Several years ago, I went to Tokyo where I got a taste of the Japanese subway system. I say "taste" because my lips were literally pressed to a stranger's, so congested were the cars.
No matter the time of day, the ride went like this: The train lumbered to a stop where hundreds waited to board what looked like cars that could accommodate exactly zero extra passengers. Yet somehow, some way, EVERYBODY got on. The car continued to the next stop where the identical scene occurred. Nobody seemed to get off. Because I did not know how to say, "Let me out of here" in Japanese, I often missed my stop. I wondered if there ever came a moment when a conductor would scream, "That's enough! No more!"
NFL studio analysts.
This year, the National Football League underwent more analysis than Lance Armstrong. By the time each ex-jock, former coach or retired referee told us what to expect in today's game, the contest was half over. Want to know what Tom Brady must do in order to contain the Broncos' defense? Boomer, Dan, Shannon or Coach Cowher will be happy to interrupt each other while answering. Will the Vikings rely solely on Adrian Peterson against the Packers or use him as a decoy? Just ask Terry, Jimmy, Howie, or Michael, all of whom are paid handsomely to repeat what the other guy just said or overstate the obvious. Case in point? Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson, who told viewers during halftime of the 49ers-Falcons AFC championship game that "whoever controls the ball is going to win the game." Somewhere, Falcons Coach Mike Smith is kicking himself for not realizing that.
On Sunday, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will play his final game. But he won't be unemployed for long since reports indicate he is close to signing a contract with ESPN as, you guessed it, a studio analyst. If ESPN continues its hiring frenzy, its studio set may soon resemble Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's house, complete with a "kids table." Chris Berman will make the introductions:
"Welcome to 'NFL Countdown' with Mike, Tom, Keyshawn, Jaws and, at the little table just off camera, Ray, Herm, Merril and Damien. That's all the time we have this week. See you next Sunday."
At least Lewis didn't pedal his skills to the 24-hour NFL Network, where he'd have to compete with Marshall, Steve, Warren, Michael, Kurt, Deion, Tom, Solomon, Darren, Dennis, Sterling, Brian and a few others who were hired in the time it took to write this sentence. Like ESPN, the NFL Network even employs FANTASY Football analysts. Now there's a dream job; getting paid to commentate on something that doesn't actually exist.
Just in case a network thinks breaking down X's and O's can't be handled by six, or, nine or 13 expositors, now comes word that former New York Jets coach Mike Westhoff is seeking employment . . . as a special teams analyst. Yes, the quickest and often most uneventful plays in football may soon have an expert breaking down every second of non-action.
"Looks like that kickoff is going out of the end zone. Mike, your thoughts?"
"Uh, yeah it did roll out, Joe. Now watch, the referee is going to place the ball on the 20-yard line. Did you see that?"
"Great call, Coach! If either team decides to punt this quarter, we'll check back with you."
On Super Bowl Sunday, I will curl up on my couch and overindulge in three items: chili, chicken wings and a single, 60-minute football game. And as I listen to pre-game, post-game and halftime studio analysts scrutinize everything from the coin toss to the cheerleaders' outfits, I will hopefully stifle the urge to leap high in the air and scream what every exhausted fan is probably thinking:
"Let me out of here!"
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)
Greg Schwem: Ray Lewis, your seat at the kids table is ready
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