An NFL pregame show is like an intimate dinner party — a lot depends on the host. Though all four programs have news, game previews, and interviews with players and coaches, they’re long yardage apart in delivery. Here’s a quick guide:
NFL GameDay (ESPN, noon-1 p.m.) Host Chris Berman has enough energy for the entire guest list. Voted 1989’s Sportscaster of the Year by his peers, he has so much to say that he seems out of breath the entire show and leaves little airtime for his panel of three (including former Redskins QB Joe Theismann). Berman is famous for his semantic surprises, especially player nicknames like Atlanta wide receiver Andre ”Bad Moon” Rison. After a feature on New York Giant Reyna (pronounced Renée) Thompson, the anchor remarked, ”When you get hit by Thompson, you don’t walk away from Renée.” Berman’s not the only thing ESPN has going for it: GameDay covers more games, not just the big matchups, and with greater depth, than the other shows.
NFL Live (NBC, 12:30-1 p.m.) If the week has had some hard news stories or if Berman wears you out after a half hour, then NFL Live, with Bob Costas, O.J. Simpson, and Will McDonough, is the best alternative. Costas is not only an incisive interviewer (his grilling of New England Patriots owner Victor Kiam about women reporters in the locker room was excellent) but also a sharp, well-informed anchor.
NFL Today (CBS, 12:30-1 p.m.) This traditional ratings powerhouse has changed both its set and its lineup. CBS’ old House of Musburger has become the domain of cohosts Greg Gumbel and ex-Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. But Gumbel is strictly tofu — he just blends in — and Bradshaw often gets so caught up in his delivery that he seems to forget what he’s saying.
NFL Preview (CNN, 11:30 a.m.-noon) It’s a long way from ESPN’s fire- breathing Berman to CNN’s barely breathing Ken Stabler. As cohost, the former Oakland Raiders quarterback, known for his playing-day outrageousness, dishes out analysis like a football version of Cheers‘ Cliff Clavin, calmly cued by CNN sports anchor Vince Cellini. ESPN’s Berman might call this half-hour Raider of the Lost Spark.