Monday Night Football said goodbye to Tony Kornheiser today, and millions of football fans can now say hello again to the volume on their TV sets each Monday night.
ESPN announced Monday that former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden will join the broadcast booth for the weekly NFL institution, ending the three-year fiasco of having Kornheiser on the broadcast.
How will Gruden do as a broadcaster? I can’t begin to imagine, but even if he just sits there in stone, cold silence, it will be an improvement over Kornheiser, who seemed intent on making Dennis Miller look like a football encyclopedia.
Perhaps the powers that be at ESPN and ABC finally are waking up to the fact that, no matter how they dress it up, Monday Night Football is just a game now — not the broadcasting event it once was.
In actuality, MNF ceased to be a spectacle long ago about the time Howard Cosell left the booth. Cosell, Frank Gifford and a host of third men (most notably Don Meredith) had the magic that cannot be easily replicated.
But that didn’t stop them from trying, first with Miller, who at least was funny, and eventually with Kornheiser, who had the unique abilities of being able to wrap his complete lack of preparation with a grating nasal tone of delivery that did little except to boost the sales and use of television remotes across the country.
It didn’t help that Kornheiser also suffered from that Northeastern-based arrogance of being “the smartest guy in the room — just ask me so I can show you.”
And while that might play well in Kornheiser’s home base of Washington, D.C., it can be alienating and unnecessary, especially when most fans just want to tune in, see the game, and hear a bit of insightful commentary they might not otherwise have known about a particular play or player.
Lest Titans fans forget, Kornheiser was none too complementary of Nashville when the Titans played host to the Indianapolis Colts here last October. His comment to the effect that a Titans win over the Colts might make the city known for something other than Elvis impersonators is typical of his snide, yet off-the-mark delivery.
Tony, Elvis lived in Memphis. That’s about 200 miles southwest of Nashville.
Don’t get me wrong. Kornheiser can be mildly amusing at times on his Pardon the Interruption with his fellow Washington Post sidekick Michael Wilbon. It just didn’t work when it came to applying that sort of schtick to a football broadcast.
Whether it be lack of preparation, a lack of knowledge of the subject matter or simply a lack of caring, Kornheiser’s time in the broadcast booth met with about the same success rate as Chrysler’s latest fall quarter.
So, welcome to Monday Night Football, Gruden. You have some mighty small shoes to fill.