Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
What’s Wrong with Tony Kornheiser

The hiring of Tony Kornheiser for the Monday Night Football announcing team continues an unfortunate trend. Increasingly, commentators don’t talk about the game they are supposedly covering. Instead, they talk about "sports issues," usually sports law issues, while the game goes on in the background. Both baseball and football give us the worst of this, as the many dead spots during the action give ample room for the commentators to pontificate about the state of the game, the commissioner’s doings, player-manager disputes, and the like. Last year’s MNF team, John Madden and Al Michaels, distracted the viewer constantly from game action, especially when the score became even a little one-sided. It’s as if the commentators prepare with talking points instead of game film.

But why employ ex-jocks or former coaches to try their unpracticed hands at this brand of meta-commentary when one can get a pro? Hence the hiring of a full-time, experienced opinion-maker like Mr. Kornheiser.

Maybe it’s just personal preference. I don’t want to watch the Sports Reporters or Bryant Gumbel when I tune in to a football game. It’s the game match-up that draws me, not a chance to hear Kornheiser pontificate or Dennis Miller offer canned one-liners. The constant argument is distracting. I used to go to a church that played music during the recitation of prayers. Who thought this up? Who thinks this is a good idea, to say to the audience we’re going to do one thing, lure them to the activity of that thing, and then, while doing that thing, distract them with something else? Ads for MNF hype the upcoming game and its stars; they don’t say tune in to hear someone give brief, offhand opinions on close issues. I no more want to hear Tony speculating on the legality of mandatory drug testing while a halfback runs off tackle than I want to hear soft rock music kick in while I’m reading from a prayer book. It’s also frustrating. Joe Theismann can explain how a quarterback reads defenses, but he’s obviously not very adept at trading arguments with a professional writer who in high school had his head in Latin conjugations while Joe had his arm around a cheerleader.

No, the fair opponent for Kornheiser’s attempts at quick intellectualisms would be the nemesis who helped make his career, Michael Wilbon. I enjoy PTI. I love MNF. I also have a TIVO. If for some bizarre reason I want to watch the two shows simultaneously I could make it happen. There might be a few folks for whom this sounds appealing, but I suspect not most of us. I like my expert football commentators to be expert in football.


Have you been to a sporting event recently????? Dont you think all these things during timeouts, inbetween innnings are distracting. Somehow everyone developed add and cannot concentrate on the game anymore. Its amazing that it has made its way to television, where even now they think that people cant even handle the game.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/29/2006 3:33 PM  

Jeffrey, I can't say I'm in the same camp here. While I think it's overdone on networks like ESPN, I do enjoy a little slightly-related story on local networks during games. Have you ever heard some games where they don't do this? You wind up hearing the same statistics and facts 100x. I don't need flashy graphics and non-stop banter, but I do like some of the dead time on television filled with something sport-related. I don't want to hear about T.O. during a baseball game, but if there's a connection, it can make it more interesting. If you want play by play, you have to go to the radio nowadays.

Anonymous David -- 8/29/2006 3:55 PM  

I think the point is to recreate the feeling of sitting with a bunch of friends and watching a game. Those are enjoyable times, and, often enough, the conversation has little to do with the specific game being watched.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/29/2006 4:14 PM  

I agree with most of what you say, except you give Kornheiser too much credit. He's a reporter that injects HIMSELF and his non-expert opinions into the fray. He's the epitome of egotistic reporters that really, when it comes down to it, know precious little about the sports they are covering.

Anonymous JP -- 8/29/2006 6:48 PM  

While I agree with some of what Standen is saying in principle, I find it discouraging that he chose Kornheiser and not Theismannnnn to lash out at. Am I to take it that he enjoys Joe's presence?? I hope not, because then all of his credibility would be lost. My question is what would you have them talk about instead?

Jeffrey it sounds like you need to check out Vin Scully -- the one man show. Sweet voice, lots of dead air, but he pulls it off brilliantly.

Blogger RPS -- 8/30/2006 12:00 AM  

One of the traits of great commentators is the ability to actually shut up for a while and let the game carry on. This often helps them when they do talk, since their words seem that much more important.

The problem with Kornheiser so far is that there's very little chemistry between him and Theismann; they seem to goad each other a lot, and while playing off each is good, they're almost antagonistic.

Blogger Satchmo -- 8/30/2006 8:04 PM  

Tony Kornheiser is in a little bit over his head, even though I'm a fan of his show PTI. I just think they could have done better than who they selected for the show.

Theisman is great but he needs another football guy to break things down with. I was a huge fan of last year's Sunday Night Football crew.

Anonymous Sports Overload -- 8/30/2006 8:18 PM  

It is a very long telecast and there are many breaks in the game. I'm sorry, but they need to talk about things other than the action on the field.

Let's remember that so far Kornheiser and this team have only commentated during preseason games, in which the outcomes don't matter and players who will never play a down of regular season football get a lot of action.

I'd propose letting Kornheiser, Theisman and Tirico get a few regular season games under their belt before writing them off.

Anonymous Bill -- 8/30/2006 9:56 PM  

I recently read a book written by Phil Simms, which was written a few years ago. He says you do not watch a game for the announcers, you are watching THE GAME. He goes on to say people don't and never will change the channel because they do not like the announcers. The announcers are usually a nice bonus to a game. But many sports fans tune them out and watch the game. Can you remember who the announcers were in some historic games. If so you do not remember them for what they talked about between plays, but how they called that famous play or that famous touchdown or that walk off homerun or the last out.

Anonymous tommie -- 8/31/2006 9:30 AM  

Two words Tommie: Johnny Most

Anonymous Bill -- 8/31/2006 9:31 AM  

Post a Comment