I am sure Mr. Hoculi, if he had seen the shows, would understand why we’re so desperate to get the word out.”
Fox’s explanation did not sit well with Hoculi. The veteran official was so upset by the unnecessary delay that he wrote a letter to commissioner Paul Tagliabue. After the game, Hoculi blasted Fox producers for interfering with the game.
“Fox has gone too far this time. It is wholly unacceptable to be force fed TV promos while I’m trying to do my job,” said Hoculi. “I’ve got a crowd of 60,000 people sitting here waiting for me to review the play and make a decision. But does Fox care? No. All they care about is self-promotion. Well I say they’re shooting themselves in the foot with all these promos. The shows look horrible. If I were Fox, I’d be burying those ads in a WNBA telecast or something.”
What made the situation even worse for Hoculi was the complexity of the play being reviewed. Giants coach Tom Coughlin was challenging whether an Arizona receiver caught a ball in bounds. It was a painfully close play that required a slow and deliberate review, and the advertisements delayed the game even longer.
“We always try to make a conscious effort to review plays as quickly as possible, so as not to ruin the flow of the game,” Hoculi said. “So by the time I got to the actual review, I was already a good minute behind. I will say this, though. That nanny looks like a carpet muncher. There, I said it. Somebody had to.”
The pre-review trailers were just one part of an ambitious advertising blitz involving Fox’s Sunday NFL broadcasts. Earlier in the day, during its broadcast of the Ravens-Jets game, the network sent Richard Branson, star of The Rebel Billionaire, to sing the national anthem. The performance was universally panned.
“What’s up with that Branson guy singing the national anthem?” asked Jets coach Herman Edwards. “He’s got a terrible voice, and it was embarrassing when he screwed up the lyrics. At one point he was singing something about ‘ramparts.’ Ramparts? I’m sorry, but making up fake words isn’t going to fool anyone.”
In addition to having Branson sing the national anthem, Fox also brought Richard Bianco, the actor who plays the boss on My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, to be a “guest referee.” Bianco perpetrated a hoax on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis by throwing a bogus roughing the passer flag on a crucial fourth down play. Lewis erupted and had to be restrained by three teammates, before Bianco let him in on the joke.
Unfortunately Lewis’s reaction had already gotten him thrown out of the game.
“Ray was extremely agitated by the penalty flag thrown by the Fox network,” said line judge Jeff Triplett. “However, that is not an excuse to lunge at Mr. Bianco with the intent to injure. We had to assess him a personal foul and eject him from the game. Although, I have to admit that most of the officiating crew would have been happy to see Mr. Bianco go down. The only thing better than that would be Rupert Murdoch himself going down. Now there’s a guy Ray Lewis should kill. No jury in the world would convict him.”
Fox executives said they had no plans to curb their television promos during sporting events. According to Weil, advertising during football and baseball games is at a premium because of the popularity of both sports.
“Anytime you can plug your own shows during some sports broadcast you jump at it,” Weil said. “Do you know how many people you can reach during a football game? A lot. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and then some. At some point, we may consider airing an entire episode of one of our reality shows in the corner of the screen during a game. When there’s a commercial break in the game, we’ll show promos for the shows that are already airing in the corner of the screen. Isn’t that mind blowing? Talk about aggressive. That’s one step closer to forcing people to watch it, and two steps closer to actually making a show they’d want to watch on their own.”
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