Local knowledge produced benefits
Fox's Navarro knew Patriots
Patriots fans had one of their own working Sunday's regular-season finale against the 49ers.
Fox producer P.T. Navarro considers himself a New Englander, even though he moved around the country as the son of college football coach Frank Navarro (Columbia, Wabash, Princeton).
"No matter where we lived during the year, we summered in Rhode Island, and I grew up as both a Red Sox and Patriots fan," he said.
He became even more familiar with the Patriots last summer when he was hired by Kraft Sports Productions to produce exhibition games, part of the team's effort to make those productions "network quality."
Navarro got his start in TV at ESPN, moved to ABC, and then it was on to Fox in 1994 when it obtained rights to NFL games. He worked his way to the producer's seat first by producing features for the "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame show and later by summering in Europe, producing NFL Europe telecasts and learning the craft.
Once he became a full-time game producer for Fox, he was able to leave Los Angeles and live where he and his wife Julie wanted -- Providence.
Watching Sunday's telecast was a primer from the Fox playbook on covering an NFL game. To wit: Play it straight while the game is close, then, as Navarro said, "Flick the switch and talk playoffs and players."
Thus, when Tedy Bruschi started to imitate Deion Branch's TD dance, Navarro was ready with a mini-Bruschi feature, one that showed his high school band photo (including a mullet hairstyle) and traced his road from band member to NFL linebacker.
And when Rohan Davey replaced Tom Brady at quarterback, Navarro smiled.
"Whenever a player from NFL Europe is in the game, those of us who have covered those games exchange a glance and a smile," said Navarro. "We've seen a lot of players make the transition, not just the Kurt Warners and Brad Johnsons. It's impossible for us not to root for them."
As a network producer, Navarro joins the on-air broadcasters each week in meeting privately with the coaches and key players.
"You read a lot of bad news concerning players," he said. "My experience is the opposite. We meet privately with them every week and 99 percent of them are wonderful people with great stories. We try to humanize these guys. It's something our bosses -- chairman David Hill, president Ed Gorin, and senior producer Bill Brown -- encourage."
Among the features Navarro's crew had prepared for Sunday's game -- but never aired -- were a Q&A with Matt Light, a piece on Davey with the Berlin Thunder, and playoff packages on the Eagles, Falcons, and Chargers.
"You only see about 15 percent of what we prepare each week," he said. "There's never enough time.
But there was enough to give the production a thumbs-up. That includes the Curt Menefee-Tim Green broadcast tandem that was prepared and brought a fresh perspective on the local team. And Channel 25's Butch Stearns did a nice cameo as sideline reporter.
Stearns did the obligatory halftime interview with 49ers coach Dennis Erickson, getting a good quote with his first query about turnovers and controlling the ball: "We're trying to saw wood with the running game and keep them off the field."
Stearns got in a tougher followup, asking why the 49ers, with timeouts left, didn't go for a score on their last drive.
"We tried to, got sacked, and I didn't want to give them field position," was Erickson's snippier answer.
Making the calls
Brady and Boomer Esiason, the "Monday Morning Quarterbacks" on WEEI, had interesting tidbits in their segments yesterday. Esiason wondered whether the NFL gave ABC the short end of the stick in its Saturday wild card pairings of Rams-Seahawks at 4:30 p.m. and Jets-Chargers at 8. The Jets-Chargers matchup makes sense with the warm-weather site, but you know Fox and ABC had a tug-of-war over the Vikings-Packers game that Fox will air at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The ESPN Sunday night crew of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire, and Suzy Kolber will call Rams-Seahawks with the Monday night team of Al Michaels, John Madden, and Michele Tafoya working Jets-Chargers. Brady told WEEI morning cohosts Gerry Callahan and John Dennis that he didn't think much of most NFL analysts, but he refused to name any names. When asked which analysts he did like, he gave a short list: Phil Simms and John Madden . . . ABC's "Monday Night Football" wound up with an 11.0 rating for the year, its lowest ever and down from an 11.5 a year ago. However, in this age of fragmented audiences, "MNF" still wound up No. 7 among prime-time shows, its 15th straight year in the top 10 . . . CBS ended the regular season up 2 percent, from 11.1 to 11.3. Sunday's late window, in which the Colts-Broncos game was seen in most of the country, did a 16.1 rating, the network's best of the season.
The success of former Patriots coach Pete Carroll at Southern Cal gives local football fans a rooting interest in tonight's BCS championship between Oklahoma and USC (Channel 5, 8). Brad Nessler, who will call the game with analyst Bob Griese, on Carroll: "It's amazing to see how the kids rally around him on the practice field. He's a bundle of energy, and the players have bought into his enthusiasm. He's got it rolling and it's a blast watching him coach. He pretends he's still playing. He doesn't care if he's 53. He acts 23." . . . Tomorrow's Boston College-Connecticut men's basketball game at 7 p.m. will air on NESN in the Boston market. Outside Boston, NESN viewers will see Syracuse-St. John's because of UConn's local rights agreement that has the game on the Fox station in Connecticut . . . OLN's "Winter Revolution" debuts tomorrow from 9-11 p.m. and will be a Wednesday night update on all things skiing and snowboarding. Al Trautwig is the host . . . ESPN will promo its new dramatic series "Tilt," based on high-stakes gamblers' lives both at the tables and away from the gaming rooms, tonight at 8. The preview show will introduce viewers to the characters, have interviews with the writers, and show outtakes . . . NESN started a series of 25 classic Red Sox playoff and World Series game rebroadcasts last night, beginning with the 1975 World Series (Game 2 is tonight at 7). The broadcasts will run through Feb. 26. Historic games are a tough way to attract viewers, as ESPN Classic (now branching into original programming of its own) has found. But Sox fans should like the return of "Red Sox Inside Out," the weekly hot stove show that makes its season debut tonight at 6:30 and will run for nine weeks, with the final two shows emanating from spring training. Tom Caron and the Globe's Gordon Edes are the hosts. Jerry Remy is in studio for the inaugural show.
Bill Griffith's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org