File Joe Montana's new gig with NBC Sports away under the heading, "Nice work if you can get it."
The recently retired, awaiting-Hall-of-Fame-induction quarterback yesterday signed a sweetheart of a multiyear deal with the Peacock network, in which he'll only have to work about 10 weeks a year, get paid a reported $750,000 a season and get shuttled into New York from San Francisco when he has to work.
Best of all, Montana, who will fill in on the "NFL Live" set when Joe Gibbs' racing duties call him away, won't have to do any of that nasty analysis from the booth, but will work from the safety and security of the pre-game studio, where there's more time to form an opinion and fewer opinions are needed.
"Most people have jumped right into the booth, but fewer have jumped into the studio. Being in the studio tends to relax you. In the studio, you don't have to constantly be on for three hours," Montana said during a conference call yesterday. "Here, you get to work with some other people in a team setting. They'll bring me along the right way."
NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol said Montana's representatives made it clear from the beginning of negotiations that the four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback wanted nothing more than occasional studio work, so that he not only could learn the business at a slower pace, but also so he could spend more time with his wife and family.
"A big part of his decision was that he didn't want to have to be in the studio every week. He wanted for [his wife] Jennifer and his family to be part of his weekends," said Ebersol.
Montana, who debuts Sept. 3, will be in the studio for six weeks during the regular season -- including a Sept. 17 doubleheader week when both his former teams, San Francisco and Kansas City, will be in action on NBC -- and four playoff rounds.
Like we said, nice work if you can get it.
Ease up on Mike, will ya?
During the Montana call yesterday, Ebersol blasted the media for its criticism of Michael Jordan and his abrupt decision to change his uniform number in the middle of the playoffs, as well as his brief media silence.
"On one hand, you have the fans voting in unprecedented numbers by something we call ratings to see this great athlete return," said Ebersol. "On the other hand, you have a group of dTC people that are spending an inordinate amount of time looking for blemishes.
"This guy didn't ask to be judged as anything other than a superstar athlete. The idea that he's being criticized for something as simple as trying to psyche himself up by going to his old number is preposterous. The fans are saying, 'Hey, we want a chance to see the greatest athlete since Muhammad Ali. Let us do it. Don't drive him away, unless he's holding up banks.' "
Keeping the faith
Would you turn down a potentially lucrative NFL career if it required you to work on Sundays, the Sabbath day for many religions? Can the members of a professional or college team peacefully coexist and win together when they have differing religious beliefs and convictions? Can an NHL enforcer truly serve God and dish out punishment on the ice?
Those are among the questions raised by the latest thought-provoking chapters in the ESPN "Outside the Lines" series, airing tomorrow night at 7:30. This one, titled, "A Time to Play, A Time to Pray," examines the oft-difficult marriage of religion and sports in today's society.
Included in the hour are stories on the uneasy relationship that exists in the Phoenix Suns locker room, where A. C. Green, Kevin Johnson and Wayman Tisdale -- outspoken about their Christianity -- blend in not only with Mormon Danny Ainge and Danny Schayes, the only Jew in the NBA, but also with Charles Barkley, who looks in warily at the entire bubbling caldron.
"It's a very difficult topic to do objectively. You have to watch the program and make your own judgments," said host Bob Ley.