ESPN

ESPN's new "Monday Night Football" telecast shows big improvement over 2018.

By Jimmy Traina
September 10, 2019

1. ESPN's Monday Night Football bounced back nicely last night after a rough 2018.

Before we get to the booth, let me start with the yellow/green down-and-distance graphic debacle.

The network unveiled a new score bug at the bottom of our screens for the Texans-Saints game. The down-and-distance was shown in yellow or green depending, I guess, on your TV settings and eyesight. (It was yellow for me.) This caused mass confusion because NFL viewers are like trained dogs and the second we see yellow, we think penalty.

Twitter did what Twitter does and hammered ESPN relentlessly about this snafu. The network heard the complaints loud and clear and at halftime changed the down-and-distance portion of the graphic from yellow/green to white. ESPN deserves nothing but credit for this. The network could've easily waited a week to make the change, or, as networks usually do, just ignored what fans were complaining about. This same exact thing happened a few years ago with CBS and it waited a week to make the switch from yellow to a different color.

Of course, because people on Twitter are miserable, many did not want to give ESPN credit for making the switch because they had screwed up colossally in the first place. Apparently, nobody on Twitter has ever made a mistake or come up with a bad idea.

The bottom line is that ESPN messed up, it listened to viewers and fixed their mistake as quickly as they possibly could. There's nothing else to analyze or debate.

Now for the telecast.

I wrote many times last season (and said many times on the SI Media Podcast that you should subscribe to) that a bigger problem than the three-man booth of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland, who technically wasn't in the booth, but on a crane, was the overall production of Monday Night Football. The entire telecast was a mess and all over the place.

ESPN cleaned it all up big time last night. The constant booth shots were gone. No cuts to the back of the broadcasters heads. The cameras stayed on the field and showed you all the action. The entire production felt like it was on steroids last year. Last night, everything was toned down (except the announcers) and it made the broadcast much more enjoyable. I have to believe a big reason for this is a change in directors this season. In early June, Jimmy Platt was named the new director of Monday Night Football and it seems the move has already paid off.

The two-man booth of Tessitore and McFarland was also more enjoyable than then three-man experiment last season. Tessitore and McFarland were not perfect. Not every single play is the greatest thing in NFL history as they would lead you to believe. Sometimes an 11-yard catch is just an 11-yard catch. And the pair skipped out on analyzing questionable clock management and defensive schemes from Sean Payton and Bill O'Brien at the end of a wild game. That can be chalked up to early-season rust. The duo will get better as the season goes on, but, holy cow, what a difference from last year's chemistry-less (is that a word?) booth.

The stand-out star, though, was new rules analyst John Parry. I know I'm in the minority, but I happen to think using refs in the booth for NFL games is highly overrated. I'd say 90% of the time, they just come on to tell us what we already saw with our own eyes. It's not like any of us needed a former ref to tell us that Nickell Robey-Coleman committed pass interference on Tommylee Lewis in last year's Rams-Saints NFC Championship game. In reality, there are very few instances where a former ref is needed to explain something to viewers.

Last night saw several instances where viewers needed clarification, especially at the end of the first half, which was completely screwed up by the refs. Parry explained things in a very digestible manner and was excellent on air.

Lastly, after several missteps over the years since the NFL started scheduling a doubleheader on the opening Monday night of the season—anyone remember Mike and Mike doing the games or Rex Ryan's disastrous performance as a game analyst?—ESPN finally got the booth right for the nightcap. Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick, calling Broncos-Raiders were an actual real broadcast team. No gimmicks. No nonsense. And they did an excellent job.

2. DeAndre Hopkins's suplex on Saints cornerback Marcus Williams got the Jim Ross treatment and it's absolutely glorious.

3. As I told you in Monday's Traina Thoughts, last Thursday, Mike Francesa hung up on a caller who suggested that Antonio Brown would end up with the Patriots.

Yesterday, Francesa said he knew all along the Patriots were the only destitation for Brown.

4. Pretty cool story here from Saints punter Thomas Morstead about his son and J.J. Watt.

5. The poll I put in Traina Thoughts Monday about the most iconic WWE moment at MSG? It ended up 50-50.

Austin delivered another stunner at Madison Square Garden on an episode of Monday Night Raw last night.

6. A brand new SI Media Podcast dropped recently and it's a very good one. First up is NFL Network's Rich Eisen, who talked about the Andrew Luck bombshell, the upcoming NFL season and what makes an NFL pregame show stand out in such a crowded field. Eisen also shared some great stories about Larry David, who attended Rich's 50th birthday party, and shared some info on the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

At the 40-minute mark of the podcast, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo from SiriusXM and MLB Network joins the show to opine on a variety of topics like only he can. The Doggie discussed being snubbed from the Radio Hall of Fame, whether he reached out to his old partner Mike Francesa to congratulate him on his induction, why athletes don't care about sports talk radio anymore, whether the future of radio is in jeopardy, why the NBA's popularity annoys him and much, much more.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.

7. RANDOM YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE DAY: Blake Griffin has gotten a lot of attention on the World Wide Web over the past 24 hours after Comedy Central released a clip of him telling several jokes at Caitlyn Jenner's expense during an upcoming roast of Alec Baldwin. Nobody should be surprised that Griffin killed it. The man is a good stand up.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.

IN CLOSING: Congratulations to the New York Yankees, who officially eliminated the Red Sox from contention in the AL East on Monday night.

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