Why the NFL’s Rich Eisen is sport’s best anchor
The Premier League season has concluded and the NFL’s off-season remains stagnant due to the lockout. So this seems a perfect opportunity to pen an ode to the best broadcaster sport has to offer, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen.
The position of anchor is not one which instantly suggest respect. Richard Keys was a constant source of derision and frustration with football fans and despite becoming synonymous with a generation’s television coverage, he is missed by few.
Adrian Chiles was lauded on Match of the Day 2 but his distinctive style hasn’t translated as well on ITV whilst Colin Murray remains the nearest thing to Marmite that television has.
In other sports, anchors such as Mark Nicholas, John Inverdale and Hazel Irvine tend to transcend opinion.
It’s a thankless task. With the exception of Nicholas, they are not reared on the diet of their sport like the analysts. Armchair viewers are therefore perhaps inclined to shun their views. They are there to entertain, to inform and to engage. They must present but in debates they must also raise pertinent issues, the questions which every viewer will want answering.
But Eisen has the innate ability to captivate all viewers. It doesn’t matter if he is speaking with players, owners or with his analysts; Eisen gets the best out of the situation. What’s more he makes it fun.
Take this clip from a few weeks back when Rich put Steve Johnson’s “swag” bag on. Can you imagine Chiles, Murray or Keys donning a snood or an Alice band without causing an earthquake from the nation’s collective shuddering?
Then there is this, the annual 40-yard dash where Eisen opens himself up for ridicule by competing against the NFL Draft’s top prospective talents. It is not the type of thing which Richard Keys’ ego would ever have sanctioned whilst he was in the hot seat. Yet it is exactly the type of thing which endears Eisen to his audience.
And because he’s respected and well-liked, off-the-cuff comments which could be construed as smarmy actually come across in the humorous manner they were intended. Take this little back and forth between Eisen and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez last week.
Eisen: “How attuned are you to the labour negotiations?”
Sanchez “There’s a lot of legal jargon…”
Eisen: “But you rely on Cromartie to figure that one out for you right?”
Cue laughter from a clearly tickled Sanchez. The reference, for those of you who didn’t know, relates to Sanchez’s teammate Antonio Cromartie, a man who is accustomed to the inner workings of a court room due to fathering nine children with eight women in six states.
Would the same response have been elicited from a Ryan Giggs or a Frank Lampard had Keys made a similar cheap shot at Wayne Rooney or Ashley Cole? Highly unlikely. Perhaps that’s the strong upper lips we Brits possess or perhaps it’s just part of Eisen’s appeal.
The bold, brash world of American football is no place for the States’ answer to Alan Shearer. Monotonous, beige and lifeless characters will soon be dwarfed by the larger than life figures that are egotistical.
British viewers may find Robbie Savage less than palatable but he is merely a drop in the ocean of irritation compared to Deon “Primetime” Sanders.
Yet what Sanders fails to acknowledge is that without trying to throw himself in front of the cameras, Eisen easily steals the show.
There are plenty of broadcasters in all sports who could learn how to entertain, inform and engage in the way Rich Eisen does.
You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.