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Funny, frustrating sportscasters run the gamut

Marty Schroeder | Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The quips of John Madden, the antics of Lee Corso and the wisdom of Tony Kornheiser make us laugh, make us cry and sometimes make us turn away in disgust. But who can deny that every one of those guys up there knows exactly what he is doing (except maybe Brent Musburger)?

The diversification of football anchors ranges from the goofy looking but eloquent (Kornheiser) to the guy we think knows nothing at all but sometimes surprises us with a little gem of self-deprication (Davie) to that crazy guy who grunts when he’s trying to sing fight songs (could it be anyone but Corso?).

Attitude differences aside, one of the more notable methods implemented by networks to make sure not every sportscaster sounds exactly the same, and that the games aren’t being called by Stephen Hawking (no offense to the man, but we’re not watching physics contests), is to bring in retired players and coaches.

Now, so the logic goes – who knows the game better than those who have played and coached? Well, the logic contains a few issues that ESPN and others don’t seem to be addressing. One, not every player has been trained in the fine art of eloquence. Now, Madden got lucky and turned his painfully apparent statements into a shtick that’s brought him video game contracts and a nice little job in the broadcast booth.

However, Sunday ESPN commentator and former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin remains misunderstood with a phonograph horn and the volume set at 50. He may have been fine at catching receptions (and getting into to trouble), but when it comes to sports announcing, he just doesn’t have what it takes.

He’s a former pro-bowler who played for “America’s team,” so he gets a spot, but when stacked up against a guy who’s been in the business for over 20 years (Chris Berman or Mark May, take your pick), the glaring differences become apparent.

Coaches, it seems, have some trouble adjusting from calling the plays on the field to describing the plays in the press box. I’m sorry, Bob Davie, the press box is not the same as the field or your living room.

This former Irish coach offers up nuggets like, “Looking at Charlie really makes me want to get back into coaching, but when I look at John L. Smith I think twice…ha ha ha,” in reference to the end of this year’s Michigan State-Notre Dame game.

While I may not quote accurately, the point is that this guy may have known how to run a defense, but when it comes to running commentary, his abnormally deep voice just doesn’t cut it. He knows football, but doesn’t know how to discuss it on TV.

With Davie in the middle of where I think most sports analysts are, neither horrible nor very good, we see the two ends of the spectrum – Kornheiser and Corso. The former is an award winning sports journalist while the other came out of coaching. The differences speak for themselves. Kornheiser may look goofy and may be balding, but when he opens his mouth, solid analysis is what you get and antics are not.

Well, that’s boring, right? Wrong! Who doesn’t love ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption?” Here’s a show that encourages Kornheiser, along with fine co-host Michael Wilbon. Intelligent antics are a valid part of “Pardon the Interruption.”

On the other side is Corso, with his hats, his yelling and his changing of sides – and none of it ever makes much sense. Etched into my brain is the image of Corso wearing an Irish Guardsman hat before the Georgia Tech game, attempting to sing our fight song.

And this isn’t just a personal matter. Corso does it every Saturday, yelling crazily while Kirk Herbstreit tries to say something about the upcoming game that makes some semblance of sense.

So in the end, I suggest that they bring in more journalists that know what they’re talking about, while keeping a smattering of former stars and coaches. Sports TV is turning into a retirement plan where old players and coaches are put to pasture. They need some new blood that can be both funny and informative. And sure, some off the wall shtick is fine, but Corso – stop being a moron.

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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.