Critics rave about controversial Christensen Ex-Raider offers opinionated analysis


November 23, 1990|By RAY FRAGER

Quite an impressive fellow, this Todd Christensen.

It's not his pro football career -- though he was a Pro Bowl tight end for the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders -- and it's not his debut season as an analyst on NBC's National Football League telecasts -- though he's been winning rave reviews for his work.

No, this week he performed another kind of feat -- answering his phone at 7:30 a.m., sounding quite awake, coherent and engaging in intelligent discourse on his sportscasting that included using the word "Romanesque."

Area viewers can get their first listen to Christensen on Sunday, when channels 2 and 4 carry the Miami Dolphins-Cleveland Browns game at 1 p.m. Christensen, who works with play-by-play announcer Charlie Jones, has been hailed by critics for his opinionated analysis. Which comes as no surprise to Christensen.

"I honestly felt like I could do this," Christensen said from his California home. "I felt like I could opine intelligently."

First, though, Christensen had to become accustomed to the view from the broadcast booth. And that's where this "Romanesque" business comes in.

"I find it interesting when you go from player to this. There is somewhat of an adversarial relationship between the players and press," he said, "not necessarily that bad things are written or said, but the anticipation of that.

"Up there in the booth, there is a Romanesque quality that you're watching biological freaks perform, and I resent that.

"This side of the ball, you see the entertainment side of it."

Christensen said he brings a fan's perspective to his commentary.

"I think what happens is you're getting a more sophisticated fan," he said. "These people want something interesting, not to point out, 'That reminds me of a Shakespeare soliloquy,' but to make people . . . say, 'I didn't realize that.'

"Having been a fan, I know what I want to hear," he said. "A guy goes 90 yards on a run, and you say, 'That was a great run.' No kidding, Sherlock."

But it's not necessarily so elementary, Dr. Watson, when it comes to being considered controversial, a tag some would hang on Christensen. In a recent game, Christensen remarked about San Diego Chargers quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver's journey from a small town to the NFL and how difficult such a trip can be. Next thing you know, Christensen said, he was being accused of knocking small towns.

"What does it mean to be controversial?" he said. "Some people think Luther Campbell [of the raunchy rap group 2 Live Crew] is great. Some people think he's Beelzebub.

"I don't go into the game with these three statements that I'm going to plug in. The stories shouldn't supersede the game."


The word from WBAL Radio is that the tape sifting is nearly over, and within two weeks announcers will be brought in to start preliminary interviews for the Baltimore Orioles play-by-play job vacated by Joe Angel. . . . In case you're wondering what some of your favorite Orioles are up to in the off-season: Bill Ripken will join Larry Katz to talk pro wrestling today at 5 p.m. on WCBM (680 AM). Sounds as if Ripken has too much time on his hands. . . . If memory serves correctly, ESPN's Fred Edelstein reported several weeks ago that Dexter Manley would return to the Washington Redskins upon his reinstatement to the NFL. Though Manley has ended up with the Phoenix Cardinals, maybe Edelstein meant to say that Manley was going to join the Raiders when they moved back to Oakland, as Edelstein once assured us they would.

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