that what it is? Ha-ha-ha-ha. Tee-hee-hee. Bless your heart."
As with any art
form, there are those who just don't get it. Football is a complex and often
brutal sport, these humor-haters say. Randy Minkoff, a media coach who's worked
with more than 1,000 athletes, says of the studio analysts, "They have to
realize that the reason they're there is because they're experts, not because
they're Jerry Seinfeld." Andrea Kirby, a media coach who's trained Peter
Gammons, Jim Kaat and Young, says, "When they're actually having fun, you
can tell, but when they're not, it's deadly obvious. I've asked guys why they
were laughing on the set, and some will admit they have no idea."
Here's a theory.
Humans are social animals, and we need cues. It's why television began using
canned laughter in 1950, why cartoons such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons
had laugh tracks, despite the obvious impossibility of their being taped in
front of an audience. It's why local TV news entered its Stepfordian happy-talk
phase at the end of the 1960s, trading relevancy for personality, Walter
Cronkite for a sea of Ron Burgundys.
commentators represent the natural evolution of this concept. They provide the
solitary American male, stranded in his domestic prison, with the camaraderie
he craves. Flip on Fox, and you can join a virtual fraternity—and my, what
accomplished, athletic, well-dressed buddies you have!—while the commentators
interrupt each other and crack jokes, just like real guys do.
[ Eli Manning] wins this game Sunday night, it says, I have MATURED, I am HERE,
I am amongst the elite quarterbacks in this league, and in New York City,
that's a huge statement to make."
So, complain all
you want, skeptinistas. Go ahead and question why pregame shows that once took
30 minutes now require an hour—four for the Super Bowl. Go ahead and grumble
about how ever since Charles Barkley arrived on Inside the NBA and displayed
some genuine wit and charm, a legion of imitators have crowded the airwaves,
like so many ball-hogging Michael Jordan clones souring the game.
Sure, take your
shots at the minds behind Monday Night Football for their failure to understand
that 1) every comic ( Tony Kornheiser) needs a smart straight man; and 2) no
football game needs a comic. Feel free to wonder whether real football fans are
turning off their TVs and going instead to the Web, where they aren't subjected
to manufactured joviality, Hannity & Colmes--like canned theatrics and
crass innuendo aimed at some elusive demographic known as the "casual
fan." Go ahead, but be forewarned that if you do, you will be missing out
on some high comedy. Even if it is unintentional.
Steve Rushin is