There's a long profile of Jon Gruden in this week's New Yorker, which, frankly, is a little like opening up Guns & Ammo and finding a profile of Noam Chomsky, but there it is nonetheless, a zillion finely wrought words about this guy. Two passages are worth noting.
This one should speak for itself:
Ensconced in his lair in Tampa, far from the "Monday Night Football" cameras, Gruden can sound shockingly negative. He is forever judging players who don't or can't excel—"slapdicks," he calls them, or, more familiarly, "slappies."
That's not the important paragraph, though. It's this one, from the run-up to last month's Chiefs-Patriots game:
When it was Jaworski's turn, he issued a stern proclamation. "Call me crazy, but I'm really excited for Tyler Palko tonight," he said, and a roomful of skeptical sports producers erupted in laughter. Jaworski had given himself the thankless task of building up the Chiefs, praising them as much as he could without putting his own credibility at risk. Perhaps viewers would buy into the idea, however far-fetched, that Palko would emerge as the night's underdog hero. Later that day, as Jaworski was making a cup of coffee in the ESPN bus, he tried the line again. "Call me crazy, but I'm excited about Tyler Palko," he said. He exhaled. "I've got to sell this," he said to himself.
That's right. The stupid is scripted.
"I've got to sell this"? Is there a better, more succinct summation of teeveeland morality than "I've got to sell this"? Jaworski is talking about Tyler freaking Palko. Tyler Palko isn't excited about Tyler Palko. But because the central preoccupation of MNF is to ensure that people keep watching MNF, and because television wouldn't be television if an otherwise intelligent human being didn't debase himself on air at least twice a minute, Jaws has to gaze into a camera and fake all his orgasms. The video above is the result. I dunno. I'm not buying.
Look, I get that this is television. It's not saying anything revolutionary to point out that people who appear on television for a living don't always say what they really think, and that very often they profess to believe something for the sole purpose of moving the needle. But Gruden and Jaworski are evidently smart, discerning guys, experts in their field—I love Gruden's "QB Camp" segment, which is enlightening in those spare moments when it's not surrealist performance art—and I'm not sure what the point is of having smart, discerning guys around if it's not to occasionally say smart, discerning things. You wish Gruden would actually be "shockingly negative" once or twice when the camera is hot. You wish Jaworski wouldn't smile and twinkle and ooze and gush about every damn thing, as if he were trying to snooker a lapdance out of you. You wish Monday Night Football didn't think you were a crayon-eating moron. "Call me crazy, but I'm excited about Tyler Palko tonight"? Slapdicks, the lot of 'em.
Monday Night Lights [New Yorker]