The jokers are running wild on NFL network pregame shows, but it should be no laughing matter to the people who allow the likes of Jerry Glanville and Jimmy Kimmel to get significant air time on national television.
A rare Sunday in the Sports Waves Cave last week marked the first time I had been able to watch CBS's revamped "NFL Today." Mercifully gone are Brent Jones, George Seifert and Marcus Allen, last year's crop of out-of-their league rookie broadcasters. They've been replaced by savvy veterans Craig James and Randy Cross and the jarring Glanville, with smooth operator Jim Nantz still in the anchor seat.
It's a huge improvement with one major exception. Glanville cast in the role of folksy, good ol' boy--played brilliantly by Terry Bradshaw over at Fox--just doesn't work for me.
Glanville tries far too hard to be a rebel without much of a cause, and thank goodness they won't allow him to wear his trademark motorcycle jacket on the air. In the show I watched, while Cross and James were offering strong, sound opinions, Glanville had little to add except the occasional cheap shot at a colleague, and virtually no cogent analysis.
He did point out the irony of the soaring Redskins' current situation, with Norv Turner succeeding mostly because of the talent talent supplied by the fired Charley Casserly. Glanville thought it was interesting that Casserly, who had major differences with Turner, was now helping Turner keep his job.
Still, I much preferred listening to James, an original gerbil with the old Washington Federals, and Cross, a stalwart center during the 49ers' Super Bowl seasons, offer strong opinions on a variety of topics. For example:
Cross on replay: "It's intrusive and makes the games longer. I think replay should be out of here."
Cross on Jets quarterback Rick Mirer: "With his history, Parcells might as well cut the guy right now."
James to Glanville: "Every time you say a team jumps out at you, they lose. You're the kiss of death."
James to Glanville again: "You're the guy who got rid of Brett Favre, aren't you?" (Yes, when Glanville was head coach in Atlanta.)
If his own people are mocking him in the studio, how are the rest of us supposed to take this Glanville seriously? There's an easy answer here. Don't. Anyway, I also suspect Glanville is there only in a stopgap capacity before another big-name player or coach retires.
The name that keeps surfacing is Miami Dolphins Coach Jimmy Johnson, especially if he can somehow massage his team into the Super Bowl in January and walk away with another ring. Johnson and Nantz are good friends from J.J.'s days at the University of Miami in the 1980s, and he'd be a perfect fit.
A perfect mystery has to do with the previously mentioned Kimmel, a refugee from cable's not-so-funny Comedy Central network who has moved to Fox. He's mostly making a mockery of the valuable time being afforded to him on an otherwise first-rate show.
On Sunday, Kimmel did a bit featuring himself as an action figure. His figurine was shirtless, with a pot belly and, as Kimmel informed viewers, featured "real body hair harvested from my own back." It got much worse from there. To say the bit was sophomoric would be insulting to sophomores everywhere.
Why Fox felt Kimmel's addition to an already strong cast was necessary only network executives can say for sure. Even his own colleagues don't seem to like it much. After the bit, Bradshaw said, "The hair on there looks like the hair on your mother's back when I visited her in prison." And he wasn't smiling.
Then again, maybe this stuff works on the network that dumbed down the culture with the likes of "The Simpsons" and Al Bundy. But it definitely doesn't work on a pregame football show.
Both networks also have decided they do not need an NFL news and information reporter on the show, the way the best pregame show of all, the two-hour "NFL Countdown" on ESPN, uses Chris Mortensen. CBS offers little snippets of gossip and information in a crawl at the bottom of the screen during the telecast, but we never know who's providing that information.
Fox has never had an on-air reporter, preferring to have off-camera people do the legwork and the on-air guys spout the information. That's a little disingenuous for my taste, though I also know that host James Brown, Bradshaw, Howie Long and Cris Collinsworth are plugged into the league and work the phones themselves.
By virtue of its length alone, ESPN's show is must-see TV for the hard-core pro football fan. While the networks tell you about the physical status of the big stars, ESPN provides detailed information on hangnails suffered by second-team long snappers.
There are more Xs and Os courtesy of Ron Jaworski and his telestrator, fabulous features usually provided by Andrea Kremer and others and a constant stream of news and notes from Mortensen, perhaps the best in the business at what he does.