Posted: Wednesday December 27, 2006 10:15AM; Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2006 7:12PM
The Monday Night Football crew has had people ranging from Jim Belushi to Charles Barkley stopping by the booth this season.
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THE MOST EXHILARATING 431 SECONDS AWARD: Monday Night Football, ESPN. Plenty of people have criticized the celebrification of Monday Night Football, including yours truly. (TheNew York Times' venerable media reporter, Richard Sandomir, recently reported the length of some of celebrity interviews, with Ronde Barber clocking in at a high of 32 minutes, Matthew McConaughey at 14:17 and Jim Belushi at 7:11.) I've recently changed my tune on this. There's something so delicious about watching Joe Theismann suck up to actors and athletes, something perversely perfect about Tony Kornheiser genuflecting over the work of Christian Slater. I now want more. Much more. Give me five celebrities every game. I want Theismann asking Nas if hip-hop is dead and Mike Tirico peppering Mischa Barton about her oeuvre. And I really want Kornheiser interviewing the entire cast of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Orange County.
THE TONY ROMO AWARD: Sterling Sharpe, NBC. Here is what Sharpe told viewers on Oct. 29 prior to Romo's first start for the Dallas Cowboys: "When you're a football team that has the opportunity to create your own destiny and get into the playoffs, this is a horrible move and I think Bill Parcells panicked."
Dallas is 6-3 since Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe. Why do I pick on Sharpe? Well, for starters, he adds little more than a loud voice to a broadcast. But like my colleagueMark Bechtel, I think athletes who were famously uncooperative with the press during their playing careers (let alone the "rudest athlete this media creature ever was forced to attempt to interview," as former SI writer Rick Telander once described Sharpe) should not be given plum roles in the media after they retire. At least one television executive agrees with me. "If a guy has basically boycotted the press through his playing career and all of a sudden wants to join the media in his post-playing career,"says Fox Sports president Ed Goren, "my tendency is to feel that's a bit too little too late."
RATINGS OF THE YEAR: Giants-Cowboys, ESPN, 12.8 rating The Oct. 23 telecast between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys drew the largest audience (15 million viewers) in the history of cable television, topping the previous record, set in November 1993 when CNN's Larry King Live aired the NAFTA debate between then-Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot.
Rose Bowl (BCS championship), ABC, 21.7 rating The Jan. 4 title game between Texas and USC drew 35.6 million viewers, and was the most-watched college football title game since Nielsen started tracking the game in 1991. Only Super Bowl XL and the AFC Championship Game had more viewers in 2006.
SOME MEMORABLE MEDIA-RELATED QUOTES:
CBS analyst Billy Packer, on teams from the Missouri Valley Conference and the Colonial Athletic Association piling up bids to the NCAA Tournament: "You've got to be kidding."
Tiki Barber, on critics Michael Irvin, Tom Jackson and New York Daily News reporter Gary Myers: "I will call them idiots because they have neither spoken to me nor any one of my teammates or any of my coaches. Yet all they do is criticize me for being a distraction with this retirement thing. And that includes Gary Myers. That includes Tom Jackson on ESPN. That includes the ultimate character guy -- facetiously speaking, of course -- Michael Irvin. Please get a clue on how to be a journalist."
Kansas City Star and AOL Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, on his departure from ESPN: "To me, being a contract employee for ESPN did not mean I'd surrendered my right to blast the World Wide Leader in Sports for making the awful TV show Playmakers, employing as expert analysts clownish buffoons with drug problems such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Irvin, and publishing the gangsta-posturing rantings of a poor writer. ESPN is a powerful newsmaker in the sports world. As a sports journalist/columnist, I thought it would be wrong to ignore obvious topics just because I drew an occasional check from ESPN. I'm not stepping on any high horse. It wouldn't hold me."
New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick on Max Kellerman, who returned to New York radio full of braggadocio, much like his unappealing act on Fox Sports Net's departed I-Max: "Off-air, Kellerman doesn't seem given to boasts. But even if his on-air demeanor is half a put-on and/or part of a radio industry blueprint, where's it headed? How long can a brag-fest sustain itself before it must deliver something genuinely better?"
TNT's Charles Barkley, on local broadcasters: "I hate watching local broadcasters because guys are just homers. It drives me crazy. Guys make mental mistakes and they [the announcers] won't criticize them. The home team is always right. The road team is always wrong."
Kornheiser, on the NHL: "They should get off the bicycle network and go on a real one. Like Bravo."
FIFTEEN BROADCASTERS (NOT LISTED ABOVE) VIEWERS DESERVE MORE OF IN 2007: Doris Burke (ESPN), Eric Allen (ESPN), Mary Carillo (HBO, ESPN, CBS, NBC), Gary Danielson (CBS), Ian Eagle (CBS), Jeremy Green (ESPN Radio), Brian Kenny (ESPN), Mel Kiper (ESPN), Howie Long (Fox), Rachel Nichols (ESPN), Pam Oliver (Fox), Dave Revsine (ESPN), Jimmy Roberts (NBC), Jeremy Schaap (ESPN), Kenny Smith (TNT).