Theismann on Kornheiser and the Booth
Wrapping up our Joe Theismann interview posts, in advance of tomorrow's free prostate screening at FedEx Field event. This one's about Theismann's media career, and yes, that has a prostate angle too. (Scroll down.)
Several times in the course of our 45-minute chat, it became clear that Theismann's career in the booth is far from over, at least if he has his way. He's still very much engaged in the art of the broadcast--watching games and paying attention to what's said and what's shown--and it would seem the hard feelings from his Monday Night Football ouster haven't quite disappeared.
I never asked him about Tony Kornheiser, just about whether he still watches Monday Night Football, but then one thing led to another, and Kornheiser's name was raised, by him.
"I still think Tony's out of place," he said. "Tony was hired to do a job in a football booth that, first of all, didn't suit him. And it didn't suit the venue, the venue being football, period. Tony doesn't belong in a booth. What he adds and what he brings, ok, has a place. But it doesn't have a place in the booth, and I think he's gonna retire after this year....
"And you've got to remember, I got fired from ESPN because I talked about football. And now, their main emphasis after two years of trying to do it the other way, is going back to talk about football."
So I asked whether that migration would be gratifying to someone who's been so vocal about keeping the broadcast focus between the lines.
"No, it's not gratifying at all," he said. "I built that product. Remember, I started there. I started there in year two, I spent 18 years going through the games in the studio, then doing Sunday Night Football, then doing Monday Night Football. So to watch the product and not be a part of it, it hurts a little. To say it doesn't bother me, I would be lying. But I'm slowly getting over it. I mean, they've gone their way, I've gone mine."
But the subject came up frequently enough that I asked him whether he wanted to get back in the game, between all the lecturing and promotional campaigning that he does, while splitting time between Virginia and Memphis and spending time with the grandkids.
"I'd love to get back in the booth if I could," he said. "My problem with the booth was I got let go in the second year of a five-year contract. Not only did I have a five-year contract, but everybody else had a five-year contract. So where do I go? There isn't a chair available. We're playing musical chairs and everyone's sitting in a chair."
There have been rumors about him and John Riggins joining the Redskins radio broadcasts one day--"radio is not as appealing to me, as far as broadcast radio goes," he said--but he did say that he might have an interest in hosting a radio program one day. He said he's been offered shows in the past, but his travel schedule has been a barrier. If he did host a show, he said it wouldn't just focus on sports, because he'd want it to be "an avenue of education for me."
He had earlier told me that he felt media members had typecast a young Daniel Snyder in the same way they did to him, not allowing for the possibility of change. I asked what he meant.
"People said I talked too much when I got into television," he told me. "Everybody said, 'Oh Joe Theismann talks too much.' I did. I acknowledge that. Probably the first three or four years I did, but I also went 17 more years, 18 more years of broadcasting where I understood how to talk in sound bytes. But nobody acknowledges that.
"I get it today. You know, 'People tell me you talk too much.' I don't even do it anymore and they tell me I talk too much. So what happens is the first impression or the first image that a newspaper or a TV [station] portrays of an individual sort of becomes that moniker for the individual, and really, it's not fair. It's not fair insofar as you don't allow that person to change, you pigeonhole that person, and you say that person is this and that's the way we're gonna keep him the rest of his life."
(As for the prostate/media angle, "If you get something diagnosed early it gets treated early and then it's not an inconvenience," he said. "The thing that jumped out at me really was it started to control my life. It started to control how I drove, how long I drove, where I stopped. It controlled my time in the booth. So when I went to a stadium, first thing I would time myself is from the booth to the bathroom and back, I swear. Because I knew if I had a 30-second break I couldn't go. I'd ask the producer, how long's the break? 60 seconds. Boom, gone. Because I knew within that three-hour period, I'd have to make at least one trip." He really was extremely passionate about prostate health.)
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