Skip to main content

ESPN Finally Solved Its Opening-Night Doubleheader Broadcast Issue: TRAINA THOUGHTS

1. Ever since 2006, when the NFL decided to give us two Monday Night Football games on the opening week of the season, ESPN has had a problem finding a serviceable broadcast crew for the second game.

The regular Monday Night Football booth would always call one game, and then it was mainly gimmicks for game No. 2. 

Chris Berman called several of those games. Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic did the honor a couple of times. Rex Ryan even had one awful turn in the booth.

Monday night, though, the network finally got things right by using its lead college football crew of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit for the Steelers-Giants game. 

The new Monday Night Football crew of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick called the Titans-Broncos nightcap. Normally, the main crew gets the first game, but since Fowler was in New York City to call the U.S. Open this weekend, ESPN put him and Herbstreit on the Giants game.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Fowler and Herbstreit called a very good game. There's a reason why they work college football's national championship game each year. The pair have worked together for ages now, they have chemistry and Herbstreit is as good a football analyst as there is on all of TV.

But it was still impressive to see them switch from college to NFL so effortlessly. The pace is very different. College drags on forever with so much time in between plays thanks to the clock stopping on first downs. The NFL is much quicker and much crisper. Fowler and Herbstreit had no issues at all handling the transition.

If there was any question about Fowler and Herbstreit coming into the game, it was whether two college announcers would have enough NFL knowledge. That issue was quickly put to bed as Fowler and Herbstreit sounded like they had been calling NFL games all along right from kickoff.

The production of the game was also a breath of fresh air. ESPN's top college team that works with Fowler and Herbstreit produced the Steelers-Giants game. It was simply stunning to watch a Monday Night Football telecast on ESPN that was actually the game. Normally, the MNF telecast seems like it's on steroids; just an all-out assault on your senses as a viewer. For years now, the MNF broadcast has been so overly produced with booth shots, graphics and an analyst on a crane. Last night, we were just presented a football game, and it was wonderful.

Getting back to Fowler and Herbstreit, it should also be noted that no matter what broadcast executives do to put together a good booth, you can't create chemistry.

Every viewer who tuned into the Steelers-Giants game really shouldn't be surprised that Fowler and Herbstreit did a good job. They have natural chemistry, and that carries over into anything they broadcast.

Which leads me to the new Monday Night Football team of Levy, Griese and Riddick. It would not be fair to offer a critique of a new booth after one game, especially in these bizarre circumstances we're in with no fans in the stands and announcers being separated from each other, etc. You have to give them a few weeks together. 

I will say two things, though, that don't really have anything to do with the announcers. You quickly saw the difference in the production from Game 1 to Game 2. Like, seriously, what is the point of this?

Two, I've said this before and I'll say it again: I don't understand why any network ever uses a three-person booth instead of two.

2. Here we go again with overly sensitive MLB people getting all bent out of shape for no reason. Padres outfielder Trent Grisham hit a bomb off Clayton Kershaw on Monday night and did some stylin' and profilin'. 

Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts didn't appreciate Grisham's actions because he feels Clayton Kershaw deserves more respect. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

3. Speaking of stylin' and profiln', Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster made great use of ESPN's pylon cam after catching a touchdown pass last night.

4. Someone in Pittsburgh needs to let offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner know that this isn't even close to how you're supposed to wear a mask to not spread droplets around.

5. The latest SI Media Podcast features an interview with New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand. We covered several NFL and college football media storylines for the upcoming seasons, including whether Tony Romo has more pressure on him after signing a monster contract, ESPN's new Monday Night Football booth, Fox shaking up its NFL crews, College GameDay going on the road but without fans and Fox's college football problem. We also touched on Thom Brennaman, Trey Wingo, Alex Rodriguez and more.

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

6. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: This video is 10 years old, but with Apple holding another event to announce new products today, I wanted to post this for those of you who have never seen. Just a perfect summation of our obsession with iPhones.

7. SPORTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: Here's a hard-to-believe stat from the sports media world: Monday was the 35th anniversary of Jim Nantz's first day on air at CBS. This is a clip from Nantz's debut.

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