These still are times that try fans’ remote controls.
Through the first 10 weeks of “Monday Night Football,” starting with a Rams-Raiders game in Oakland, a media narrative had been building: This thing has become a mess. On so many levels. How did we get here?
With Monday’s Week 11 presentation of a Rams-Kansas City Chiefs contest that was redirected from Mexico City to the Coliseum, it could have also marked a corner-turning moment for what’s otherwise been a not-ready-for-prime-time ESPN broadcast trio.
Would they rise to the occasion? Get out of their own way?
ESPN probably believes it matched the Rams’ 54-51 decision over the Chiefs step for step, a 3 1/2-hour TV presentation that represented the highest-scoring game in MNF history.
Perhaps. But in many ways, it didn’t matter.
We’re not about to knock any snot out of sideline-hydraulic chair recliner Booger McFarland. He’s got it figured out.
We’re not arguing the constant knocking of the situation that surrounds secondary primary analyst Jason Witten; “situation,” by the way, is a word he has officially pulverized beyond recognition. We’re just resigned to the reality he’ll never become anything more than he already is not.
Joe Tessitore, however, leads to a whole other messy testimonial.
Still the ill-cast former college football carnival barker, Tessitore continues to stand out on the broadcast, but not as a standout.
As expected, Tessitore tried even harder Monday. His growling words may have even matched what viewers were seeing. But by this point, it doesn’t resonate the way it should.
“An absolutely outrageous first half of football!” he yelped just before the Chiefs missed an extra-point try to leave the score 23-23 going into halftime.
Early in the fourth quarter, when the Rams’ Jared Goff was back to pass on a third down and had the ball taken away, Tessitore wailed to a point where one might wonder if his head might explode: “Ball is out! Ball is out! And Allen Bailey scores! The Chiefs take the lead! Can you believe this?!”
When Al Michaels says it, we can.
When Jingoistic Joe does it, we’re still a bit skeptical.
Before this season, there was probably a perfectly decent, yet markedly flawed, reason why ESPN picked Tessitore for its lineup for this MNF reboot. Sean McDonough had the chair for the last two years, replacing the nine-year run of Mike Tirico, but he made insomnia fashionable again. Tessitore, from years of college football carnival barking that now seems as fashionable as a Gus Johnson standard, would inject a new energy into the broadcast.
As much as ESPN may want it to be, an NFL broadcast isn’t a college football broadcast. Monday reconfirmed that, even if it looked as if a Big 12 Conference shootout on a Saturday afternoon was getting the Tessitore shoutout.
It’s just too bad that when the right time finally came for Tessitore’s tautology, he’d already lost his credibility.
“I think the greatest thing we can do Monday night is not get in the way of the game,” he said. “We want to do a great job covering the hell out of the game. And not getting in the way of it.”
As tough a line as that may be to toe, it definitely started with the appropriate balance.
In an era when networks could shy away from national anthem coverage to avoid controversy, ESPN felt it was necessary to add a graphic scroll to acknowledge first responders. It then showed the lighting of the Coliseum torch by Karen and Jordan Helus of Moorpark, the wife and son of slain Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus from the Borderline Bar and Grill.
And after members of the Cal Lutheran choir performed the anthem, invited because it had one of its members killed in the Thousand Oaks tragedy, Tessitore somehow had a fitting caption for the picture: “To have lost one of their own, and to sing like that.”