Friday, September 01, 2006

Tony too tentative

I have had some inquiries as to my impressions of Tony Kornheiser's performance in his role as the new third man in the booth on Monday Night Football. The short answer is that I really haven't seen enough to judge. Although I was an obsessed devotee of the TK Radio Show, I am not nearly as compulsive with regard to his writing in the Washington Post or his TV work on ESPN's PTI, and besides, it's preseason.

When Mr. Tony made his MNF debut, I was vacationing in a house with no cable TV access. During the second game, I joined my sons watching "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." I finally tuned in last week to watch the Bengals make Brett Favre regret his decision to put off retirement one more year.

ESPN has apparently decided to include an email segment called, "Tony, Tony, Tony." While I was a frequently-read emailer of the radio show, I am afraid I don't like your chances of hearing from "Bill in Phoenix, MD" on MNF. I did send in a lame attempt at humor before the game, something about who would last longer, Favre, Carson Palmer or TK, but I honestly couldn't sit through the game long enough to see the email segment. Furthermore, the tone of Mr. Tony's Mailbag was irreverent, subversive and either extremely intelligent or extremely stupid, and I just don't associate those qualities with an NFL telecast.

Based on what I saw, this announcing team has a chance to work, but it depends more on Joe Theismann than Mr. Tony, and I am not sure Theismann is up to the task. Mike Trico is fine as a play-by-play man; he talks too much, but in the preseason there are a lot of unfamiliar players and he has tons of biographical info to dish out. Once we get into the regular season, there will be less of a need to hear about players struggling to make the squad, etc. There also seems to be a lot of sideline reporting, not a good thing as far as I am concerned. I also expect less of that once the season starts, as players and coaches will be less available during the games.

Now, Kornheiser is best when he is arguing a point, either making a case or pointing out the fallacies in someone else's. The hallmark of his radio show was the well-informed guest with whom he would banter, but not always argue. On MNF, Theismann and he will have to do this every week. He can't really argue with Tirico because Tirico usually just gives you names and numbers. So, Theismann's the guy.

During the Bengals game, Theismann kept saying how Carson Palmer would be more comfortable once he got some contact and really tested his surgically repaired knee, to which TK replied that actually, contact might make Palmer a little bit uncomfortable. Theismann wasn't really able to explain exactly what he meant ( and I think he had a valid point), he just repeated the same thing later. He also stated repeatedly that Favre knew this was going to be a difficult season but he knew things were going to get better. Mr. Tony responded, "Well, how does he know that?" If these kinds of exchanges can go one level further, if Theismann can be more eloquent and persuasive, then we might have something here. If not, then this is a one-season gig, just as Mr. Tony predicted when he signed on.

Now, again, I'd like to remind everyone that it is still the preseason. I mean, last night, my beloved Redskins played my adopted stepteam, the Ravens. I watched a few minutes. But just one channel up,Temple was playing Buffalo (coached by former Nebraska great Turner Gill) to a scoreless game deep into the fourth quarter. And the next channel up had Andre Agassi in a fabulous U.S. Open match on USA Network. And the next channel had "Dirty Dancing, Havana Nights" with Sela Ward and Diego Luna of "Y Tu Mama Tambien." So, as you can see, quality programming all the way up the dial.

I guess I'm not as football-crazy as some. This was actually the second time the Ravens played the Redskins this fall. The first game wasa scrimmage that drew 50,000 people. A scrimmage!

Now, about Andre Agassi. I am very surprised and disappointed in the New York Post today. Last night, Agassi defeated the much younger Marcos Baghdatis in a five set match that took nearly four hours to play. Like all aging champions, Agassi was a heavy crowd favorite, especially after he took the first two sets. Baghdatis rallied to make the match a classic, but I was counting on the Post to come up with one of its bombastic, tasteless headlines for the back page, punning on Baghdatis ("Agassi bombs Baghdatis," something along those lines). Of course, the match ended after midnight, so the out-of-town edition showed only a smiling Alex Rodriguez, who broke out of his slump to lead the Yankees over the Tigers. Checking the online version of the Post, they have updated the cover to feature Agassi, but just a boring, positive, uplifting headline. This is the rag that once featured the headline, " Headless body found in topless bar?"

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