Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Snap judgment: The New MNF Team

After thirty-six years, Monday Night Football has departed Disney's ABC flagship for its cable network, ESPN. A complete revamp of the broadcast booth accompanied the transition.

Most of the focus has been on the new color commentator -- television, radio and newspaper personality Tony Kornheiser -- but Mike Tirico and Joe Theismann were also added to football's most venerable night.

Tirico is best known for his PGA play-by-play and
sexual harassment. Theismann is best known for being hated by everyone including, improbably, fans in the Washington DC area where Theismann once led the local Redskins to their first Super Bowl title.

When the new booth was announced I was concerned neither Theismann nor Tirico had what it takes to be Kornheiser's prime time
Wilbon, and the whole enterprise was going to sink in a Dennis Miller-like debacle.

I watched last night's pre-season match up between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings with my eyes and ears nervously on the nascent broadcast team.

The three eased my mind by handling the opening like they had been doing it for thirty-six years. Their remarks were prepared and smooth. My sole complaint was Kornheiser's bad posture. A few times part of his head swayed out of the picture.

It was mostly Tirico for the couple of possessions because when the line-ups are being announced there isn't much opportunity for the analyst and color guy to jump in.

Monday night's new play-by-play man is inoffensive and stays on top of things. My only qualm is his golf voice might lack the animation needed for football. It would be advisable for ESPN to place a female intern in Tirico's sight line and then make her bend over and pick things up during big plays and touchdowns.

Kornheiser and Theismann joined the fray during the third possession. Despite a couple of superfluous flubs, Tony was on-point and every bit the wit he was expected to be.

I have to admit, Theismann's analysis was thoughtful and delivered concisely. Maybe it was because the Monday night venue reminded me of a prime-time match-up twenty-one years ago when Lawrence Taylor snapped Theismann's leg in half and ended his annoying career, but Theismann's skills in the booth rated a pleasant surprise.

Theismann and Kornheiser engaged in a couple of well-paced, informative debates. At times they almost seemed practiced. Although, if that's the worst criticism of their first-time on-air chemistry I'd say they are ahead of the curve.

While it was only a pre-season game and I only watched the first quarter, as long as Kornheiser didn't fall asleep in the second half -- as he had threatened to do -- their debut was a success.

Monday Night Football is no longer terrestrial-grade but it should continue to be must-see TV.


Anonymous said...

I say JT for monday nite football anchor! if enough of us say so, maybe it will happen.

Anonymous said...

What if I were to tell you that JT is young enough to be Theismann’s son (Timberlake and Lilo obsession, no profile picture…) and therefore not right for the television format at his time in his life. What if I were to add that somewhere I have the patent for a technology that would allow any viewer to have their favorite blogger’s comments appear, in real time, across the bottom of the picture? Would that be something you might be interested in?
Bob Ryan

JT said...

About right now I'd be more interested in that steak.

Anonymous said...

What if I were to tell you that I have a photograph of LiLo and the former first taken after an ill-advised drinking competition which would end both her political career and the speculation as to why she tolerated a philander? Would that be something you might be interested in?

Anonymous said...

What if I was to tell you that I have a script ‘From the Waterfront to the Island of Dr. Moreau’ about the often imitated never duplicated icon. Would that be something you might be interested in?
Bob Ryan