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Kornheiser (l), Tirico (c) And Theismann Make “MNF” Debut On ESPN
THUMBS DOWN: Kornheiser’s WASHINGTON POST colleague Paul Farhi writes Kornheiser’s performance “was enough to make one yearn for Dennis Miller.” Kornheiser “played it safe,” making “few missteps but offering little for the highlight reel. It wasn’t exactly clear at times why he was there at all.” He “wasn’t especially witty, provocative or insightful. ... Kornheiser mostly spluttered, typically emphasizing the obvious and playing third fiddle” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). In Phoenix, Bob Young writes the broadcast “left us wondering why ESPN didn’t just stick” with its old Sunday night team. Tirico is “fine as a play-by-play guy but certainly no better than Mike Patrick, who had terrific chemistry with Theismann and Paul Maguire” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/15). In West Palm Beach, Charles Elmore writes Theismann “plays the straight man a little too straight, instead of coming back with sharp humor” to Kornheiser’s comments (PALM BEACH POST, 8/15). The AP’s Douglas Rowe writes Tirico “sustained the [‘MNF’] tradition of solid, straightforward play-by-play men.” But Theismann “sometimes sounded too empathetic with the players,” and he also “came across as a little too self-serious, especially when he and Kornheiser clashed about how far removed from football new Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh was.” Walsh ran a bed and breakfast for seven years (AP, 8/15).
FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE: The Mighty MJD writes, “I really think ESPN’s on the right track with the team they’ve assembled.” But the song for the “Tony Tony Tony” segment “has to go” (THEMIGHTYMJD.com, 8/15). The Sports Hookup writes if last night “was any indication, ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth crew has already developed a level of comfort and familiarity with one another, providing crisp commentary and entertaining banter and analysis” THESPORTSHOOKUP.BLOGSPOT.com, 8/15). But Hurkin’ Off wrote Kornheiser “is an even bigger nightmare than I expected.” And “if ESPN’s hiring practices aren’t bad enough, now it’s butchering the football graphics” (HURK.BLOGSPOT.com, 8/14).
HE SAID IT: Here are some select quotes from Kornheiser’s “MNF” debut.
On broadcasting “MNF”: “I’ve made it to it. But will I make it through it?”
On the Vikings making personnel changes in response to several off-the-field incidents last year: “The ‘Sex Boat’ thing was a showstopper. As they say on ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘That’s gold, Jerry, that’s gold.’”
On Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh running a bed and breakfast while he was of football for seven years: “Does that look like a guy who’s staying in football? It’s a B&B. He’s preparing menus and making beds. How is he back in football? Are you comfortable with that, Joe?”
Theismann responded, “Actually, I am,” to which Kornheiser said, “Would you be comfortable if Bob Newhart were also hired?”
Theismann mentioned the strong arm of Raiders QB Andrew Walter seconds before Walter threw a 67-yard TD pass, to which Kornheiser said, “Don’t you sound like a genius, Theismann, on that one play. People are going to say that we’re on tape delay and you knew it.”
On Raiders DT Warren Sapp saying he took a “backseat” when he first arrived with the Raiders because there was already veteran leadership: “At his size, he’s the whole seat.”
On Raiders S Michael Huff’s comments about the first time he walked onto an NFL field: “I liked hearing him say that he couldn’t breathe his first time out there. That’s how I feel tonight.”
In the fourth quarter with the Vikings in range to kick a field goal that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime, Kornheiser said, “This is just a disaster for me. I am way past my bedtime. I assumed in the preseason that you didn’t have overtime.”
Kornheiser also answered viewers’ e-mail questions, including one asking which team in today’s NFL deserved a “fun nickname”? Kornheiser: “I think ‘Snakes on a Plane’ would be a great nickname for some team out there.”
Another e-mailer asked about the referee’s new uniforms and whether they looked like penguins instead of zebras. Kornheiser: “I love penguins having created the ‘Penguin Dance,’ which is sweeping the country, which I would do if there was a camera on me. Penguins look great. Zebras are done.”
Another e-mailer asked Kornheiser, “Have you ever thought of filling your bald spot with advertisements as many boxers and poker players do?” Kornheiser: “I’d like to get GoldenPalace.com stitched on the top of my head for about $80,000 a week or something like that.”
Theismann: “I’m very happy with what I have.”
Kornheiser: “Yours is fake, though. That’s not real hair.”
Theismann: “People are going to believe that now.”
AD SALES: MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Mike Reynolds cites ad agency execs as saying that ESPN “is selling an 8.8 cable rating” for “MNF.” Last season, ESPN averaged a 7.1 on Sunday nights. NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol said Sunday nights on NBC “will be a double-digit-rated show without any doubt. It will be in the top 10.” Former Clear Channel TV Chair Mike Trager said “MNF” is “ingrained in viewers’ NFL experience, so ESPN will do well. NBC’s over the air package will benefit from more viewers on Sunday night. It’s a win-win for the league with both packages” (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 8/14 issue).
Fox’ NFL Pregame Show To Feature (l to r) Howie
Long, Joe Buck, Terry Bradshaw And Jimmy Johnson
ON THE ROAD: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Paul Gough writes the move to make Joe Buck the host of “Fox NFL Sunday” “gives Fox Sports the push it has needed to move the pregame show onto the road, where it occasionally has been during the postseason.” Fox Sports President Ed Goren: “It’s something that we’ve wanted to do forever” (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/15). Fox Sports TV Group Chair & CEO David Hill said that the show “will originate from stadium parking lots and cost only ‘marginally’ more than doing it from” an L.A. studio (MIAMI HERALD, 8/15). Buck joked about handling studio and announcing duties: “I think I’ll be bad in the first half, but the game is won and lost in the fourth quarter” (NEWSDAY, 8/15). Hill: “We’re all scared about doing this. It’s technically tough. It’s sweaty armpits at 2 in the morning and getting back on Maalox.” Former Fox NFL studio host James Brown left in the offseason for the same job at CBS, which Hill said “was a wake-up call for us — we’d gotten fat and lazy” (USA TODAY, 8/15).
TERRY CLOTH: Buck and Fox’ Terry Bradshaw appeared on FSN’s “BDSSP” last night, where Bradshaw said, “When we’re through with this football season, (Buck will) be doing commercials, he’ll be doing movies.” After it was pointed out that Buck already appears in ads for Holiday Inn, Bradshaw said, “I forgot. He’ll be doing better commercials for more money.” Buck, on Bradshaw’s nude scene in the film “Failure To Launch”: “I think he did that to make everybody feel better about themselves” (“BDSSP,” FSN, 8/14).
TEAM WORK: The following chart lists Fox’ six NFL broadcast teams.
PLAY-BY-PLAY ANALYST SIDELINE REPORTER Joe Buck Troy Aikman Pam Oliver Dick Stockton Daryl Johnston Tony Siragusa Kenny Albert Brian Baldinger Chris Myers Sam Rosen Tim Ryan Ron Pitts Terry Donahue Matt Vasgersian J.C. Pearson Jay Glazer
BUS RIDE: Steelers coach Bill Cowher said he was “very disappointed” by new NBC studio analyst and former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis saying during halftime of the Sunday night game that he thinks this will be Cowher’s last season coaching the team. USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes Cowher “didn’t flatly contradict Bettis,” who “passed the first test for TV rookie analysts: Being willing to rile up old compatriots” (USA TODAY, 8/15). SI.com’s Peter King praised Bettis for having “the guts right out of the box on national TV” to make the comment about Cowher. NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol during the game’s forth quarter walked into the production trailer and said, “Jerome Bettis, journalist!” (SI.com, 8/14).
Ebersol Says NFL Smart To
Put Games On Own Network
NFL NETWORK: Ebersol said of the NFL putting the eight-game Thursday-Saturday package on NFL Network, “Long-term strategic, it’s very smart on their part. Who knows where our world will be in six years? Will there be four aggressive network bidders, and if not, why not find out what kind of business you can develop on your own as a potential home for more than just those eight games.” A media investment banker said, “Their big risk is that cable operators just say no [to carriage]. Then you’ve given up $400[M] a year and have a network that’s just not big enough.” BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Grossman & Higgins write, “For the investment to be worthwhile at the end of six years, NFL Network would have to be generating around $300[M] in operating cash flow and around $1[B] in revenue. If the league can ram its license-fee hike through its current distribution of 41 million subscribers, NFL Network will generate around $850[M] a year in license fees. At 60 million subscribers, that figure grows to $500[M]; at 80 million, $675[M].” NFL Network Senior VP/Distribution Sales & Marketing Adam Shaw said that the “near-term goal is 80% national coverage.” Shaw: “We know it might take a year or two to get there” (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 8/14 issue).
LeBron’s Popularity Continues
To Grow In Asian Markets
SECOND COMING: In Cleveland, Mary Schmitt Boyer noted the Cavaliers F LeBron James’ popularity “has grown in Asia in general, and China in particular.” The Cavaliers “are exploring options” for Cleveland-based Erie Chinese News reporter Bao Renjun’s “involvement with their Web site.” Last season, he did a story on Chinese C Mengke Bateer, who tried to make the Cavaliers roster. Bao: “More and more Chinese media are interested in LeBron. ... Last season, I covered the Cavs and LeBron for almost all the Chinese media. Now, I am talking to the only national TV in China, CCTV. We are investigating the possibility of sending a live voice to China when they televise the Cavs home games.” More Bao: “Chinese can see LeBron’s commercials on TV for Nike and Sprite. ... Almost every [Chinese] sports Web site has a column or blog designed exclusively for LeBron” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/13).
ESPN Ringing Up Viewers With “The Contender”
SOMETIMES A FANTASY: An L.A. TIMES editorial stated the ruling that fantasy baseball Web sites do not need an MLB license to use players’ names or statistics “struck a welcome note of restraint against baseball’s expansive interpretation of its rights. ... There’s nothing wrong with team owners running a fantasy league. ... What’s wrong is the league’s attempt to control the news from the playing field” (L.A. TIMES, 8/12). In California, Rick Hurd wrote of the ruling, “Greed is the brain, heart and soul behind just about everything baseball does. And though this does not make the sport unique in any way, it continues to amaze with the depths it’ll sink to exploit the customer. ... Thankfully, some sanity still exists” (C.C. TIMES, 8/13).
NOTES: The two-hour debut of ESPN’s “The Contender” on July 18 drew 1.256 million viewers, but that number “has risen in each of the three subsequent weeks.” Of the 1.88 million viewers last Tuesday, 70% were in the 18-49 demo (DAILY VARIETY, 8/15)....Sources said that the Canucks have reached a deal with Rogers Sportsnet that will include 42-45 games this season. The renewal “was delayed by the club’s new ownership, which may have overvalued the rights” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 8/15).