There will come a day when ESPN stops making utterly boneheaded personnel decisions and alienating fans of the sports that “The Worldwide Leader” pays billions of Walt Disney Co. dollars to televise.
Sadly for ESPN’s public relations team, today is not that day.
The network announced Wednesday that Booger McFarland will be joining Joe Tessitore in the booth and Lisa Salters on the sideline as the lead broadcast team for its NFL “Monday Night Football” broadcasts this season.
And while McFarland is at least an improvement on Jason Witten, who hightailed it back onto the playing field for the Dallas Cowboys after a disastrous 2018 in the broadcast booth, that’s not saying much.
Rounding out the four-person crew is “officiating analyst” John Parry, who is tasked with explaining the rules of football to people who have even less consistent understanding of the rules than your average NFL referee.
McFarland is, of course, delighted to carry the mantle of such legends as Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and … hoo boy. Jon Gruden? Dennis Miller? Tony Kornheiser?
Like the song says, “The old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be.”
“I’m so excited to continue to be part of ‘Monday Night Football,’ especially with the opportunity to be in the booth for the 50th season, working with true professionals and friends like Joe and Lisa,” McFarland said in a statement. “We have a great slate of games, and I look forward to starting our journey in Louisiana, where I was born and raised.”
The Houston Texans visit the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9 as part of a doubleheader opening up the Monday night slate of the season as the NFL celebrates 100 years of pro football in America.
“Booger’s insight, personality and passion for the game make him the right person for the job,” ESPN executive vice president Stephanie Druley said in a statement. “He and Joe have been close friends since they helped ESPN launch the SEC Network five years ago. Their chemistry together in the booth — and with Lisa — will give us a team that fans want to spend Monday nights with this fall.”
McFarland, whose given name is Anthony, won two Super Bowl rings as a player in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis before calling it a career as a defensive tackle.
He started out as a college football analyst, working with Tessitore on broadcasts on the SEC Network, working on ESPN and ABC as well.
Tessitore is well-known to boxing fans as the longtime host of ESPN’s old “Friday Night Fights” series and as the current play-by-play commentator for “Top Rank Boxing” on the network, but he has also called college and pro football games, assuming the role of lead play-by-play commentator on MNF in 2018 in place of Sean McDonough.
Unfortunately for ESPN, fans’ reaction was instant and unfavorable.
McBooger is the worst! Come on MNF!!
— Michael Breeding (@gocardsgo2000) May 1, 2019
Guess my TV will be on mute!!!
— GG10 (@GinGib10) May 1, 2019
— Carrotay (@hastyberford) May 1, 2019
looks like another year of MNF on mute !
— Uncle Jon (@SansSoucieJ) May 1, 2019
In fact, one fan even went so far as to say that commentary in Spanish on ESPN Deportes would be preferable.
I’d rather watch Monday Night Football in Spanish on ESPN2 and I don’t speak Spanish.
— Genneysa ⚜️ (@Genneysa) May 1, 2019
Another even crossed the Rubicon and compared McFarland negatively with the departing Witten, a feat largely believed to be impossible.
Booger’s probably a nice guy, but his analysis is terrible. Factor in his poor delivery and he is even worse than Witten. And that saying a lot.
— Edward Merhege (@EMerhege) May 1, 2019
ESPN has a massive optics problem when it comes to the NFL. The network is routinely stuck with unappealing matchups as the NFL has switched its marquee games to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” slot, a move that allows the league greater flexibility to move Sunday games into prime time on the fly.
Putting on broadcasters who make fans hit the mute button isn’t going to reverse that downward trend.
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