Tom Brady’s 10-year, $375 million deal with Fox could be one of the best investments in television history. Or it could be one of the worst. Regardless, it solidified the going rate for a transcendent football star to sit in the booth and, possibly, offer somewhat guarded platitudes in an effort not to offend friends and coworkers.
During the recent mad rush to acquire on-camera talent, television networks seem to have forgotten the lessons of the last 15 to 20 years in media: that stories from nontraditional perspectives often have the best chance of breaking through. Whether that was Bill Simmons decades ago writing from the perspective of a maligned Boston-area fan or Pat McAfee now, shouting about topics of the day beet red in a tank top, standing out amid the noise takes some courage and willingness to be oneself.
While I understand this is not what the NFL wants—the push to bring Troy Aikman to Monday Night Football was, essentially, an effort to get the games to give off a more prestigious sameness to the ESPN product after years of unsuccessful tryouts and dangerous, mobile game calling atop a supercharged ATV that blocked out fans—it may not end up being a shared desire of networks everywhere.
Common knowledge among those who cover media and broadcasters themselves suggest that broadcasters should be out of the way, which, like any truism, is only as accurate as we believe it to be. Announcers like to say they should be out of the way because they are trying to be like every other announcer who has previously been out of the way.
So let’s challenge the status quo with a list of broadcasters who would almost certainly cost less than $375 million, but might end up giving us something more than just a big name in the booth. They could help us rewrite our expectations for watching a football game on TV.
1. Jason Kelce
Kelce’s Mummers Parade–inspired (and perhaps Bud Light inspired) Super Bowl victory speech may have placed him on our collective radar as a beyond-football personality, but the truth is that Kelce has always been a thoughtful, well-spoken and deeply insightful person who just so happens to play football. Offensive linemen are largely ignored when it comes to the latest round of Broadcaster Monopoly and save for Joe Thomas, we don’t hear a great deal about ascending talents in the business who came from the front five (though Ryan Harris was great during the Notre Dame spring game, and we should all be listening to him as well). The lack of offensive line talent in the booth does readers a massive disservice because so few players outside of that position group can properly analyze offensive line play. It’s why we benefit from having former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz as part of the regular football conversation online as well. Kelce adds a certain, modern gruffness that would make a game-viewing experience wonderfully unpredictable. One could imagine a stuffed suit worrying about Kelce’s ability to wax eloquently during a truly symphonic moment of football and my counter would be: Who cares? We love ordinary people. Part of the charm of our favorite media personalities now is that they remind us of people we hang out with. I would much rather see the Eagles’ center unhinged upon viewing a stunning Patrick Mahomes deep ball than some canned comment from a polished former player who is hoping to squeeze in a round of golf at Loch Lloyd.