With Matt Millen and Joe Theismann on NFL Network, no chance to enjoy the silence

By Norman Chad
Sunday, November 14, 2010; 11:35 PM

NFL Network does many things I love. Tragically, its presentation of NFL games is not one of them.

And this year, NFL Network has undertaken a social experiment of potentially apocalyptic consequences: It has created a three-man booth, two of the men being Matt Millen and Joe Theismann, which means, in effect, a four-and-a-half-man booth.

Putting Millen and Theismann in the same booth is like putting sugar and honey in your green tea.

With no regard for a trembling and tormented nation still reeling from economic and electoral collapse, NFL Network has decided to stuff two stupefying and unrelenting voices into our living rooms every Thursday night.

Amtrak has a "Quiet Car" - it prohibits cellphone use and Joe Theismann.

Theismann doesn't talk in his sleep, he filibusters in his sleep.

If you handed Theismann a celery stick, he would speak into it.

Millen, meanwhile, long has been potent at a very simple TV device - if you say something authoritatively, it appears you are an authority.

I don't care that Millen was arguably the worst team president in modern NFL history, with the Detroit Lions. I do care that I can't even shift my butt in my Barcalounger without him soliloquizing on inside A-gap blitzes, 5-underneath coverage and tackle-end splits.

Theismann and Millen talk in so many circles, they ought to be broadcasting from a Ferris wheel. They say too much to say too little; in fact, they will say stuff that contradicts stuff they said earlier.

Listening to Theismann and Millen reminds me of that Cialis ad - if your erudition lasts more than four hours, call your local cable operator.

Next time you're watching an NFL game on NFL Network, try this test: See how many times you can count to 5 during the telecast with no one talking. I gave it a shot - if you ever get to 10, sell.

(By the way, I must admit to overwhelming guilt in regard to the fact that the current culture allows me to stay at home and watch TV, counting to 5 to see how often the talking heads are talking, and, apparently, this is an acceptable means of earning a living. At least I didn't waste an Ivy League education preparing for this - I am University of Maryland '81.)

Incidentally, there is a third person actually calling the games on NFL Network. His name is Bob Papa, and I believe he is part of the witness protection program; he lives an anonymous life in a booth he can never leave.

Here's a smattering of Theismann and Millen insights from Thursday's Ravens-Falcons game:

Millen: "You look at these defenses - they both have their strengths and they both have their weaknesses."

Theismann (on a Matt Ryan pass): "Aerodynamically, it's thrown perfectly."

Millen: "If you look at the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line versus the defensive front of the Baltimore Ravens . . . collectively they're much better than they are individually and they have to collectively win that battle."

Theismann: "What impresses me about the Atlanta Falcons - on two third-and-short situations, the ballcarrier knew how far he had to go. . . . They've picked up [two] first downs just by being smart."

Millen: "Remember, this is a one-score game right now. So [the Falcons] have to use the clock and they have to convert here; you know, try to pick up the first down."

Theismann: "The Ravens knew it wasn't going to be easy. It was going to be a slobberknocker, for lack of a better word."

Even Papa was pulled into the slobberknocker abyss. NFL Network is obsessed with third-down statistical minutiae, leading Papa to intone, "[The Falcons] are six of eight on third-down attempts between five and eight yards. Third and four here."

Alas, the game mercifully ended. How did I know it was over? I could count to 5 in peace.

Ask the Slouch

Q. On kickoffs, I've noticed that when the ball is kicked through the end zone, the kicking team continues to run into the end zone. What are they expecting to find down there, Britney Spears? (Ed Anderson; Kirkland, Wash.)

A. Where else would she be?

Q. Don't you find it amazing that Phil Simms was able to survive 14 NFL seasons without the benefit of a chinstrap? (Eric Karashinski; Milwaukee)

A. Well, Glenn Beck has survived five TV years without the benefit of any reasonable thought.

Q. I read on Wikipedia that you used to make your NFL predictions by flipping a coin. Is that the same way you pick your wives? (Jeff Clarke; Stratford, Ontario)

A. What are you, nuts? That's life-changing stuff - I use a Ouija board.

Q. Just what exactly is the rehab program for a groin pull? (Sean Parker; Humble, Tex.)

A. I believe in holistic healing and two Pabst Blue Ribbons a day.

Q. Why do quarterbacks lift one leg before taking the snap in the shotgun formation? I had a pet that used to do that. (Bob Atkins; McGaheysville, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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