When I was in college in Philly back in the 60s, my best friend/classmate’s father had access to “passes” to the Phillies’ games. All we had to do was to show the pass and pay the “tax” which was 25-cents and we got good seats at the games. We saw a LOT of baseball games in the summers back then.
There was one vendor by the gate we had to enter that was selling copies of the Philadelphia Daily News. That tabloid paper would print a scorecard on the back page for the “Stadium Edition” so you could buy the paper AND keep score. This vendor would always intone in a very loud voice:
“You can’t tell the players without this scorecard…”
That is the feeling I have when I look at what ESPN has done with the cast of its NFL pregame shows – on Sundays, Sunday nights and for Monday Night Football. While the other networks are more or less stability mode, ESPN is behaving like Hercules when given the task of cleaning the Augean stables. All Hercules had to do was to clean out – in one day no less – the stables that housed thousands of cattle, goats and sheep. He did this by diverting the flow of a couple of rivers right through the stable area. The reason he got it done in a day was that he did not have to file an Environmental Impact Statement with regard to all the people who lived by the rivers downstream from the stables. Ah … progress.
ESPN has undertaken a similar level of “housecleaning” with regard to its pre-game and post-game NFL shows. And like that vendor outside Connie Mack Stadium in the 1960s, I am afraid you cannot tell the players without a scorecard. Therefore, let me go through who is gone; who is staying and who is a new addition to ESPN coverage here:
Cris Carter: I cannot say that I am going to miss him all that much.
Mike Ditka: I am ambivalent about this change; over the past couple of seasons he had been OK but not great.
Tom Jackson: He retired after 29 years with ESPN in this role; he was not fired. I will miss him a lot; I think he provided good insight for the programs. Moreover, he and Chris Berman clearly “played well together” and it showed through on the broadcasts.
Ray Lewis: I will not miss him even a little bit. His “analyses” tended to involve a lot more heat than light.
Keyshawn Johnson: I have to say that I liked him a whole lot more than I liked either Cris Carter or Ray Lewis.
Chris Berman: Many people do not like him and have tired of his shtick. I like Chris Berman; he is intelligent and insightful. Reports say this will be his last year with ESPN in this NFL capacity. Frankly, I hope those reports are incorrect.
Trent Dilfer: He is getting better. A couple of years ago, I would have advocated stuffing a softball in his mouth; now, he is more than acceptable. It is good to have him back.
Suzy Kolber: She began this part of her ESPN career as a stand-in for Stuart Scott; frankly, I think she is an upgrade in that position. Her studio work related to the NFL has been very good.
Chris Mortenson: If he can come back from Stage IV throat cancer, he will be a welcomed back persona.
Adam Schefter: His voice can be annoying, but he does provide good, timely and accurate “inside info”.
Steve Young: Glad to see him back; it is good to have more than one person in the coverage team with an IQ north of 140.
Randy Moss: I did not see a lot of him on FS1, but lots of folks think he will be very good in this position. I hope they are correct.
Wendi Nix: I find here studio work related to the NFL to be OK and not much more. I shall reserve judgement here.
Charles Woodson: I have really high hopes for this guy…
The NFL will have new rules regarding injury reporting this year. There will be no players listed as “Probable” anymore; the reason is that more than 95% of those players actually played on the weekend after they were so listed. So “Probable” came to mean “Virtually Certain”. Players this year will be listed as:
“Questionable” (meaning it is a 50/50 shot that they will play)
“Doubtful” (meaning a 25% chance they will be able to play)
“Out” (meaning the player will not play)
According to reports, the league will “scrutinize” any players who do not show up on any of these lists who do not actually play on a given weekend. Moreover, the players listed as “Out” will not be released until Fridays instead of on Wednesdays as has been the rule in the past.
Finally, here is a comment from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel with regard to the Rio Olympics:
“What will be more polluted at the Olympics, the water in Brazil or the blood of the Russian athletes?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………