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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

ESPN enhances its NFL coverage with 26 former players and coaches

Norman Chad

Now, I understand that ESPN broadcasts around the clock and there is a big family of ESPN networks and all of those ESPNs cover the NFL 24-7-365. What I don’t understand, I guess, is why ESPN needs to employ 26 – 26! – ex-NFL players and coaches to chatter, babble, jabber, yammer, blather, prattle and rattle on during its never-ending NFL gab fests.

   Uh, 26?

   If it were up to me, I’d just bring in Art Donovan and call it a day.

   Best I can tell, ESPN is just about the only place in America hiring right now. The U.S. economy is bust, the ESPN economy is Boomtown. Heck, if Suzy Kolber were the First Lady, maybe there’d be no federal deficit.

   (How much money does ESPN have? It just extended its “Monday Night Football” deal at the cost of $1.9 billion a year. This means two things – Hank Williams Jr. doesn’t have to look for work until 2021 and your cable bill is about to go up again.)

   ESPN’s stable of NFL analysts is so large, it could fill an NFL roster. In fact, it strikes me that ESPN is the NFL’s de facto 33rd franchise, except it never loses and there are no luxury boxes in Bristol.

   Ex-jocks used to open up car dealerships. Now they just drive to ESPN and go to wardrobe.

   ESPN even has an annual preseason training camp for its NFL analysts. Of course, they were locked out this year until ESPN successfully negotiated its “MNF” extension.

   Here is the unofficial list of ESPN ex-NFL talking heads:

   Eric Allen, Lomas Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Cris Carter, Trent Dilfer, Mike Ditka, Hugh Douglas, Herm Edwards, Mike Golic, Jon Gruden, Tim Hasselbeck, Merril Hoge, Tom Jackson, Ron Jaworski, Keyshawn Johnson, Eric Mangini, Bill Parcells, Antonio Pierce, Jerry Rice, Jon Ritchie, Mark Schlereth, Kordell Stewart, Marcellus Wiley, Darren Woodson, Damien Woody and Steve Young.

   There are five former coaches – Ditka, Edwards, Gruden, Mangini and Parcells; to be honest, I didn’t even know Eric Mangini had ever spoken publicly. This is Parcells’ 17th or 18th stint in Bristol – he is a serial ESPN recidivist.

   There are also five former quarterbacks, if you include Hasselbeck.

   (I went to ESPN MediaZone – a place so large, you can get lost in there, like in the Brazilian rainforest or at Caesars Palace – to research the worldwide leader’s NFL work force. I nearly died making that journey. Sure, you say, it’s just an online site. Please. Ever see “The Princess Bride”? The MediaZone is the Fire Swamp of the Internet; at any given point, you can be swallowed up by quicksand or confronted by Rodents of Unusual Size, which, oddly enough, is frighteningly similar to running into “SportsCenter” anchors at the mall.)

   To accommodate all the extra bodies, ESPN has expanded its “Sunday NFL Countdown” pregame show to three hours. And – call me crazy – something tells me they won’t stop at three hours.

   Frankly, at this point I would just attach a Web cam to Chris Berman and follow him Sunday to Sunday, recording every waking thought he has about football and hoping he lives, breathes and eats (at Applebee’s) the NFL so much, he actually recites fantasy stats while talking in his sleep.

   (Incidentally, intrepid “NFL Live” host Trey Wingo hasn’t been out of the studio since 2008. All his doctor and dental appointments are in studio; he even proposed to his wife in studio, using a TelePrompTer. When he passes away, he has asked to be interred next to the craft-services table. Note: Wingo’s last vacation was in June 2005 – he went to Biosphere 2.)

   Trust me, if ESPN were around when we put a man on the moon, there would’ve been three studios full of ex-NASA scientists and spacewalkers analyzing Apollo 11’s every move, with John Glenn debating Keyshawn Johnson on why Neil Armstrong took his first step with his left foot.

   I also would’ve gotten a kick of listening to, say, Matt Millen break down ESPN’s Total Astronaut Rating.

Ask The Slouch

   Q. Since Blake Griffin won the NBA rookie-of-the-year award after being injured for an entire season, does that mean that Greg Oden is the odds-on favorite for rookie of the year for the 2011-12 season? (Josh Brady; Milwaukee)

   A. I don’t know why you would assume that Greg Oden will ever play again (or that there will be a 2011-12 NBA season).

   Q. If your alma mater is paying Ralph Friedgen to not coach, how much do we have to pay to get another alumnus to not write a column? (Andy Gefen; Bethesda, Md.)

   A. Make me an offer. (Make sure it includes Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk.)

   Q. Can you identify the “.1% of germs” that cannot be killed by most hand sanitizers? (Keith Szafran; Wheeling, Ill.)

   A. Piers Morgan and Nancy Grace.

   Q. Now that Tiger Woods appears to be a non-entity on the weekends of majors, do you think he’ll start wearing his signature power-red shirts on Fridays next year in an effort to make the cut? (Don Dellinger; Vienna, Va.)

   A. Pay the man, Shirley.

   Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You can enter his $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!