Monday, November 12, 2007

I Believe I Have Finally Had My Fill

In the summer of 2002, I worked at a bar in Tuscaloosa as a doorman. We weren't the most popular bar in town - we were mostly the bar you went to if the popular bar was too crowded. (And also, you would get in if I was working the door. In the three and a half months I was checking IDs, if you had a face - you were in.) And this was back in the old Tuscaloosa days of when the bars NEVER closed. So I was consistently not getting home until 4 or 5 in the morning.

But this was no big deal, as my whole day was oriented around me being awake by 4:30 in the afternoon. Why 4:30? Because that was when this great new show, Pardon the Interruption came on. And it was great. There had never been a show like it. Two sportswriters (who were long-time colleagues and friends, which is key to the chemistry) debating the hot sports storylines of the day, but never for more than two minutes per topic. It was always moving.

And it was great. Kornheiser and Wilbon would take cheap shots at each other, they were funny, and they were opinionated. Did I mention the show would never stay on one topic for too long?

Since then, Kornheiser and Wilbon have expanded the PTI brand further than anyone could have ever expected. And for a long time, I was a fan of it. Because it was pushing the opinion-oriented format. As opposed to a bunch of talking heads searching for the next big catch phrase (Boo-Yah!), we got a little bit of substance that engaged the viewer to participate. Did I agree or disagree? Was Kornheiser a genius or an imbecile? At least I got to decide.

Before we go further, let me state - I AM a Tony Kornheiser fan.

TiVo on up to today. When ESPN got the rights to MNF, they decided to throw the gig at Kornheiser. After all, he was the hot commodity of the time - almost a new age Howard Cosell (please hold your hatemail on the comparison - I didn't say as good as Cosell, just the new age version).

Initially, I was very much for this decision.

(I was even a big proponent of the Dennis Miller days. I thought they should have put Chris Rock on the sidelines. Tell me you wouldn't of wanted Chris Rock doing the sideline updates and interviews. Would of been TV gold.)

However, as it has unfolded, MNF has developed in to a bad episode of Entertainment Tonight. This was never more evident than in the second half of Monday night's terrible Seahawks-Niners game.

I don't know if it's the producers, suits at ESPN, or just somebody trying to mess with me, but JUST WHO IN THE HELL continues to think that these in-booth celebrity interviews are good television? Talk about a complete drag on the game multiplied by its awkwardness.

Drew Carey was the guest Monday night, and Drew may not be everybody's favorite, but he is funny and quick on his feet. The booth trio could not have conducted an interview with more awkward questions and transitions.

And the problem is... (wait for it)... THERE'S A FOOTBALL GAME GOING ON!!

Tirico is trying to continue play-by-play, while Tony's asking if he can play Plinko, Jaworski is huffing a few laughs at Tony's softball jokes, and Drew can't figure out when he is supposed to speak and when not to.

And it's the same week after week. It's not Drew's fault and not Jimmy Kimmel's, although Kimmel at least poked fun at how ridiculous it all was. His reward - a lifetime ban from MNF. It's not even Christian Slater's fault - who was probably even more surprised than I that he got to be the interview. (Was a special edition DVD of Prince of Thieves coming out?)

Here's a tip for the folks at MNF. During the US Open (tennis), where do they do the celebrity interviews? From the stands. And it's always less than three minutes, and maybe during a changeover even. You know, so there's not a huge lapse in coverage of the action, and the actor/comedian/whatever can plug their project, talk about what a great time they are having, and who they are a fan of. And it's done.

Why can't this happen on MNF? Can we not send Suzy Kolber into the stands or a suite to talk to Nick Lachey? Do we really need to talk more with Jonathan Silverman after the break?

And last night, it got worse.

Not necessarily worse, but it showed what MNF could be. Steve Young joined the booth, started commenting on the action on the field (novel concept), and his give-and-take with Jaworski was VERY GOOD. Imagine - two quarterbacks who know oodles and oodles about football, are poised, and can communicate well. Tirico guided the conversation with ease, and it sounded like a real broadcast. My man Tony K? Nowhere to be found. I actually thought he had left to go prep for another PTI after the game until a booth shot showed him sandwiched between Young and Jaws.

So, it is with great remorse that I say, Tony's got to go. (Wiping away a tear.) I don't think it's all his fault, but sometimes you've got to cut ties and repackage.

Tirico may not be Al Michaels, but he is very poised, well-spoken, and brings an energy to the broadcast when the show isn't constantly trying to squeeze in another question for Russell Crowe.

Jaws is and has been one of the most knowledgeable NFL analysts for almost 20 years. He too, brings energy to the broadcast, and as long as he sticks to commentary on football, he is very effective. It's just when he gets sidetracked...

Tony... well, you get my drift.

And if we can't get better games, we need to at least have a better broadcast.

ESPN, please do what's right. Please fix Monday Night Football.