Although the Washington Redskins won't make it back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year, guess who will?
You know him, you love him, you can't live without him:
As living proof that you can't keep a good voice down, Theismann will be on ABC-TV doing the color on Super Sunday, sitting alongside Frank Gifford and Don Meredith.
That's right. In The Booth.
(O.J. Simpson? Talk about being farmed out. He'll be on pregame, halftime and postgame with Mr. Excitement, Tom Landry. Maybe they'll sing "Ebony and Ivory.")
But how about that Joe T., stepping right into The Booth at the Super Bowl, making his network sportscasting debut in front of 100 million people? So much for starting at the bottom and working your way up the ladder, huh? Then again, ABC has a history of putting current jocks in The Booth for certain big events. Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer worked the World Series as active players; Dwight Stones was both a competitor and an analyst at the Los Angeles Olympics. (If it could pull it off, ABC would hire George Shultz to do color on the arms control talks in Geneva.)
ABC was probably impressed with Theismann's work in last year's Super Bowl. You remember him in Tampa, the week of the Raiders game. "Amazing" is the first word that comes to mind. "Enough already!" are the next two. Joe seemed to view the Super Bowl as his personal audition tape; he was on television so much, I thought he was a miniseries.
You've got to applaud ABC for this move; its timing is impeccable.
After spending so much of this season with his tongue in storage -- trying to atone, he said, for his poor performance against the Raiders -- Theismann once again is a lean, mean, talking machine. How's this for irony: Theismann stopped talking so he could return to the Super Bowl, and now he gets back there because of his mouth, not in spite of it. Roll over Montana, tell Marino the news.
Memo to the Danderoo: If you're planning on singing, do it early. With Joe, he who hesitates is lost.
Theismann might have been hired just to do color, but is there any doubt that he could also do play-by-play, cut to commercial -- even appear in the commercials if he had to? Dead air? Once Joe gets rolling, he may never give up the mike.
Can we talk?
We'll see him on "Good Morning America" and we'll see him on "Nightline."
Grow up! We might even see him as Alexis' new lover on "Dynasty."
This could be the broadcasting coup of the year.
But hey, don't take my word for it. I called local TV sportscasters for their reaction to ABC's sticking Theismann in The Booth for The Big Patootie of sports events, and they were unanimous in their praise of him and the work he'd already put in on radio and TV.
Glenn Brenner: "I think he'll be great."
Frank Herzog: "If anybody can do it, Theismann can."
George Michael: "He's such a natural."
Bernie Smilovitz: "He'll be terrific."
Then, after I said we weren't awarding cash prizes for the most flattering comments, I asked them to give Joe a little advice for his debut. Unsolicited, of course. Once again, then, in alphabetical order.
Brenner: "You've got to know when to talk and when not to. When to shut up can be the most important of all. John Madden and Merlin Olsen are very good at it. Unless Joe shoots himself in the foot, he should be a big hit nationally in the mass market because he's glib, outgoing, talkative and pleasant. I'd say to him, 'Be honest. If you're not going to be totally candid -- be honest about that. And don't talk too much.' "
Herzog: "The first rule is don't talk too much. I would caution him against trying to be too cute. He's got Meredith in the booth, so he doesn't have to be funny. He should wait a while, let the game develop -- wait until he has something gritty to say. Then, go ahead and say it. If Joe's careful, and uses the medium to illustrate his points, like Jim Palmer does, he can really look good."
Michael: "Be Joe. Don't try to be an ABC Sports Television Glamor Boy. Just be natural. Don't give us 'Cannonball II.' Don't act. Be spontaneous. Be honest. If Marino throws a dumb pass, say, 'I don't know why he threw that.' Say it now and worry about it later. The fans will love it. If it comes to where a Montana screen pass is intercepted, say, 'I wonder who called that -- Montana or Walsh?' I think he'll be great. The only way it won't work is if he starts fighting for what we call 'Face Time' on camera."
Smilovitz: "Don't talk about the Rocket Screen, your restaurant, Cathy Lee, GQ, Burt Reynolds, Notre Dame or your appearances on Carson or Letterman. Now, seriously, I think he's a lock. Because he's not afraid to say things. He'll go into any subject in the game. The viewers will like him for that."
Theismann, surprise, was unavailable for comment.
Hand a guy a blazer, and he turns into Greta Garbo.