Given that most sports bloggers came of age as fans during the Olbermann-Patrick era of the 11 p.m. SportsCenter -- making them one of the most influential guides to sports at the most influential time of our fan development -- it's no wonder their return (on NBC's Football Night In America show) is greeted as a big deal.
Count me among the intrigued. My question is this: Do they still have it?
"It" not just being their chemistry -- which I'm sure is still world-class -- but the wit (dare I say: snark) that made the Big Show THE show that made ESPN what it is.
We have come a long way in sports media since Keith and Dan ruled, mostly exclusively. Their brand of snark is now a commodity -- not on TV, mind you, where imitators still try (and fail) to re-create the Big Show's original awesomeness.
But certainly in blogs, that snark -- no doubt influenced by KO and DP -- abounds. As good as KO and DP might be, I will take MJD's live-blog (or whatever Drew Magary is planning for NFL coverage on Sundays this fall) for pure humor value combined with some insight.
Here is one thing they have going for them: NBC's Sunday night highlight show remains one of the last places where many fans are seeing highlights for the first time. Part of what makes weekday news shows (particularly at 6 p.m.) so weak is that by the time you see them, you have already fully digested everything in their rundown, thanks to your "workday" online.
On Sundays, however, you've spent the day following your team (real and fantasy); FNIA is the "first pass" on TV at digesting everything at once (more than the banal 2 clips per game that the Fox and CBS post-game shows might provide), and Keith and Dan get to offer it up. Their take is fresh; by Monday mid-day, it would be trite. Advantage: NBC.
Here is my suggestion to NBC and FNIA: Hand the keys to Keith and Dan and make the show about the highlights -- and their narration. Minimize the chirping from the essentially valueless "analysts" like Barber and Bettis.
If anything, ramp the "info" segments from King -- and, if they want to really do something different that adds value, layer in a "Best of the Blogs" segment that gives a real-time snapshot of how bloggers are reacting to the day in the NFL. (Hey, let Costas host THAT segment.)
Olbermann and Patrick were the original sports-tv tag-team and, still, the best. Times have changed, but their gravitational pull remains so strong that I think we're all ready to take things back to the early 90s -- when sports undoubtedly felt more fun for many of us...and KO and DP ruled.