Sunday, October 06, 2002

Daugherty: All talk, no action

Bengals' announcer finds new ways to say 'awful'

        He used to wade through a broadcast like a bear in a mess tent. One big feast, play after play: Go, CD! He's open! There it is! Ohhhhhhh, baby!

        Why bother with a microphone? Just bust open the window in the booth, roll out the game and give the man some room. Dave Lapham analyzing Bengals games was happier than Fred Flintstone on a pile of rocks. He was Cincinnati's John Madden, a quick critic with gargantuan enthusiasm.

        Which is why it's amazing the way he is now. It is as remarkable as the Bengals' polished ineptitude, to hear Lapham on Sundays.

        “That's dumb,” Lapham says. “Everybody wants to be on TV. Why don't you just be on TV playing the game?” Oliver Gibson, a Bengals defensive lineman, has committed a personal foul penalty on the first play of the Sunday night ESPN scrum in Atlanta. “He's getting the face time on TV he craves, but for all the wrong reasons.”

        Lap's fed up. Lap's had it. Dave Lapham, not long ago heard broadcasting minor Bengals triumphs the way Russ Hodges hailed Bobby Thomson's home run — Dillon gains 4 yards! Dillon gains 4 yards! — has muted his trumpet. The large, optimistic portion of Lapham's considerable heart has shriveled to a raisin. It's hard to lead cheers when there aren't any.

        “This team is ridiculous,” Lapham decided, later in the same game.

        The picnic's over, Yogi.

        It's one thing when the national wiseguys take comic aim at the Bengals. To them, the Bengals are pennies from heaven, the NFL's version of an ethnic joke. It's quite another when the team's foremost media cheerleader starts hurling cynical rim-shots as if he's Henny Youngman.

        “This one's starting well,” said Lapham, after Atlanta bolted to an early 13-0 lead. You could almost hear his eyes roll.

        Dave Lapham has come over to the Dark Side. Sadly, grudgingly, astutely. Some of us have been there for years, since Dave Shula and David Klingler teamed up to form the best comedy duo since Martin and Lewis. Some of us realized many moons ago there is no overcoming Bengals emperor Mike Brown, or the way he chooses to run his team. Brown ran the Bengals into the sub-terrain a while back, leaving regular viewers two options: Laugh or die.

        “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” Lapham said Friday. “I'm no longer insane.”

        The new Lap calls them “the Stepford Bengals.” He says the invisible tight ends are “part of the witness protection program.” When the Falcons had to decide whether to punt or try a long field goal, nouveau-Dave mocked the Bengals:

        “I say, DIRECT SNAP, POOCH PUNT. Play field position! Last year, no, last week, it seemed like last year, in Cleveland, down by three points, because of a gale wind blowing at about half-a-mile an hour, he decides to direct-snap it to the kicker and pooch punt it.”

        Lapham was referring to a decision by Bengals coach Dick LeBeau to line up for a field goal, then punt the ball. The play backfired. Well, of course.

        New Lap goes on TV and says other teams' coaches are laughing at the Bengals. He goes on the radio and calls Cincinnati's second-year wide receiver Chad Johnson “immature.” On Sundays, Lapham and his partner Brad Johansen once tongue-wrestled over who could cheer loudest whenever the home guys showed anything resembling competence. Now each vies to out-cynic the other.

        “The Bengals have good balance. They've run it three times and passed it three times. For three yards.”

        Yet Lapham loves the Bengals. Some of us float above the carnage, detached but for caring about the work we produce. To Lapham, broadcasting the games of the NFL team he played for, in the town where he has lived for 28 years, wasn't work. It was Yogi, obliterating the pic-a-nic basket.

        “The Bengals gave me a start in life. I came out of college a snot-nosed kid making a good living. Both my kids were born here. They live in the community. I've lived here since '74. I want to see the team do well,” he said.

        But there are credibility issues. You can't stay positive when the floor collapses. When misery comes like a flood, no one wants to hear how great the flowers will look.

        There are sanity issues. “I have fun with it to get through it,” said Lapham. “To keep myself interested and to try to keep listeners from blowing it off.”

        He said he crossed over to the Dark Side after the season opener, a tragically comic 34-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers. “One of the worst exhibitions in franchise history,” he called it. “At that point I was like, nobody seems to care much. Why should I?”

        The Bengals have done nothing since to make Lapham re-think his move. Just the opposite, in fact.

        “Eleven quarters with no interceptions and no forced fumbles. Unreal.”

        “Sixteen points in 10 quarters. That ain't gonna cut it.”

        “Look at Peter Warrick. He tried to nonchalant that catch. Use two hands.”

        “It's getting ugly again.”

        The morbid bungling wears on him. Lapham sells some ads for WLW radio. He does TV commentary for a full slate of Big 12 college games. He does the TV broadcast of the Cotton Bowl. But the Bengals gig is front and center.

        There is the dreadful game on Sunday, followed by the funereal locker-room interviews and Channel 9's Sports Of All Sorts, which on Bengals Sundays makes the McLaughlin Group seem like Def Comedy Jam. Sunday bleeds into the maudlin Monday night Bengals Line, after which it's chauffeured by hearse to LeBeau's dismal Wednesday press-mortems, capped off with zombie interviews for the team's TV show, the crypt-kicking Bengals Weekly. The week is a Stephen King novel.

        By Thursday, Lapham's driveway-wide shoulders are sagging. “It's groundhog day,” he said. “I hear myself saying the same things I said eight years ago. Over and over. It's like root canal. A month into the season, I'm freakin' fried already.”

        He's thought about quitting, and he wonders why he hasn't been fired. “Mike has never censored me,” he said of Brown. He has decided he loves football too much to walk away: “I'm a football junkie. I like working. I can't think of anything better to do on Saturdays and Sundays than call a football game.”

        At least he gets paid. What's your excuse?

        So, New Lap, how 'bout that quarterback situation? “It's a daily circus.”

        The receivers? “(Atlanta defensive backs) are running better routes.”

        The offense in general? “The Falcons are in the Bengals huddle.”

        The two-minute warning? “Thank God.”

        Today, Dave Lapham is in Indianapolis. Possibly, he's researching fresh synonyms for “lousy.” Just as likely, he's rooting for a Bengals win. Something to still the misery, if only for a week. Something that takes him back to the mess tent. Something to give him back his “Oh, baby.”

        “This job should be fun,” Lapham said. Only now, it's not. That's why they call it work.


Bengals Stories
- Daugherty: All talk, no action
Kitna aims to be QB solution
Spirit of '96
Jones: Life as a rookie
Keys to the game
The isolation booth
Curnutte's NFL Power Rankings
This week's NFL picks
Chargers, Bledsoe highlight NFL's first quarter
NFL considers black coaches issue
NFL notebook

Miami 31, Cincinnati 26
UC Miami stats
Daugherty: UC-Miami
UC-Miami notebook
UC's Minter rushes to judgment
Huggins intends to make 'Breakfast'
Enquirer Page Two Power rankings
Get ready, college basketball fans
Miami wins Lefty McFadden Invitational
Xtra Heat beats the boys at Keeneland
Area women make up Miami's soccer nucleus
Bowling Green 72, Ohio 21
Dayton 41, Butler 0
No. 24 Iowa 31, Purdue 28
No. 5 Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16
Irish mystery stretches into another episode
Running game the story in Mount St. Joe win
Special-team turnovers fuel Purdue loss
Top 25 roundup
How the Top 25 fared
Expect the unexpected at Talladega
Smaller gas tanks throw wrench in race
Sorenstam grabs share of lead
Just win, baby
Overdue comeuppance buries pinstriped glory, myth
Yankees and Diamondbacks knocked out in first round
Angels 9, Yankees 5
Braves 10, Giants 2
Cardinals 6, Diamondbacks 3
Twins 11, Athletics 2
Playoffs notebook
Reds Q&A with John Fay
Indians hike ticket prices for big games
Edgewood 34, Franklin 6
Elder 47, Moeller 21
Highlands 28, CovCath 14
Hughes 39, Taft 8
McNicholas 33, Roger Bacon 7
Prep football scores & game results
How Enquirer poll teams fared
Soccer: Lakota West girls, boys seeded No.1
Boys Golf results
Cross country results
Girls Tennis results
Soccer results
Volleyball results
Groeschen: Move state playoffs
Schmidt: Kentucky preps

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