ESPN and Monday Night Football ended the Tony Kornheiser experiment this week, making the decision to put former Bucs and Raiders coach John Gruden in the booth with Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski.
While Kornheiser cited a schedule that had games too far apart for his non-flying (fear of flying) ways, we must note that John Madden didn’t fly, and did NFL games for almost 30 years without a problem. In fact, last season was the first time in his broadcast career that Madden missed a game. So, Tony could have done it.
While a lot of people didn’t like Kornheiser in the booth, I didn’t mind. That being said, its time networks with the rights to prime time football games get back to football. MNF was fine with Jaworski and with Joe Theismann as the football analysts, but Theismann argues to this day that the problem he had in the booth was that he wanted to talk football too much, and Kornheiser didn’t. If that’s the case, it’s a shame.
“We wanted to try something different,” ESPN Vice President John Skipper told Newsday. “I don’t think we’ve been secretive about the fact we like the old spirit of Howard Cosell and getting somebody on there who can bring a sportswriter’s perspective, a little humor. We wanted him to play off Jaworski and Tirico.”
Here’s a bulletin. Howard Cosell was successful in the 70’s, several generations ago. When Cosell was on Monday Night Football, almost every newspaper columnist in the country was a sycophant, and there was hardly any sports talk radio. If you wanted a strong, sharp opinion, you had to go to Cosell.
Now, pretty much each of the top 300 markets in the country have someone on sports radio yelling and screaming and ranting and raving their strong opinions every day. ESPN does it with several shows a day…Kornheiser’s own Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn…plus SportsCenter. Every newspaper has a contrarian columnist. The web is loaded with 3,500 sports bloggers spouting their opinion on every story out there.
The days of a Cosell in the booth are over, because the days of someone “telling it like it is” being unique are over. We get Cosell wannabes every day in American life.
We don’t need that in the booth. What we need in the booth is people having fun, but teaching us something about what just happened in the game.