Where have you gone, Dandy Don?

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 08, 2008



ESPN Monday Night Football commentator Tony Kornheiser knows so little about football he reminds us of a socialist discussing economic theory.
 
We know Kornheiser is clueless because his entire commentary during Green Bay's 24-19 win over Minnesota  Monday night revolved around one player and one player only – one player who wasn't even playing.
 
(Kornheiser's knowledge appears all the more miniscule as he sits there next to the Adam Smith of analysts, Ron Jaworski, who fattens the gluttonous gridiron masses with his enthusiasm for football and his ability to look at the intricacies of the game and spit out tasty, digestible nuggets of information that we can't glean from the couch.)
 
The object of Kornheiser's constant admiration and chatter Monday night was Brett Favre, the former Green Bay quarterback now with the Jets.
 
Kornheiser talked about Favre in his opening monologue. He talked about Favre when the Packers offense took the field. He talked about Green Bay fans holding their collective breath to see how the offense would fare without Favre, as if the Packers were a child riding a bicycle without training wheels for the first time. He talked about Favre when Aaron Rodgers, the guy who was actually playing quarterback for Green Bay, threw his first TD pass.

Kornheiser talked about Favre so often that even his own booth-mate, Mike Tirico, finally had to shut him off at the start of the second half: "You're limited to five mentions (of Favre)," said Tirico, generously discounting the number of times "Favre" rolled off Kornheiser's tongue.
 
But you just can't cap Kornheiser's Favre-Love as if it were an oil well. Kornheiser continued to gush about Favre, even in wholly inappropriate moments.
 
Midway through the fourth quarter, Rodgers led the Green Bay offense down field, moving the ball snug up against the goal line at the Minnesota 1. Rodgers took the snap, tucked the ball up into his gut, bent low and then plowed into the end zone behind his left guard for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
 
Save for the fact that Rodgers went behind his left guard and not his right guard, football fans instantly drew a mental comparison to another touchdown. After all, the play looked a whole lot like the signature score in all of Packers lore – indeed, in all of NFL history: Bart Starr's game-winning TD in the 1967 NFL championship game, the Ice Bowl.
 
But Kornheiser talked about Favre.
 
Starr's chilly TD plunge was the greatest play in the greatest game by the greatest franchise and by the greatest quarterback in all of NFL history. It happened right here on this very same field.
 
But Kornheiser talked about Favre.
 
Kornheiser is probably a nice guy and a decent man. We don't know him and have nothing against him personally.
 
But he's also typical of the modern celebrity "pundit" of the cable age. He knows little about the history or the intricacies of the game (the latter, to his credit, which he readily admits). He grew up professionally in the ESPN age, and if Chris Berman never gave a player a chintzy nickname, Kornheiser apparently doesn't even know he existed.
 
Kornheiser, for example, knows there's a quarterback in Charlotte named Jake "Daylight Come and Me Want To" Delhomme (an act so tired that even the Mrs. Troll cringes everytime she hears it).
 
But Kornheiser doesn't know that the Packers existed for three quarters of a century before Brett Favre arrived; he doesn't know that the greatest QB in history once played on this very same field; he doesn't know that the great Bart Starr once ran in for a score that looked a lot like Rodgers' game-winning plunge Monday night; he doesn't know that it happened right there in the very same end zone.
 
Kornheiser's role on Monday Night Football is to be the Joe Six-Pack "everyman" – just the regular schlep who throws in his two cents, but leaves the real analysis to the expert (Jaworski).
 
It might be a good shtick, if not for one problem:
 
We know a lot of Joe Six-Packs, folks, and so do you. None of them are like Kornheiser.
 
In fact, if you don't know much about football, you're really not a Joe Six-Pack at all. Football knowledge is kind of a part of the Joe Six-Pack image.
 
And, well, Kornheiser let that cat out of the bag in the third quarter, when he admitted to trying "Cheesehead" wine before the game.
 
It gets worse: it was white wine.
 
It gets even worse: he mocked its quality, as if it weren't good enough for him.
 
No sh*t, Kornheiser, "Cheesehead" wine ain't that good? It's gimmick-label grape juice with alcohol that people  pound with their bratwurst and cheddar at a Wisconsin tailgate, just to get a little happy-glow on before the game.
 
Kornheiser asked for the sommelier.
 
Back in the good old days of the Monday Night Football broadcast booth, the role of erudite East Coast intellectual was played by the bombastic Howard Cosell. The role of good ol' Joe Six-Pack was played by former Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith. In fact, Dandy Don once sang an old country song about "red necks, white socks and blue-ribbon beer" in the booth. Hey, it played in Peoria.
 
Cosell may have been the haughty wine-drinking, big-city football outsider, but he had a bigger-than-life personality. Dandy Don might have been the good ol' beer-swilling country boy, but at least he knew the game and connected with people beyond the Washington D.C. cocktail circuit that Kornheiser calls home.
 
In Kornheiser, ESPN offers a commentator who combines the worst qualities of both: a haughty wine-sipping big-city Beltway journalist painfully miscast in the role of America's everyman.
 
He ain't Joe Six-Pack, folks. He's Joe Chardonnay.

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