I never watch pregame shows. The only way those shows would be more insufferable was if Katherine Heigl was somehow involved. But postgame shows are vital to NFL fandom. They provide important highlights, and they bridge the gap between that horrid 75-minute stretch between the end of the 4:15PM games and the start of the 8:20PM game. To think, there’s an actual open gap of time between the ten hours of gameplay every Sunday. Horrors.
Anyway, there are three choices for your postgame highlights these days. Your first option is over at ESPN, where Chris Berman is still quoting “Day-O” over highlights of Jake Delhomme throwing picks, and Trent Dilfer is apparently getting fatter by the day. Then there’s “Football Night In America” over at NBC, which last night featured Dan Patrick constantly inviting Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy to talk about themselves being on the show for hours on end. It was a lot of fun, if you happen to be a sibling, child, or spouse of those two men. Otherwise, not so fun.
Then, there is the NFL Network’s “NFL GameDay” postgame show. GameDay is hosted by Rich Eisen. Eisen is joined by Michael Irvin, who was last seen over at ESPN being arrested for drug paraphernalia and being called a “retard” by Tom Jackson, and Deion Sanders, the only man on Earth to have a more boring reality show than Terrell Owens. Sanders was also fired from CBS’ pregame show a while back for being awful.
You might think putting Sanders and Irvin, two former Cowboys, together in the studio would be a disaster. You might think it would render the broadcast as incomprehensible as Shannon Sharpe with a jaw shot full of novacaine. I certainly thought that. And then I watched. And, believe it or not, something happened. Something unpredictable. Something utterly bizarre. I found myself… entertained.
I know. I couldn’t believe it either. I’ve spent so much of my life disliking these two men that my default setting for seeing them together was raging bile. But I was wrong. Taken separately, Deion and Irvin are intolerable. But joined together with Eisen, they are a rare cosmic accident of non-suckiness. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say that the NFL Network postgame show is now the best of your three postgame options. There are more highlights. There are more stats. There are less talking heads. It’s just 90 blissful minutes of extended highlights, capped with Irvin and Sanders hooting and hollering over the biggest plays.
The NFL Network clearly wanted to follow the template of TNT’s NBA coverage with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkely, and Kenny Smith, which is universally beloved by people when Magic Johnson is kept away from the studio. And NBA TV hired Gary Payton and Chris Webber to goof around on their set last year, which also got great reception. That was clearly the goal with this show, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t successful. I wanted to hate this show. But Irvin and Sanders appear to finally be comfortable on camera, in no small part because they probably are comfortable with one another, and Eisen. They do surprisingly little self-aggrandizing, preferring instead to react to Roy Williams’ touchdown the way you or I might, HOLY CRAP! style. Who knew an NFL broadcast could have real, genuine human spontaneity? I thought it was outlawed in the TV contract.
So if you find yourself tuned into NBC at 7:30 next Sunday night, and you feel Coach Dungy’s voice slowly sucking away your will to live, I suggest flipping over to the two former Cowboys. Every NFL pregame and postgame show tries to be “fun”. This is the only one that actually succeeds.