It's Hog heaven for Sonny 'n' Sam


Let's say you're a Washington Redskins fan. (No, not you; that guy over there with the Hog snout on.) You probably like Sonny 'n' Sam.

Let's say you're not a Redskins fan. (I'm talking about the fellow to your right with the Bob Irsay voodoo doll.) You probably don't like Sonny 'n' Sam. In fact, you probably try not to listen to them.

Let's say you're not a Redskins fan, but you're trying to be objective about Sonny 'n' Sam (sort of like the guy whose picture is running with this column). In this case, you must fall somewhere in between.

Sonny 'n' Sam, for the uninitiated, are Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff, two-thirds of the Redskins radio announcing team, heard locally on WCAO (600 AM). Frank Herzog, the play-by-play man, is the other third, but doesn't have an appropriately alliterative name and often is relegated to the role of straight man, so he doesn't get any billing.

Jurgensen and Huff are reminders of that segment of Redskins history in which the club played the role of an interesting also-ran. With feathered arrows on their helmets, Jurgensen, the paunchy quarterback, would launch improbably effective sidearm passes and Huff, the linebacker, would introduce the opposition to his violent world.

The club may not be quite so interesting anymore, but it's no also-ran. And therein lies part of the problem with listening to Sonny 'n' Sam.

When the Redskins are winning, they glory in every moment. Gracious winners? Not these guys. They hoot for another Redskins touchdown in a rout. They hoot at the poor opponent getting trounced. And it's really a hoot -- if you're a Washington fan, which, presumably, most folks listening are.

When the Redskins lose, you hear a red, red whine. Someone is to blame -- the officials, the lousy blocking, the poor play-calling. Did anyone mention the other team?

But let's be fair. Even if they frequently interrupt Herzog's play-by-play, even if they don't let each other finish sentences, even if they fill broadcasts with annoying cackles, Sonny 'n' Sam at least try to be entertaining.

Some examples from last week's broadcast of the Redskins' 34-0 victory over the Phoenix Cardinals:

Sam (after Jurgensen read off Cardinals quarterback Tom Tupa's passing statistics at that point, 13-for-23): "But that doesn't tell you just how bad he was."

Sonny (after a Cardinals holding call): "When you're losing, 31-0, you ought to be allowed to hold, you're so inept."

Sam (on why coach Joe Gibbs was leaving his starters in with a 31-point lead): "Coach Gibbs doesn't like to deviate from his game plan."

The two even tweaked Gibbs' penchant for turning each week's opponent into a Super Bowl contender, anticipating how he'd worry about facing the 0-3 Cincinnati Bengals. "He's not going to sell that shoe this week," Sonny -- or was it Sam? -- said.

This is the sort of thing team radio announcers say that you won't hear on the network television coverage. For instance, Philadelphia Eagles announcer Stan Walters recently called the Green Bay Packers' Tony Mandarich "a stiff."

If you like the color of your color men to run burgundy and gold, Sonny 'n' Sam are for you.

For the rest of us, who may get frustrated by hearing the unbearable lightness of being a network analyst, there is always room for some comic relief.

Alex Karras, whose tenure on "Monday Night Football" will be remembered for one good line -- he said the Oakland Raiders' Otis Sistrunk was from the University of Mars -- has written, with screenwriter Douglas Graham, a novel called "Tuesday Night Football." Its characters include Lance Allgood and Haywood Grueller, who apparently bear transparent resemblance to Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell, Karras' "MNF" partners.

What has been getting attention, though, isn't whatever pokes Karras may take at Gifford and Cosell, but rather the proliferation of product names throughout the book. This is by design, Karras has said.

The book, based on a screenplay, will be turned into a movie next year, and, for the right price, those products will be in the movie. Apparently, no one has been so up front about "product placement" before.

"I was getting paid $90,000 a year to play football," Karras told the New York Times, "and I got $17,000 to shoot a commercial that took an hour and a half. That's when I figured it all out."

Sometimes it seems that CBS made a four-year, $1.06 billion deal with Major League Baseball to keep the airwaves safe from the national pastime. Instead of half-hour pre-game shows before the prime-time games of the League Championship Series, CBS will come on five minutes before the first pitch. So much for building the drama. . . . USA Network's Al Albert on former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, who weighed 238 pounds for a recent bout: "Witherspoon is the heavy favorite. He's heavy, and he's the favorite." . . . . ESPN has coverage of the U.S. Davis Cup semifinal against Germany, though only the first singles match (today, 4 p.m.) and doubles (tomorrow, 4 p.m.) are live. The second singles match (tomorrow, 2 a.m.) and possible deciding singles (Monday, midnight) are on tape.

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