ESPN is going to do something a bit different with Monday Night Countdown this year.
Starting with this Mike Ditka this Monday, they’ll be rotating in a cast of NFL legends, according to a release from ESPN.
Chris Berman and ESPN will welcome NFL legends to Monday Night Countdown throughout the 2016 NFL season. Beginning this week, the Monday Night Football pregame (6 p.m. ET) will feature a special guest who will join Berman for the entire two-hour show at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., studios to talk football and preview the MNF game.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, who led the Chicago Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX and was part of ESPN’s Countdown shows with Berman from 2004-2015, will be the first guest in the series. He will join Berman on Monday, Sept. 19, in advance of ESPN’s Eagles vs. Bears MNF game.
“Having these football greats in the studio sharing their stories, as well as insights on today’s games will be a dream-come-true for me, more importantly for our viewers,” said Berman. “They forgot more football than the rest of us remember. This will be nothing short of Christmas every Monday night.”
Added Seth Markman, ESPN senior coordinating producer, NFL studio shows: “We have some of the biggest names in the history of pro football coming to Bristol this season to talk football and share stories with Chris Berman. It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great addition to our weekly Monday Night Countdown pregame.”
In addition to Ditka, who will presumably be totally fair and balanced when previewing this Monday’s tilt between the Bears and the Eagles, future guests will include Michael Irvin, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, and Joe Theismann, among others.
The operative question, of course, is apparent.
Ditka and Irvin were prior ESPN NFL contributors, Theismann obviously used to do color for Monday Night Football, and there are some recognizable former players as well, but what is ESPN trying to do with the program? Give Chris Berman a parade of buddies to with which to reminisce, or provide actual football analysis and commentary?
Because if you were actually trying to build a compelling television program, this seems far from the preferred format. A regular group, with a solid balance of viewpoints (front office, ex-player, analytical, etc.) to bounce ideas back and forth while reviewing Sunday’s action and previewing the Monday Night Football game. Similar to what Baseball Tonight does, for example, when it puts Keith Law on equal footing (not going to make a height joke at Keith’s expense here) with ex-players; that results in some fascinating contrasts and conversations, which as it turns out, makes for compelling sports television!
This unfortunately feels like Chris Berman trying to host a season-long Monday Night Countdown talk show, and that’s probably not something for which anyone is clamoring.