Every couple of years or so, as part of my role as America's Sports Viewer, Couch Slouch must reassess "Fox NFL Sunday" vs. CBS's "The NFL Today." Okay, here goes: "Fox NFL Sunday" remains really, really good; "The NFL Today" remains, uh, not as really, really good.

Oh, there's more column to go?

(By the way, ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" should be part of this pregame discussion, but I excuse myself here for a couple of reasons. First of all, I work for ESPN, and the boys in Bristol get cranky when I slap around my co-workers too much. Second of all, I don't even have cable anymore. Why keep it? It's just an endless stream of sports, movies, infomercials, shout fests and poker.)

Where were we?

Oh, yeah. "The NFL Today" is filled with pedestrian segments, pedestrian commentary and pedestrian sensibilities. It's so pedestrian, there should be a crosswalk signal on the set.

In fact, each studio show is pretty much pregame-by-numbers. It comes down to which barbershop quartet -- though I hesitate to say "barbershop" around Terry Bradshaw -- you prefer. So we're comparing James Brown/Bradshaw/Howie Long/Jimmy Johnson at Fox to Greg Gumbel/Dan Marino/Shannon Sharpe/Norman "Boomer" Esiason at CBS.

Advantage Fox.

As hosts, Brown and Gumbel are almost interchangeable -- both are likable and competent. You wouldn't throw either one out of your home if he started reading the Yellow Pages out loud. The only time I ever get peeved at Gumbel is when he says, "Stay tuned -- much more ahead on 'The NFL Today,' " because, actually, there never is.

Ensemble-wise, the "Fox NFL Sunday" fellas appear to be having so much more fun. It may be an act, but they seem like a bunch of frat brothers about to tap another keg. On the other hand, the "NFL Today" guys seem as if they just tolerate each other one day a week and can't wait to get back into their Range Rovers to head home.

Terry, Howie and Jimmy have chemistry.

The only thing you can have with Esiason is awkward small talk.

Sure, Esiason's got the name, he's got the hair, he's got the car. He's the lead singer, Peggy Sue -- he just happens to sing off-key. Then there's Sharpe; it's quite painful to listen to Sterling's baby brother venture from the start of a sentence to the end of a sentence -- if he makes it.

Meanwhile, the "Fox NFL Sunday" guys are so good, plus Frank Caliendo's picks segments are so funny, I can overlook the worthless weather girl who wiggles and the mindless "NFL's Sexiest Man" contest.

(A couple of weeks ago, they had Jillian Barberie and Pamela Anderson together, busting out. I looked for the pole; none was in sight. Anyway, it was either the greatest three-minute segment in sports television history or, well, something else.)

The Fox team revolves around Bradshaw often playing the village idiot, a role that may or may not come naturally to him.

Bradshaw, on whether Brian Billick will be back coaching the Ravens next season: "I have not given any thought to the Ravens, so how can I answer that?"

Johnson: "Well, have you given thought to anything?"

Bradshaw, analyzing the Terrell Owens situation: "The reason a dog has so many friends, Howie, is because he wags his tail more than he wags his tongue and this tongue of T.O. may very well just sent him out of the National Football League."

Long, incredulous: "What? What?"

Bradshaw, cackling: "I finally got a dog story in."

And Bradshaw, discussing the Lions' Joey Harrington being benched, "After three failed marriages, I know what it's like to be replaced."

What, I'm not going to love this guy? If he goes down the aisle again, I want to be his best man!

Heck, I feel out of sorts at the moment, being so unceasingly complimentary. I guess I'll make fun of some ESPN people next week.

Ask The Slouch

Q. It is my understanding that the ESPN show "Playmakers" was taken off the air because the NFL did not think its portrayal of pro football was in the best interests of the league. Given the recent coverage of the Vikings' boating expedition, the Panthers' cheerleaders and Terrell Owens, is ESPN's "SportsCenter" now in jeopardy? (James Volpicelli; Great Falls)

A. That's a buck and a quarter, no waiting.

Q. Could you please explain, for the kids, the formula used by the NFL to calculate its passer rating? (J. Byerly; Vidor, Tex.)

A. Divide the number of pass attempts by the number of completions, subtract net touchdowns vs. interceptions, multiply by .6287, add total third-down conversions, divide by pi and subtract the last four digits of the quarterback's Social Security number. Or, in the case of Jeff George, Ryan Leaf or Kyle Boller, the rating would simply be 0.0.

Q. Why doesn't David Stern's NBA dress code include a ban on Craig Sager's jackets? (Carol Brand; Katy, Tex.)

A. Pay the lady, Shirley.

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