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From football to late night, he gets with the programs

Watching lots of television is a sure cure for the January blues, and it provides inspiration on how to resolve the current crisis at NBC.

January 15, 2010|Chris Erskine

Sitting up with sick kids at all hours, listening to the sprinklers kick on at 5 a.m., watching farm implement segments on cable TV. Sounds like torture, right?

That's what I thought too.

But you should see this one dude in Alberta. To cut hay, he has rigged two thrashing units behind his tractor using a single drive. I won't pretend to understand all of it, but the screw drive swivels so he doesn't lose radius on the turns. If you grow a lot of hay, you should definitely look into it.

I also, one unmerciful afternoon, watched the Dallas Cowboys pluck the Philadelphia Eagles, in perhaps the most sleep-inducing playoff game of the post-Halas era. The Cowboys used 11 separate screw drives to mow down the Eagles offense. Perhaps seven were all that were needed.

I capped that off with a repeat viewing of "Smokey and the Bandit." You might believe January to be an afterthought -- a little dull, a little flat -- then "Smokey and the Bandit" fills the screen and you realize what a gift that movie really is, arguably Jerry Reed's finest work.

I also came to the conclusion that Jets Coach Rex Ryan pays more than a passing resemblance to the great Jackie Gleason, as sweaty and brilliant a comic as I have ever worshiped -- Gleason, not Ryan.

"Glease" owns the role of Buford T. Justice, as does Ryan. If they ever remake "Smokey and the Bandit," Ryan should play the sheriff. Or maybe one of the 18-wheel Kenworths. Really, the guy is almost a sixth borough.

I had other "ah-ha" moments while stuck on the couch, including:

* Warren Beatty had 12,775 women? Big deal. I've seen 12,775 football games.

* If two NFL teams give up a combined 96 points in a playoff game, they both ought to be eliminated.

* Of this weekend's games, three of four will be played indoors, in giant IKEA stores that pass for stadiums. Better stadiums helped baseball rediscover its soul. Why not the NFL?

* Charles Barkley is becoming the Oprah Winfrey of sports, and I don't mean that just because he shows up almost everywhere. I mean it because he's amazing.

Barkley might be NBC's answer to what to do about all those 10 p.m. slots that suddenly opened up last week. In L.A., everybody's a programmer -- it's like brewing your own beer in Duluth -- and I originally had Pete Carroll (football's Farrah Fawcett) taking over the 10 p.m. shift, with Barkley at 11:30 and Jay Leno doing the 1 a.m. stint on "SportsCenter."

After a short probationary period, Conan O'Brien would do the early morning farm report.

Genius, right? As you know, some things just click into place like that, but after Barkley's triumphant hosting of "Saturday Night Live" last week, I have sent Carroll off to Seattle and moved Barkley into the 10 p.m. slot five nights a week. It seems he's transitioned into comedy better than most comedians.

I also find him to be the most refreshing face in sports. Granted, it's a lot of face, a significant chunk of the moon.

When Barkley smiles, it affects tides up and down the West Coast.

Then there's that golf swing, which should come with a warning -- "keep babies and golf balls clear of blades." And the gambling thing. Evidently, Barkley plays blackjack the way I cut rubies (not well).

Yet, I believe Barkley is the answer, and I'm not even sure of the question, other than "What do you do about the ever-increasing, almost smutty, atmosphere of modern pro sports?"

Lighten it up a bit, which makes the effortlessly personable and very sly Barkley a big part of the solution.

I've long thought that when Kobe Bryant retires, he'd be a perfect host for a sports-themed variety show, a blingy version of Kimmel. Besides, just the thought of Kobe hanging around the house all day gives me shivers. Vanessa, where's the remote? Vanessa, when's lunch? Vanessa, Vanessa, Vanessa. . . .

But now I think Barkley is the man-child for the job. I'm not alone either (though it seems that way sometimes).

And why stop at entertainment? "The CBS Evening News With Charles Barkley."

I just like the way that sounds.

Meanwhile, my buddy Alex says being a producer is easy.

All you need to do is open a window and yell "I'M A PRODUCER!"

Well, babe, I'm now a producer. Besides, after a big meal, people tell me I look a little like Max Bialystock, as played by Zero Mostel.

Now that was a face.

Erskine also writes "Man of the House" in Saturday's Home section.

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