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Mike Beas: Gruden makes Monday Night Football irrelevant


If the late, grating Howard Cosell isn't spinning like a top right about now, it's only because he's too immersed in disbelief to do so.

Cossell's baby, the vehicle once responsible for elevating him to sports broadcasting's luxury suite, has undergone more face lifts the past 38 years than Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller combined.

On Monday the dreaded scalpel resurfaced: Tony Kornheiser out, Jon Gruden in.

Gruden is the 16th — yes, 16th — color commentator since Monday Night Football made its debut with a Jets-Browns game in 1970. Those who have worn the ABC blazer are a mixed bag, among them the homespun Don Meredith, the physically imposing Fred Williamson, the womanizing Joe Namath, the incredibly unamusing Dennis Miller and even the (fill in the adjective) O.J. Simpson.

The hiring of Gruden, the former Tampa Bay coach who was fired by the Buccaneers in January, further demonstrates how irrelevant MNF has become. But so did the hiring of Kornheiser, Gruden's predecessor, two seasons ago, and short-lived sideline butcher jobs Lisa Guerrero and Eric Dickerson prior to that.

Why people continue to make such a fuss over Monday Night Football is mystifying. The novelty aspect of this tired product exited decades ago. Besides, how can we get pumped about a game on a Monday when this coming season alone there are seven Thursday nighters, one on Friday and another on a Saturday evening. Thank goodness for Tuesday and Wednesday for they remain sacred.

But don't for a minute think some good hasn't come out of MNF's game of musical chairs. I'm confident that at the rate it is lowering its bar, I should be able to submit a resume in three or four years.

DOGGING MICHAEL VICK: Right now, Michael Vick's reputation isn't scraping the bottom of the barrel, it is the bottom of the barrel. Once among the most-feared offensive players in the National Football League, the quarterback's 21-month imprisonment for funding a dogfighting operation in his home state of Virginia removed all wind from that sail.

Now serving the final two months of his punishment in home confinement, the light at the end of the tunnel should be visible. Should be, but isn't. Vick killed dogs. Innocent dogs in the most heinous and heartless manner imaginable. And in America, a dog-adoring nation, that just doesn't fly.

Vick wants to return to the NFL. I think he should just so he can feel what it's like to be alone in a ring against a far superior opponent, in this case 70,000 blood-thirsty fans. Vick might have thought his 21-month stay in Leavenworth was tough, but he ain't seen nothing yet.

PING-PONG WITH THE PACERS: Not even ping-pong balls like the Indiana Pacers. In the latest version of the yawn-athon known as the NBA Draft Lottery, Indiana wound up with the 13th selection, which means if it trades down it will end up securing the rights to Russ Schoene and an autographed poster of Boomer to be named later.

The Pacers need help. Lots of it. I still lean toward 6-7 Pitt power forward DeJuan Blair, though there seems to be growing support locally for Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn. I love Flynn's game and personality, but Indiana with T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack would seem set at point.

Draft Blair and he plays. Select Flynn and he sits, at least for awhile.


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