Not to play Tuesday morning QB, but switch by `MNF' makes sense

April 20, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

BEFORE YOU celebrate ESPN's surprising acquisition of the rights to broadcast Monday Night Football, consider this:

The next time MNF wants to open with an edgy intro, you just might get Stuart Scott in a bath towel instead of Nicollette Sheridan, which is not a very good trade.

Other than that, the deal makes perfect sense, and it's another indication of how much the broadcast landscape has changed over the past decade or so. Cable saturation has reached the point where the potential loss of over-the-air viewers caused by the jump from ABC wasn't even a serious issue.

Monday Night Football has always been about change. The original Monday night broadcasts on ABC changed the way America watched televised sports, trading straight play-by-play for an entertainment-based approach that included humor and sarcasm along with standard color commentary. In a way, MNF spawned the off-the-wall ESPN approach to sports coverage, so maybe the new rights deal (which takes effect in 2006) just brings the whole thing full circle.

I'm guessing the nature of the broadcasts won't change all that much. The MNF formula has been highly successful from the days when nasal New York lawyer Howard Cosell and aw-shucks former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith created the unique on-air chemistry that convinced America that pro football was not just for Sunday afternoons and Thanksgiving anymore.

It's a natural union, because ESPN has become the premier brand name in sports broadcasting. No doubt, there still will be the occasional tie-in with ABC, considering their common parent company (Walt Disney Co.), and the shift to cable may actually make it easier for MNF to skirt the boundaries of good taste the way it did with the highly controversial Desperate Housewives spoof last fall.

Maybe Terrell Owens can open a broadcast demanding that Eva Longoria replace Sheridan as the Eagles' unofficial locker room mascot. Considering T.O.'s "stature" in the NFL, he probably deserves an upgrade, though I'm still partial to Teri Hatcher.

It's only April, and I've already run afoul of the Eagles faithful with a comment in Sunday's paper that was construed as an endorsement of caning unruly Philadelphia sports fans.

So I want to go on record stating unequivocally that caning is an archaic, barbaric form of punishment that I believe has no place in civilized society.

That's why I only advocate it at Lincoln Financial Field. I hope that clarifies my position.

The Orioles announced the lowest attendance ever at Camden Yards for Monday night's blowout loss to the Tigers, which proves one of two things: Either attendance definitely is going to be heavily affected by the Washington Nationals or - after all these years - local fans have developed a keen sense for which nights the Orioles are really going to reek.

In a related development, George Steinbrenner released a statement to the 24,000 Yankees fans who didn't show up at Camden Yards on Monday night, apologizing for the Orioles' flat performance.

My favorite headline of the week: "Jimmy Fallon threatening to supplant Ben Affleck as world's most annoying Red Sox fan"

The Shaq vs. Kobe argument officially ended on Monday night when the Lakers were blown out by the Golden State Warriors, guaranteeing that they will finish with a worse record than the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time since 1993.

Shaq, you had me at "blown out by the Golden State Warriors."

Bryant described the season as "a character-building experience" as he handed out four-carat diamond rings to each of his teammates.

Lance Armstrong made international headlines Monday when he announced that he would retire from cycling after the next Tour de France to spend more time with his kids.

Boy, are they going to be in for a rude awakening the first time they ask him to ride bikes with them after he gets home from Paris.

My e-mail friend Joe from Illinois wrote this week to explain why it took several votes to elect the new Pope Benedict XVI:

"I just looked at Mel Kiper's big board, and it's a lean year for popes."

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