Tony Kornheiser played it safe in his "Monday Night Football" announcing debut last night, making few missteps but offering little for the highlight reel. It wasn't exactly clear at times why he was there at all.That said, the Associated Press said at least he was better than the failed sitcom "Listen Up".** Heck, the LA Times even said he was "the star of the show", "less obnoxious than Howard Cosell, and funnier than Dennis Miller".
It's still early, as the coaches like to say. But on the basis of his first preseason game, Kornheiser, the Post sports columnist and co-host of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," wasn't many of the things that ESPN hired him for. He wasn't especially witty, provocative or insightful in calling the Raiders' 16-13 win over the Vikings from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. . . .
Kornheiser's challenge is to translate his familiar "PTI" personality -- opinionated, sarcastic, bombastic, a little curmudgeonly -- into the announcing booth. That's a tough assignment. Sarcasm can sound mean in the wrong hands. Tougher still, Kornheiser doesn't have Michael Wilbon, his fellow Post sports columnist and "PTI" co-host, in the booth with him. "PTI" is watchable primarily because of the verbal fireworks and good-natured banter between the two.
On "MNF," Kornheiser's foil is Theismann, who -- and let's be charitable to a Redskins legend -- is kind of a stiff. Kornheiser should be bouncing off of him like a Superball. Theismann is plainly knowledgeable about the game but often goes off on his own personal lecture circuit. He's also so smug and pretentious -- did he mention that he used to play the game? Oh, yes, about 12 times -- that he invites deflation. All this could be a good thing, at least from Kornheiser's perspective. Sticking the pin in the Theismann blimp could create some nice tension from week to week.
** edited, because I didn't realize that the Sun-Times just carried the AP feed. Deadspin has more round-up.