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DIANE PUCIN ON THE MEDIA

Cris Collinsworth helps fill the void John Madden left behind

He is a capable substitute for the legendary play-by-play man in the first televised NFL game since Madden retired.

August 10, 2009|DIANE PUCIN

So Cris Collinsworth was going to try and imitate John Madden only once Sunday night.

As time was running out on NBC's first exhibition Sunday Night Football telecast, as Al Michaels was asking Collinsworth to inject one Madden moment, add one Maddenesque "Boom," the Tennessee punter ran into the end zone instead of kicking the ball.

The game was over and Collinsworth couldn't say it. "Oh, no," Collinsworth said. "I was going to time it on the punt and he messed it up."

A sense of humor serves a television sportscaster well and Collinsworth showed his. You can't script sports either and Collinsworth understands that. No boom, but none needed.

This telecast started with a verbal tribute to Madden from Michaels.

"Are you ready for the kickoff?" Michaels said to Collinsworth.

Madden began his telecasts with his loudly proclaimed, "Are you ready for some football?"

"I am, indeed," Collinsworth said.

And with that, for the first time in 42 years, an NFL football season began without Madden as a coach or broadcaster.

And Madden will be missed.

Yet, on this first night without him, you missed Madden, but then the game started and Tennessee quarterback Vince Young had a pass intercepted by Buffalo and Collinsworth said that is why Young was "falling from the first team to the second team to the third team. Or even farther than that."

And when slimmed-down Tennessee running back LenDale White scored a touchdown, bull-rushing in from near the goal line, Collinsworth said, "That was the concern, yes, he lost all the weight, was he going to lose any of the power? Obviously not."

So soon it was all about the game.

This was an evening that could have been schmaltzy or filled with too much manufactured sentiment, but NBC let Michaels and Collinsworth settle into a first-half rhythm and then used halftime to do a Madden tribute that was narrated by Bob Costas.

Television counter-programmers might have had some sense of humor too. Opposite part of the football game, Channel 5 showed "Everybody Hates Chris."

For those keeping score, NBC is on Channel 4.

And ESPN had the Yankees and the Red Sox. In a game that matters.

Even Michaels conceded that Sunday's NFL game didn't matter, not in any real sense.

So Collinsworth was able to settle in, relax and be himself, to be opinionated but still able to laugh at himself.

And also to give us the essence of why Madden was so popular.

"I hope one day that somebody may compare me to John Madden as a broadcaster," Collinsworth said. "If I could ever be compared to John Madden the man, that would really be something to treasure."

So, yes, it turns out, we are ready for some football.

Even without John Madden.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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