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Theismann Left Wondering on Sidelines

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In the beginning, it was clearly a work in progress, and as I wrote at the time, Theismann and my friend and Post colleague Kornheiser were not exactly matching Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke on the chemistry meter. It was more like Edith and Archie Bunker, with Theismann occasionally seeming to talk down to Mr. Tony and Kornheiser not sounding much like the Mr. Tony we've all come to know and love on the radio and Pardon The Interruption.

But Theismann insisted the other day that despite all the internet and media speculation to the contrary, he and Kornheiser got along famously. They played golf together. They ate dinner on the road on a regular basis. All three of them truly bonded, he said.

"I enjoyed working with Tony and Mike (Tirico)," Theismann said. "It was fun and challenging to start something new, from scratch. Anyone who says Tony and I didn't get along, that would be a complete fabrication, totally not true on any level. In the middle of the season, Tony wanted to quit. I encouraged him to stay with it. And if people didn't like what we were doing, why did the ratings go up like that? I'd tell you if there was an issue. There was never an issue between us, and whoever concocted that story is totally out of line."

As the season wore on, I also opined that the act was getting better all the time, that Theismann was talking less than usual and actually making an effort to get Kornheiser more involved. For that reason alone, quite frankly, his postseason dismissal hardly seems justified, or even necessary.

That being said, I'm also a huge Ron Jaworski admirer, though I'm wondering who can possibly replace him on all those NFL studio shows as the most skillful Xs and Os hard core football analyst on any network. A guy who spent the first three days of every week of the season poring over tape at NFL Films, Jaws has always been a true insider's insider who almost always made his extensive knowledge thoroughly palatable to the general public.

One thing we know for sure, it won't be Theismann handling that role. Though he signed a new five-year contract to do MNF last year, Theismann will not be on any of ESPN's studio football shows. The network offered him a chance to do college football with Brent Musburger, but Theismann politely declined. Other networks might be interested, but not at the price Theismann commanded from ESPN, so he'll take their money and let them worry about his bottom line.

"I have a passion for the NFL," he said. "The same passion wouldn't have been there for college football, and I think that would be unfair to ESPN, to myself and the people who would be watching the games."

For now, Theismann's ESPN chores will involve tapping out a weekly column, "Cup a Joe," that will appear on ESPN.com. He'll also have a regular gig talking NFL on ESPN radio, but mostly, for the first time since he began playing professional football 37 years ago, he's going to have a lot of time on his hands this fall.

At the moment, he's been busy preparing for his own mini-NFL season as the lead analyst on Washington Redskins preseason games, all three of them. He'll also be re-united with his long-time ESPN broadcasting partner, Mike Patrick, who will handle the preseason play-by-play as well, a lovely development for Washington football fans.

Why the long-time and very competent NFL team of Patrick, Theismann and Paul Maguire was broken up to begin with, only ESPN's suits know for sure, and for certain, judging from Williamson's duck and cover response to the Theismann question, they're never going to give you an honest answer, anyway.

"The Redskins keep me busy for now," Theismann said. "The preseason is no different than it's ever been. But in the fall, it's all going to change. From Friday to Monday, it won't be the same. There won't be forty hours a week of preparation. Now, I'm going to have all that time to myself, and in a way, I'm looking forward to it.

"It's been a lifetime since I've been able to be a normal person. You know, I've never been to a Toronto Argonaut game (since he played for that team in the Canadian Football League in the early 1970s). I haven't been to a Notre Dame football game. I've never been to a daytime Redskins game. Maybe I can go see South River High School play a game, too.

"It's going to be a very different season for me. I'm looking at it as an opportunity to learn about some other things, spend more time with the family, watch some football. Of course I'm going to miss it, and I would hope some people would miss what I do. My whole goal as a broadcaster was for people to enjoy themselves and maybe, at the end of a telecast, someone would say 'you know, I learned something about the game tonight that I didn't know before.'"

Leonard Shapiro can be reached at Badgerlen@hotmail.com or Badgerlen@aol.com


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Mark Maske, NFL News Feed

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