If you walk out of church on Sunday morning feeling a little too righteous, a good way to burn off some of that excess holiness is to flip on NFL This Morning on Fox Sports Net. The two-hour pre-pregame testosteronefest (10 a.m.-noon EST) features seven guys sitting around talking football while hurling insults that range from the tame (dissing Fox football analyst Cris Collinsworth for his Conan O'Brien-like coif) to the crass (actor-comedian Jay Mohr questioning host Chris Myers's sexuality by telling him that in using the term feng shui he "came out of the closet like a Murphy bed"). Say what you will about the show's lowbrow humor, it requires a lot less of the viewer than Dennis Miller's Monday Night Football rants.
The on-air personalities are divided into two groups: Myers, former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy and former All-Pro tackle Jackie Slater sit at the broadcasting equivalent of the grown-ups' table, while the kiddie korps of former NFL players Bob Golic, Sean Jones and Billy Ray Smith, along with Mohr, sit behind them in a denlike setup. The members of the two groups offer analysis of the day's games and advice to fantasy football owners and still find time to launch numerous barbs at each other. It is, in the words of producer Mark Mayer, "chaos in a very positive sense."
The key to the show is Myers, who has a knack for knowing when to let his cohorts riff and when to rein them in. "Chris is a pro," says Mayer. "You need a strong personality in that spot, or he's going to get steamrollered."
Chief among the aspiring steamrollers is Mohr. Fox Sports TV Group chairman David Hill was familiar with Mohr from the often hilarious but poorly rated Fox sitcom Action, which was quickly canceled last year. Mohr had demonstrated a respectable knowledge of sports in several appearances on Jim Rome's nationally syndicated radio show, and the fact that Fox would hire a football analyst based on how well he handled himself in "the Jungle" says a lot about the changing face of sports broadcasting. "For a long time we served viewers news and information," says Mayer, "but the Internet and 24-hour news services have changed the game. We need to give the viewer more."
If more includes Mohr, so be it. The irreverence of NFL This Morning is welcome and appeals to the show's target audience, which, says Mayer, is "the hard-core football guy, but also the guy who's tired of being preached to. Football is supposed to be fun."