Yeah, I believe Awful Announcing on this one.
And I’ll be live-blogging after the jump.
First off, Reilly isn’t that strange a choice to guest host. In the ESPN release announcing his hiring last year, John Skipper mentioned “ESPN’s outlets” rather than specific TV appearances. Certainly, that was understood then to be stand-ups from golf events and occasional essays, but there’s no reason it couldn’t involve the venerated Pardon the Interruption.
Besides, frequent guest host Dan Le Batard is on hiatus from the Miami Herald and has been less and less visible since that (and things like this can’t help). The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan is in Beijing. And J.A. Adande? Sorry, Reilly’s a bigger name.
Oh, Wilbon’s misadventures as the first pitch thrower and “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” singer at Wrigley yesterday are the endcap of Around the Horn. So PTI should be nice and non-confrontational.
Reilly’s opening line, after Wilbon calls him an “old friend”: “I’m Rick Reilly. Who are you, and where’s Skip Bayless?” Point for him.
And they’ll begin with the 4 X 100 relay. Reilly says Phelps “takes everything so hard,” brings up his DUI within a minute of 5:30 EST, and mentions that he called media afterward.
“What do you know about swimming? You know nothing!” Reilly retorts as Wilbon dismisses Phelps’ shot at eight.
Reilly’s first intro begins with him clearly reading from the teleprompter introducing the Redeem Team’s win. Still, decent job for the first time.
“They haven’t won the gold since 2000,” Reilly says of the team, adding, “They need someone who can bring down the dagger” before mentioning two Celtics, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, as candidates.
“They gotta run like Kentucky,” Reilly adds. Um.
Here comes Reilly crowning British Open and PGA Championship Padraig Harrington: “He absolutely should” be considered a rival to Tiger. Then he, very interestingly, breaks down his biography. He also asks, smartly, “Would Tiger have one of these two?”
And: “I love the way he talks.”
Reilly’s intro for Sergio Garcia is much better. Two golf bits in Headlines without Tiger in the mix, with Favre making his debut as a Jet tonight. I’d say it’s catering to the strengths of the hosts…
Reilly rips into Sergio: “He’s gotta stop whining, ’cause he’s sounding like a brat.”
Wilbon points out that Sergio needs to get tougher on himself.
And none other than longtime Reilly foe Barry Bonds gets the only voice-over of Headlines, from his defiant talk in San Francisco yesterday. Reilly: “Remember the movie The Sixth Sense? When people didn’t realize they were dead, but they were dead?” Very dismissively, Reilly adds “he can be charming when he wants to be.”
Bringing Bonds to the clubhouse “is like bringing a plate of anthrax cupcakes.” Good line.
And we go to commercial.
Oh, the Applebee’s commercial showing “girls’ night out” as two 10-year-olds doing DeShawn Stevenson’s “I can’t feel my face” bit. Classy.
From Awful Announcing:
Expect a lot of PGA Championship talk and cheesy jokes about he can’t watch primetime Olympic coverage because he’s already in bed. Actually that’s not really an different than what Tony gives on a day to day basis. He should fit right in.
Five Good Minutes is with Troy Aikman, here to “talk about all things Favre.”
Aikman: “I was (rooting for Favre to come back). I think we’re always pretty quick to kick our superstars out of the league once they get to a certain age.”
Reilly asks about Aikman’s temptations in retirement, and gets a good, revealing answer: “I was about to come back, but the team decided not to bring me back.”
Troy Aikman says, at 34, he “retired young.” NFL players are so lucky.
“I miss winning,” Aikman says, “but the feeling of playing never appealed to me.”
Reilly essentially says because it’s different in New York, it’s going to be harder. Aikman breaks it down: new playbook, no offseason work, example of Joe Montana in Kansas City as exception to the rule.
Reilly’s last question is a good one: “Does it matter how Aaron Rodgers plays tonight?”
Reilly gets a very snarky line in on the UCLA T-shirt-wearing Aikman: “Thanks for dressing up, Troy!” It’s even snider on camera than it is on paper.
Mail Time is the rotation segment today. Reilly says Wilbon looked like Urkel at Wrigley.
Reilly and Wilbon discuss Byron Leftwich and Daunte Culpepper’s difficulty finding jobs.
The second email: “9,000 Chinese babies have been named after the Olympic mascots. Which name would you pick?” Reilly: “I would have twins, one Bei, one Jing. Beijing! Dinner’s ready!” Wilbon: “I’m going to pretend that wasn’t said on this set.”
Reilly gets asked about Lance Armstrong, and drops “I’ve been mountain biking with Lance Armstrong” in the first five seconds of the response, then says he could be the “Shaun White” of mountain biking.
Wilbon’s decent singing and bad pitch get dissected: “If you were on American Idol, Paula Abdul wouldn’t have even liked that” and “Dr. Ruth could get it across the plate.”
Overall, Reilly’s been decent so far, sort of Kornheiser-esque with the Idol reference, out of his depth with the Shaun White line, and pretty good on the golf, Bonds, and Armstrong bits. Granted, he’s a lot less funny than Tony, and the chemistry’s not quite there, but this isn’t awful.
Not totally, anyway.
Hulk Hogan’s 55!? Carl Lewis’ Olympic memories get diminished by his first pitch problem. Wilbon does a great eulogy for Bernie Mac, and Reilly brings up Isaac Hayes. Nice to see some decency.
Reilly’s watching Phelps, “to check for gills.”
The sign-off: “Good morning, Beijing.” No, Rick. Let it die like Leslie Feist.
And I’ll be back, live-blogging the Big Finish.
Here we go, with Reilly and Wilbon taking on the thorny question of the night: Who are you watching, Aaron Rodgers or Michael Phelps?
“Dude, this is history. You gotta watch Phelps; I just want to see if he grows fins.” Reilly’s nonplussed by Olympics, though: “I’ve been to eight of them.”
“If I was a real sportswriter still, if we both were, we’d be in China.” Wilbon, very right.
With 25 seconds left, a digression on Tony Kornheiser. Not sports, guys.
The quick hits involve Reilly saying something about NASCAR, and he’s clearly uncomfortable in the chair and looking at the camera; also, Wilbon asks why Reilly’s laptop’s on the desk.
Reilly: “I wanted to write down things I could say on the show.”
Wilbon: “That’s just sad.”
And, yes, we have our merciful end.
Reilly’s a good writer when he wants to be, but he’s not a TV guy. Not at all.