The Heart of Monday Night

The beautiful drama of broadcast football

In service of that ideal, both announcers know to stay in the background. Michaels earned a spot in the Zeitgeist hall of fame with his "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" call at the 1980 Olympics, and he's the consummate old-style professional, content to call the game rather than manipulate it into an audition for his own talk show. I love the fallen-leaves-on-campus aroma of legendary college-football announcer Keith Jackson ("Let the big dogs hunt!" he once barked before some big ol' Southern boys took on some differently garbed big ol' Southern boys), but Michaels is the rare football broadcaster who sounds like he could carry on a non-sports conversation without looking for his cue cards. I bet he tests great with female audiences in the 25-49 age bracket.

Boomer, noted at first for an inability to emit any sentence with dispatch, has learned to make his point without too many interruptions. Not that he should be too smooth, you understand. If anything, what we want from color men is more than a little opacity, some glimpse of the recondite discipline of x's and o's in which football is spoken. At the same time, the ideal color man needs to strike a balance between good jargon ("They're in a two-deep zone here, with the safeties rolled up and seven men in the box") and mere jockisms ("They're looking for someone to step up and make big plays, because that's what great players do, they make big plays in big games.").

Weekly witnesses to very large men in conflict: Al Michaels and Boomer Esiason
Weekly witnesses to very large men in conflict: Al Michaels and Boomer Esiason

Yet Boomer manages not to preen or waste time. More or less unwittingly, he's found a happy medium of B.S. Unlike basketball announcers, whose styles range from Dick Vitale's self-parody to Bill Walton's appealing hippie asceticism (fast decaying into irritating know-it-all asceticism), Boomer understands that his job is to talk the talk and keep out of the way. Unlike baseball announcers, he refrains from getting misty over Donald Hall's Fathers Playing Catch With Sons when fall rolls around. Whether by choice or not, he also stays off the Telestrator, which mostly serves to draw goofy (and useless) circles on the screen. Similarly, his slight drawl makes everyone feel at home--as trad goes, it's entirely natural and unpretentious. Besides, what's football without a Southern accent?

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