Right now, you’re probably sitting next to, or at least in the vicinity of, someone who loves football. And why not? Few other sports have the capability to give us so much in just a short amount of time.
One undeniable aspect of what makes the NFL popular and the experience special is the commentary we get to hear from former players and coaches. Those who can talk successfully get to stick around, and those who don’t, find a fall guy like Chris Carter.
This past offseason, many players retired from the NFL, some of whom will end up in the media booth, and in the case of Marshawn Lynch, will not talk to anyone at all. With the state of the league as it is, hearing what players have to say can be a unique look into how they view the NFL, or just speak from experience. You don’t become “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” by letting talent fall through the cracks. ESPN, after cutting ties with Ray Lewis and the aforementioned Chris Carter, has brought on Charles Woodson and Randy Moss, to provide their input on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown.
From a fan’s perspective, a great commentator strikes the perfect balance of knowledge, enthusiasm, and cadence. Rush Limbaugh, one of ESPN’s most notorious former staffers, was the opposite of all those things. Careful calculation goes into an analyst acquisition. With the additions of Moss and Woodson, ESPN is capitalizing on large markets like Boston, and the seemingly unstoppable freight train that is the Michigan Wolverines fanbase.
After an eighteen-year career spent mostly as an Oakland Raider, Woodson offers a unique take when it comes to assessing the ways in which teams can shutdown the league’s premier wide-receivers. Luckily for Woodson, Randy Moss was his teammate, so they got to enjoy spoils together.
Randy Moss is more than just my favorite reference in an Outkast song, he is a freakish talent, too. One-hundred-fifty-six career touchdowns. That’s even hard to do in Franchise Mode for Madden. Moss garnered a reputation for being outspoken and sometimes, downright blunt with the media. Time will tell if he will enjoy success as a member of said media. If he is able to avoid mooning the executive producer of Monday Night Football, he’ll have a shot.
I’d be careless to omit a few sentences on the residual benefits the NFL gets from having its former players enjoy success in a field that requires intense cognitive and intellectual abilities. When guys like Tedi Bruschi get on the air, it proves that you can play football for a long time, and not suffer the horrors associated with CTE. Not each individual is so fortunate, of course, but at least there is a precedent.
“Whoa he has trouble with the snap!” “HE COULD… GO… ALL… THE… WAY.” Will Moss or Woodson provide us with iconic lines like these? Probably not. Legends need to form organically. In the midst of persistent scandal and controversy, not just in football, but in the sports landscape as a whole, it can be easy to forget that these games are meant to be fun.
A great commentator can help us remember that. Whether it be from recalling pleasant memories from their past glories on the field, or delivering an expertly timed one-liner, the guys who talk about the game, can be just as important as the game itself.
With the preseason underway, and meaningful football around the next turn, we will get an opportunity to see how Moss and Woodson cut their teeth on their new gigs. Sixteen weeks. That’s all we’re guaranteed. Should be fun to watch.