Lovable Losers and Monday Night Madness

In Ryan Davis' latest potpourri, he looks at the NFL coach who really never was...but helped revolutionize the college game. Also, a blow-by-blow review of the new MNF crew.

The “Winningest” Lovable Loser

We all have individuals we encounter, hear of, see, or get pressed upon us that we identify as special. Personalities that based on our own standards and criteria ooze greatness and superiority. We follow and argue their greatness in our minds and onto others. Some of the elite of our own mind, however, prove all too human at times, by enacting a single or series of gaffs, which leaves us as their lone enthusiast.

I’m sure some relive Howard Dean’s campaign-killing yell after the Iowa primary; anxious to travel back and tell him, “no, don’t do it”. Who can forget the tarnish of Howard Cosell’s revolutionary career with the benign labeling of Washington Redskins WR Alvin Garrett as a “little monkey”? How much of Richard Nixon’s “liberal” social vision would’ve came to fruition, sans Watergate?

Or the lighter fare, like how great would Godfather III be, if only someone was there to scold Francis Ford Copolla with, “hey, don’t you think you should pay Mr. Duvall”? How many Oscars would be atop Robert Downey Jr.’s mantle, if he hadn’t succumbed to his personal demons? How many more millions would Britney Spears have, if she answered my serenades of “All Out of Love”, while wearing European swim-trunks and a water-colored, t-shirt of her likeness, below her window before Kevin Federline stepped on the scene? I’m a white guy, who remains unshaven, thinks and dresses as if gangsta’, can impregnate, and spit out horrific rap songs? Dare I say I was Kfed before he was? That one hurts, really, really hurts. Call me Britney, please call me (no offense, Mrs. Robyn Davis).

Do or should any of the aforementioned actions reduce the individual to ordinary, or average? Too most it will, but to anyone that truly believes in that individual, the mistake will be overlooked to preserve his or her greatness. Aside from Ms. Spears’ glaring oversight of me, there’s another individual who I still believe is great, special, brilliant, and innovative.

That man is ex-Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Dennis Erickson.

In his career, Dennis has fallen victim twice to circumstances that have stained his contributions to the game. The first scar on his resume was entirely out of his control. It came at the hands of Phil Luckett’s officiating crew’s frightened belief that Vinnie Testaverde’s helmet crossing a Meadowlands goal line equaled a go-ahead touchdown. That call undoubtedly cost the Seahawks the playoffs that year and, more importantly, cost Erickson his job with the Seahawks.

In the back of my (and obviously Erickson’s) mind, he needed a second chance to prove himself in the NFL. I contended that Erickson, whose 31-33 record with the Seahawks wasn’t horrible, (a certain Mr. Holmgren shared that exact record through his first four years in Seattle) would be the next Mike Shanahan - making the most of his second opportunity, becoming a perennial winner. But instead, Erickson reached for a job that attached a Scarlet Letter so profound, he’d never be allowed back in the NFL. He accepted the worst job in the NFL in 2003, the position as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. When his hiring was announced, I sat atop my bed yelling out maniacal, depressed, and foreseeing laughter like Jake Gyllenhaal in the end scene of Donnie Darko. Just like Mr. Darko, I knew that the end result would prove fatal.

At that time, accepting the post with the 49ers would be the equivalent of asking Gary Glitter to join your band: career suicide. To any fan possessing an intellect greater than John Stamos, it was obvious what owner John York and the 49ers were doing. The 49ers needed a fall guy, a patsy, a James Earl Ray, someone to get them through the next two years of salary cap hell. A cap hell so bad, that by the end of his regime it was said the 49ers couldn’t even afford to sign NFL veterans to fill their squad. As the story goes, they were forced to sign un-drafted NFL rookies to cope with any injuries sustained.

After two seasons in the hell that were those 49ers, Mr. Erickson was fired from his post. Leaving with a 9-23 combined record and any chance of NFL successes washed away by the ineptitude of York and GM Terry Donahue.

This shouldn’t be a reflection on the man or his contributions to the game. Erickson has made as many significant contributions to the game of football, as anyone else in our era. Jimmy Johnson and Erickson himself were the first to begin putting their best athletes on defense, an unheard-of yet devastating strategy, still copycatted in the college ranks today. Erickson began this at WSU and Johnson at Miami.

Erickson’s spread offense is thought of enough to have various versions of it, smattering both the college and professional ranks.

As I write this Dennis Erickson has returned to the place of his first Head Coaching job, the University of Idaho. He’s on record as saying he can take Idaho, a recent inductee to Division-I, to “the next level”. And if you know anything about the man, you know he will. It’s just a matter of time.

But even Erickson won’t be able to get Idaho to a BCS or significant bowl game, like he’s done previously at Wyoming, WSU, Miami, or OSU. So eventually, he may begin to look for a job that’ll allow for a third, and final, college national championship.

When or if that happens, nobody knows where or when it’ll be. But if I were Tyrone Willingham or Bill Doba, I’d concernedly glance east, after every loss.

The Only Thing Wrong with the MNF Crew Is You (and Theismann)

It came as no shock to this writer that the immediate reaction to ESPN’s Monday Night Football announcing team was negative. It seems we live in a society where it’s easier and safer to proclaim something as a failure or distasteful. Especially as it relates to sports coverage. Unless the announcer or journalist sings the praises of your team specifically, they’re cast away as a hack or ignoramus.

I too, find myself falling victim to this odd symptom of larger societal ills. But in a calmer state, can steer myself out of the negative skid. It’s during one of these calmer times I sat back and really analyzed ESPN’s version of Monday Night Football, and the potential within it.

First, Mike Tirico’s a solid choice to handle the play-by-play duties. The fact that his resume includes a degree from Syracuse University, should tell everyone he’s a consummate professional. Syracuse is to sports broadcasting what the University of Miami is to defensive players.

The initial malaise of this choice is understandable, considering Tirico hasn’t yet had a call that defines him. Unless you’re supernatural, like Supersonic announcer Kevin Calabro, an announcer is only as good as the games or situations him or her is describing. To become legendary in the field of broadcasting you either need longevity or be lucky enough to call a great moment.

My first example would be the late Chick Hearn, longtime announcer of the Los Angeles Lakers. In mine, and some others opinions, he earned his legendary stature by calling many championships and being the sole voice of the Lakers for nearly 40 years. Not by doing anything that differentiated him from the hundreds of other professionals. My last example would be, dare I say, Al Michaels. Where would AL Michaels be without the infamous “do you believe in miracles” call of the 1980 US Hockey teams upset over the Russians? So, let’s Tirico some time and space.

Now, on to the most controversial of the three occupying the booth, Tony Kornheiser. To me personally, he’s the perfect “odd” man in the booth.

Over the past 10-15 years Monday Night Football has become a caricature of itself, trying to recapture the impossible social significance of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. The hiring of Kornheiser signifies that ESPN is no longer chasing that impossibility of Howard Cosell. Rather heading the opposite direction, allowing Kornheiser’s dry wit, aloof attitude, and only fundamental knowledge of football remind us; it’s only a game. Kornheiser’s comments enable us to chuckle and remind us to quit taking the event and ourselves so seriously.

And lastly, there’s the inexcusable Joe Theismann. Even putting on my “glass half-full hat” doesn’t offer any nuggets of positive commentary. The man’s a waste of a spot and a burden on our ears and minds. How fitting was it that in his maiden MNF appearance, he lauded Koren Robinson for seeking out rehab, and turning his life around, only to have Robinson do his best James Brown routine…leading Minnesota Police on a high-speed inebriated chase the following night.

Good choice of publicly aligning yourself with Robinson - and denouncing Ricky Williams, Joe.

Known very well to friend and foe as "pehawk" in our fan forums, Ryan Davis will be providing a fresh voice on the Seahawks, Seattle sports in general, and life in a nutshell. Feel free to send your thoughts, recriminations and mule sniffs to Ryan here.

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