MEDIA WATCHDOG: Grading ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown

Street Talk MEDIA WATCHDOG: Grading ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown

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The Commentators:
Host: Chris Berman
Co-host: Tom Jackson
Co-host: Bill Parcells
Co-host: Keyshawn Johnson
Co-host: Mike Ditka
ESPN is now in its second year as the home for Monday Night Football.  What MNF has always had going for it is the fact that since it’s the only game on Monday night it automatically becomes a major sporting event. Because MNF is such a big deal every week ESPN sees fit to produce a 90-minute pre-game show called “Monday Night Countdown”.
First of all, a pre-game show for any game can be done in one hour…more than that is overkill and fluff.  I assumed this show was only an hour when I decided to grade it so I was a bit surprised to find out the actual length was 90 minutes. Think about it; does a pre-game show need to be half as long as the event itself?
The opening graphics were strange and I felt like I was inside a blender full of sport turf and shredded footballs. I usually really dig the graphics I see on ESPN, but this was an exception.
It was clear from the opening segment this show truly has one goal in mind: set up storylines for the upcoming MNF match-up.  The pins were set up for the talking heads in Bristol, Philly and on the sidelines to knock em’ down the rest if the night.
This week the storylines focused on the McNabb injury and the Redskins running game and would be discussed several times during the show and during the game.
Host Chris Berman, set up in-studio partners Parcells, Jackson and Johnson on “quick hits” from week 2.  Jackson and Parcells were fine here, but Johnson, ever the self-promoter, was practically begging for San Diego to offer him a contract. I could go a year of Sundays without seeing Keyshawn doing any sort of commentary again.  He’s just too smug and slick for me and I get the feeling he is just trying to somehow stay in the public eye because he thinks he can still play.
The first segment closed with injury updates from sideline reporters Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya.  I expected to see some graphics here listing the players that were out, doubtful, probable, etc…but none were provided.
The next segment was the strongest part of the show because there was some real analysis and insight given by Parcells.  Like him or hate him, he gives honest and clear opinions without an agenda.  When asked about why San Diego seems to be struggling, his response about how it takes time for coaches to get to know their players and the division made a lot of sense.  The thing that’s funny about Parcells is that he always looks annoyed…especially if he has to interact with Johnson.
Later, Chris Mortensen reviewed the New England video tape scandal punishment and finished by giving props to the Patriots for their free agent signings. I have always liked “Mort” and I don’t laugh when I see him like I do when I watch John Clayton because Clayton is the spitting image of South Park character Mr. Mackey. (Mmmmkay)
The McNabb injury storyline was visited in more detail when Countdown ran a piece reviewing his injuries since 1999.  Again, Parcells was key here when he said all QBs go through injury cycles and McNabb was in one now.
The feature on Joe Gibbs comparing his first stint with Washington to now was weak and could have been much better with some additional graphics. 
Another strong segment featured analysis of why the Rams are having issues on offense.  I down with the Xs and Os analysis and wish there was more in this show.  Considering this program is 90 minutes, you’d think they could include some detailed review of the bread and butter plays used by the Eagles and Redskins. 
The final segment had Berman doing VO on video from week 2 before tossing to the game crew of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser.  I know Berman is old school, but is there anybody better at doing football highlights?
Cut this show to an hour, add in more review of the Sunday games and dump Keyshawn Johnson and it could be top notch.
Grade: B-
TGC analyst Dottie Pepper goes off on team USA – After seeing two team USA pairs fail to gain a full point in their matches by losing the 18th hole in the Solheim Cup, Pepper could be heard saying, “those choking freakin’ dogs”.  Hey Dottie, next time you insult team USA make sure your microphone is off and the producer has said, “all clear, in commercial now.”  

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Scot Kleinfeld

About Scot Kleinfeld

Scot is a Baltimore native, a Towson University graduate, and has followed sports since the early 1980's. Scot likes to go inside the numbers and get the real "411" on the wins and losses,  hence his Behind The Numbers column.   Besides being an avid sports fan, Scot has been involved with televison sports production as an Associate Producer since 1993 for WMAR, ESPN, ESPNU,ESPN2, and the former Home Team Sports network.  In addition to his television work Scot has written articles for Baltimore Magazine, Lacrosse Magazine and Patuxent Publishing.  These experiences make him a natural as the creator of the Media Watchdog, another of SK's fine contributions.   More from Scot Kleinfeld


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