"... Martin's at the 40, the 35, the 30, 25, 20, his father was a carpenter, the 10, touchdown."
Ah, the good ol' days when play-by-play announcers told you everything that was happening in the game, and then some. OK, some of those Keith Jackson-types were a little extreme, but they called good games, because they called ... you know ... the games.
Not like a lot of the ... um ... guys today who call themselves play-by-play announcers, who act like straight men trying to set up the color commentator's punchlines. No, they're not all that bad, but a lot of them are, and some of them are worse.
I don't get to see or hear enough of all the teams to give Dr. Z-style rankings. I see and hear more than enough of guys like Phil Simms, Paul Maguire and a few others to say many NFL telecasts would be better broadcast in silence.
So now we're getting news of a few big names in announcing getting shuffled around the networks as the networks have renegotiated contracts with the NFL and now with their announcing staffs.
John Madden was one of the first to fly the coop to NBC, which will be broadcasting the Sunday Night games starting this fall. Just a couple days ago, Madden's former Monday Night Football partner, Al Michaels, who originally was going to stick with MNF and other gigs on ABC, followed Madden to NBC, where the pair will be reunited -- at least, that's what it looks like now.
Shortly thereafter, ESPN, who now owns Monday Night Football, announced its new three-man broadcast team will consist of play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico, and commentators/analysts Joe Theismann and flavor-of-the-month Tony Kornheiser.
ESPN announced that Joe Theismann, Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser will staff the Monday Night Football broadcast booth this fall.
There's other shuffling around, like James Brown leaving FOX for CBS, but let's concentrate on the night-game guys. Both of these Prime Time teams should be interesting experiments. Interesting, possibly at most. We think we know what to expect from Michaels and Madden -- we think. Will NBC demand more of the last year of Michaels-Madden, or will they allow them to sink to the 2- to 4-year-ago fiasco that brought in the lowest Neilson numbers in MNF history?
Will NBC try to capitalize on their names and try to build "SNF" into the NFL premiere showcase?
Can NBC lure Dan Fouts back into the booth to succeed Madden before the new Hall of Famer's abilities begin to fade like former Madden partner Pat Summerall or recent Fouts pairing, the aforementioned Keith Jackson?
Fouts got a raw deal in the Michaels-Dennis Miller-Fouts experiment, which was utterly disastrous, but the last Fiesta Bowl showed Fouts can carry a broadcast pretty much by himself.
The whole Tirico-Kornheiser-Theismann thing just doesn't look right. You can certainly see what ESPN is trying to do. They have Theismann there for experience (no matter how painful) and consistency, they have Kornheiser there for his ubiquitousness, and they have Tirico there for his straightforward professionalism and presence as a play-by-play man.
Tirico is an excellent choice. I think he will do a great job and will go down as one of the great NFL Prime Time broadcasters. But a lot will depend how he holds this and future teams together, which may be the most challenging part of the job for him.
I'm no fan of Theismann. To me, he, Maguire and Mike Patrick formed the absolute worst broadcast team ever -- one buffoon bigger than the next (with Maguire as King Buffoon) I'd rather have listened to Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan. Maybe Theismann will thrive in an environment will two professionals; maybe he'll be a boat anchor (and not like for a deep-sea fishing boat, but something like the USS Nimitz).
Kornheiser is the wild card. He will be either great or unbearable. I'm betting on unbearable, because he's been heading in that direction for a couple years now. Personally, I can't stand Pardon the Interruption, and I didn't much like Kornheiser on The Sports Reporters. He's loud and obnoxious, but he can be good if he sticks to facts and what he really knows, instead of opinions and what he thinks he knows.
A best-case scenario -- one in which these teams flourish for the right reason, thereby pressuring the networks to demand more of their other broadcast teams -- is too much to ask for. If only the new broadcast teams could be more like the old ones, and the current light beer commercials be as good as the old Lite Beer ones.
We can only hope.
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