Reimer: ESPN's amateur 'Monday Night Football' booth is the worst thing $2 billion can buy

Alex Reimer
October 30, 2018 - 10:26 am

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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The unfortunate masses who tuned into “Monday Night Football” to watch the Patriots outlast the Bills in a primetime slog that made us all yearn for passed balls and pitching changes were simultaneously invited to one awkward hangout. Joe Tessitore, seemingly desperate to ingratiate himself with his two new jock cohorts, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland –– err, I’m sorry, “Boog” and “Wit,” –– spent significant chunks of time trying to land hackneyed one-liners in a sad plea for affirmation. In return, he was greeted with nothing but silence, except on the occasions in which “Wit” told us the Bills have to run the ball between the tackles. 

Also, the crowd in Buffalo is really loud. And “Boog” wants Buffalo to know you have to throw the football to beat the Patriots. Derek Anderson was playing golf three weeks ago, too.

Do we have all of our bases covered?

It was clear this would be an atrocious MNF team as soon as we read about Joe Tess’ affinity for making the “Goodfellas entrace” in Italian restaurants. Sean McDonough held the Monday night play-by-play gig for the previous two seasons, but was reportedly ousted due to his proclivity for telling the truth about horrendous officiating. It’s apparent the NFL did not like that. MNF coordinating producer Jay Rotham told the Ringer’s Bryan Curtis the broadcast was too much of a “downer” with McDonough and Jon Gruden in the booth. Enter Joe Tess, who is here to celebrate Monday. Night. Football. 

During most broadcasts, Tessitore comes across as a cheesy Vegas lounge host, obsessed with sliding in reminders about his taste for the fine things in life. Last week, Tess invited “Boog” to “crush it” with him in Montreal over the summer for the Grand Prix. Tess was shot down –– “Boog” said he “doesn’t do Formula 1” –– but that didn’t stop him from pointing out McFarland’s Louis Vuitton scarf on Monday night.

A self-described “jazz riffer,” Tessitore yearns for playful banter between himself and the man in the Booger Mobile –– which no longer obstructs the view of hardworking fans. Amazingly, he fails almost every single time. In the second half Monday, McFarland said plodding Bills wideout Kelvin Benjamin is a “Popeye’s biscuit away” from being a tight end. That prompted Tess to ask McFarland if that’s a catchphrase from Winnsboro, La., his hometown. 

“I think it’s a country phrase, Tess,” McFarland responded sternly. 

Game on. We have some weird animated graphic of the Bills’ quarterbacks falling off Niagara Falls to show, anyway. 

McFarland is a solid analyst on his own. He expresses opinions –– on Monday he hammered the Bills for starting Nathan Peterman Week 1 –– and refreshingly takes the players’ sides in most disputes. Earlier in the season, he chastised the Steelers to pay Le’Veon Bell, while Tessitore and Witten kept remarking about how little money “cancer survivor” James Conner makes in comparison to the All-Pro holdout. 

But on MNF, McFarland’s cutting takes are often by trampled by Tessitore’s forced schmoozing or Witten’s banalities. The ex-Cowboys tight end caught lots of passes from Tony Romo in his day, but it’s obvious he didn’t catch any of the quarterback’s charisma. Witten comes across as a robot in the booth, pre-programmed to state the obvious and lick the owners’ boots. 

During a discussion about the disaster in Cleveland, where the Browns fired both Hue Jackson and Todd Haley so they could hand head coaching duties to bounty-happy Gregg Williams, Witten lavished praise upon owner Jimmy Haslam for his decisiveness. 

“I commend Jimmy Haslam for making that decision,” Witten said. “‘Hey look, I’m not going to wait until the end of the year anyway. I’ve seen enough, I got a young team, I want to see what they’re about.’ Maybe Gregg Williams can light a fire under these young guys.”

Wow. “Light a fire under these young guys.” We also learned about Rob Gronkowski’s childhood in Buffalo, how Brady is “crushing Father Time” and did you know this crowd is really, really loud? You could say the "fans make up (the) fan base."

Two-billion dollars has never bought so little. 

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