In Defense of “Bad” Commentating

Ten weeks into the 2018 NFL season, it’s fair to say the new Monday Night Football crew has some issues. Joe Tessitore is good at his job and clearly loves football, but he’s tasked with holding together what’s often an otherwise rough broadcast. Jason Witten, while an excellent tight end and seemingly a very nice guy, is, uh, not great at announcing. Booger McFarland often offers genuinely interesting analysis, but it’s hard to remember that when he’s advocating pants-pissing and blocking fans’ views with the inexplicable Booger Mobile.

 

We are meant to believe that all these things make for a bad football broadcast. That there is a way things should be done, and this is not it. But why does every broadcast, on every network, have to be the same?

For some reason the public has come to expect every football broadcast to look and sound like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on “America’s Game of the Week” or Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Sunday Night Football, even as bagging on Joe Buck has become something like a national pastime. At this point SNF has usurped MNF as the marquee NFL program, if MNF ever was ahead in that regard, and that’s fine. Michaels and Collinsworth host a legitimately good broadcast, even if both of them can be maddening at times.

For the viewing public to ask for another football program in the vein of “America’s Game of the Week,” though, is lunacy. Buck and Aikman are ridiculed for a reason. Buck somehow manages to be haughty even as he consistently mispronounces players’ names and misreports the action on the field. Aikman, for his part, seems to have little interest in anything not related to the Dallas Cowboys.  Few things can deflate a football fan’s excitement for a game like seeing one’s team in that 3:25 CT time slot and debating the merits of muting the TV to listen to the radio broadcast instead.

Instead of mimicking these formats, why can’t MNF be its own thing? As a rabid college football fan, I often love watching the non-marquee matchups because they’re just more fun. The commentators take themselves less seriously. The atmosphere, especially for Thursday and Friday night games, often feels lighter, like everyone’s just happy to get their football fix during the week. In these broadcasts, football becomes an opportunity to just relax and enjoy the show, but the NFL doesn’t really have anything like this apart from the often atrocious Thursday night games, which are now, sadly, also hosted by Joe Buck. Monday Night Football, with its current crew, seems poised to fill this gap.

On most Monday nights, I and, I suspect, many others just want to unwind. I don’t really need every call and analysis to be flawless, and I certainly don’t want to listen to anyone fill every second of airtime with inane babbling. In this light, MNF‘s new crew is perfect for Monday nights.

In the Ringer piece linked to up top, Tessitore said, “I want you to sit with me. I want you to drink with me.” That’s how this broadcast feels. Instead of constant talking, MNF feels like sitting on the couch with your friends, enjoying the game. Sometimes one of them might say something bizarre, but that’s part of the fun. During the Giants-Falcons game in Week 8, I often found myself genuinely laughing along with Joe, Jason, and Booger. If I laugh during most other NFL broadcasts, I’m usually laughing at one of the commentators, not with them.

At this point does anyone really need yet another commentator incorrectly explaining the run-pass option for the hundredth time? I posit that we do not. Tessitore and company certainly have some things to clean up, to use that favorite coaching platitude. Witten needs to stop stumbling over his words and actually respond when people talk to him. Booger needs to abandon the Booger Mobile before fans start pelting him with garbage. (He’s now done this, kind of; the giant TV on the cart has now been replaced with a sheet of Plexiglass, which is better, I guess.) But I, for one, will gladly take “bad” commentating that actually helps me enjoy the game and relax over “perfect” broadcasts that make me want to cover my ears.

 

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