Kornheiser shouldn't sweat his uneven preseason debut

The Kickoff

August 18, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Sharing some thoughts as visions of footballs dance in my head (which might explain that headache):

It would seem a little early to judge the Great Tony Kornheiser Experiment on Monday Night Football a success or failure. He drew some praise in various publications after his debut on ESPN's first preseason game this week. He also got slammed in his own newspaper, The Washington Post.

However, let's remember this was just a preseason game - as well as his first live game telecast. We'll get a truer reading once the regular season begins, because then the announcers really need to talk about the game. NFL preseason games are a lot like a series of blowouts, where the action on the field can feel irrelevant.

That said, viewers did notice that Kornheiser didn't shvitz through his suit, as he warned he might. (For the goyishly impaired: Shvitz is Yiddish for sweat - but somehow it sounds funnier.) We heard the makings of a rapport between Kornheiser and motormouth fellow analyst Joe Theismann. At least, I thought I heard it on those rare moments when Theismann took a breath.

Those two, along with play-by-play man Mike Tirico, still have time to hone their act. Until then, maybe Kornheiser can find out whether he once dinged that other Post guy's car in the parking lot.

Joe Buck is in danger of becoming this generation's Brent Musburger - overexposed.

Fox announced this week that Buck would serve as host of Fox NFL Sunday, in addition to continuing as the voice of the network's top game each week and the lead play-by-play man on Major League Baseball.

Fox NFL Sunday will move out of the studio, setting up on the site of the No. 1 game each week. Curt Menefee takes over as host for halftime and post-game. Menefee also will host the entire show during three weeks in October when Buck is occupied with baseball's postseason.

Too much Buck? Fox Sports president Ed Goren doesn't sound worried.

"American Idol drops in 30 or 40 million viewers, and I don't think people think that Simon Cowell is overexposed," Goren said in a conference call.

"Ryan Seacrest, that's another matter," Buck added.

Points well taken, but Cowell isn't a play-by-play man. And does that make Troy Aikman Paula Abdul?

Don't you think CBS would like nothing better than for the early-round pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to continue into its weekend coverage of the PGA Championship? The question would be how much we'd see of any other golfers.

Before ESPN's second Monday preseason game next week, the network will carry a 90-minute fantasy football show at 6:30 p.m., in which several of its personalities reveal their selections in a fantasy team draft. Each selection presumably will be met with derisive second-guessing from other team owners and analysts Tom Jackson and Mark Schlereth. That should help keep down the geekiness factor, along with the presence of team owner Nick Bakay. Remember his weekly NFL picks? All together now: He's just living the dream.

Tonight at 10 on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, the studio guest will be boxing historian Bert Sugar, who is expected to discuss how the heavyweight division's championship belts are all held by Eastern European-born fighters. Though that topic may just make you shrug, Sugar always wears a fabulous hat. One of these days, ESPN has to get Sugar and Mel Kiper Jr. on the same set for a hat vs. pompadour showdown.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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