It's Sunday. You're getting ready for football. The world stops.

Most of the time you don't have a choice of which games to watch. You always have a choice of which pregame show to watch.

Which brings us to today's subject, students.


There is Philosophy CBS and there is Philosophy ESPN, which are similar, and then there is Philosophy NBC.

In the past it was CBS's "The NFL Today" that was the most structured, least chancy program with Brent Musburger running the show. But NBC's "NFL Live" has taken the mantle of blue-blazer staunch. That's surprising, considering that throughout his career Bob Costas has displayed a quick-witted, effervescent style.

This year "NFL Live" has made a commitment to being the place to turn to for football news on Sundays, so much so that Will McDonough usually is heard from before supposed No. 2 man O.J. Simpson (who seemingly is being heard from less and less).

"We're not unduly sober," Costas said. "We still have opportunities to kid each other."

Perhaps not unduly sober, but sober.

We know "The NFL Today" hosts Greg Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw are glad to be there: We can see it in their eyes, in their smiles. We know ESPN's "NFL GameDay" host Chris Berman is glad to be there: He practically jumps through the TV set, beginning each show with something along the lines of, "We will have fun today."

"I don't plan to say it, it's not written in," Berman said. "But if you can't have fun . . . "

ESPN and CBS don't ignore news; it's just not the focus of their shows.

Being on cable and being No. 3, "NFL GameDay" has had to be on the cutting edge; a light, fast-moving show, even though it's an hour long.

With the new team of Gumbel and Bradshaw, "The NFL Today" has revamped itself, taking a fresher, more easygoing approach. (Gone are the conservative CBS blazers. Two weeks ago, Gumbel was wearing a gold-colored jacket. Sunday, Bradshaw was.)

"I think it's been our primary view that people tune in to see football," Gumbel said. "And if people are going to tune in to see football, we give them everything we possibly can to give them things related to the games they're going to watch."

"The thing is," Bradshaw said, "we love football and we love our jobs. It's not the end of the world. . . . And we know the people out there are not waiting on anything but a football game."

Said Berman: "We talk football. We don't worry about our game, we don't worry about another conference. We talk to the everyday fan and we talk to people who have a higher knowledge of football."

Costas offered no such comments in a Sunday afternoon phone interview. He focused on the newsy approach of "NFL Live," bringing up the extended interviews with Victor Kiam and Lisa Olson the week the Patriots locker room story broke. They were hard-hitting and well done, taking the first 12 minutes of the show.

As serious and important as that issue is, the feeling is that most football fans don't want that -- certainly not 12 minutes' worth -- on Sunday, the day to kick back and vegetate before it's back to work.

They want football.

However, that fun-loving weatherman Al Roker was brought in to "NFL Live" two weeks ago, with weather more of a factor as the season progresses. That has light-hearted potential, with little helmets on the map and banter between Costas and Roker, although the weather-in-the-dome jokes already are stale.

Even a smiling Costas realized that it was cornball. "This is great stuff, folks," he said, mocking himself.

Costas seems more comfortable when he smiles. We're more comfortable when he smiles. He and O.J. and Will don't smile enough.

Gumbel and Bradshaw do. Berman and cohorts Tom Jackson and Pete Axthelm do.

"If you watch our show, you've got to know these guys genuinely do like one another," Bradshaw said. "We really do. We hang out. We're becoming good friends."

"Our intent is to be ourselves," Gumbel said, "and I think having fun is a byproduct."

Costas isn't himself, at least not completely. He has to be more fun than that.

Like Bradshaw, Berman talked of friends -- "Tommy" and "Ax."

"We generally like football," he said. "I think you trust us, I think you like us and I think you'd like to sit around and watch the games with us."