Friday, August 31, 2012

ESPN's next great SportsCenter team (?)---created by Vince McMahon

A vital ingredient in teamwork is chemistry. You hear about it all the time with great sports dynasties like the Yankees, Cowboys, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Celtics, etc., and comedy teams like Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges, and even, well, Beavis & Butt-Head.

It also applies to anchor teams for ESPN's SportsCenter, and to be honest, they really haven't had a team that actually gelled like Dan Patrick & Keith Olbermann back in the 90's. Until now, and they have an unlikely benefactor to thank for that. Fella by the name of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

Earlier this week, former WWE announcers Jonathan Coachman & Todd Grisham were reunited on primetime broadcasts of SportsCenter on ESPNews. Grisham joined ESPN last year after a 9 year run with WWE, during which time he spent some time working on Sunday Night Heat alongside Coachman, who left WWE in 2008 after 9 years. A 3rd ESPN anchor, Max Bretos, also came from WWE, but wasn't as well known as the others because he wasn't utilized as often, which explained why he left WWE around the same time Coachman did.

On Heat, Coachman had already established a heel persona as a sidekick to then-GM Eric Bischoff and tried passing himself off as a bit of a playboy. In truth, he came across as a cross between Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribiero on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and Leon Phelps (Tim Meadows on Saturday Night Live). That is to say, as a playa, he was a poseur. Period. Grisham's biggest moment in WWE was perhaps a Halloween edition of Raw when he did a mimic of Chicago sports icon Harry Caray on the air. Spot on. Grisham even incorporated Caray's home run call ("It might be! It could be! It is!") into his play-by-play commentary. The two actually worked well together on Heat, and it stands to reason that since they were good friends off camera, Coachman might've gotten a word in for Grisham when he became available a year ago.

On SportsCenter, Grisham & Coachman showed some of that chemistry in doing baseball highlights. A meeting of three fielders behind 3rd base on a pop fly led to a chorus of "We have a communicate!" Hilarious. Now, mind you, Coachman has been on ESPN as host of NBA Shootaround and has been a studio anchor during college football & basketball games. Grisham is still the new kid on the block a year later, but, paired with Coachman, he may have found his comfort zone. Not sure if he's dusted off his Caray impersonation on air, though I'd not be surprised if he did in covering highlights of a Cubs game. In time, they may have more catchphrases between them to go into the ESPN lexicon with these:

"From way downtown.......BANG!" (Olbermann)
"Cool as the other side of the pillow." (Stuart Scott).
"Get outta town....and he means it this time!" (Steve Levy)
"Holla at a playa if you see him in the street!" (Scott)
"The simplicity of this game amuses me. Bring me your finest meats & cheeses!" (Kenny Mayne)

And, of course, a virtual dictionary full of nicknames created by Chris Berman.

I think that inside of a year's time, we'll see Coachman & Grisham anchoring the 6:00 pm (ET) SportsCenter on ESPN. That is, barring a screw-up by either one, and Grisham has already made a faux pas on the air before being teamed with Coachman. Hey, it took time for them to find themselves in WWE, so this shouldn't be so hard, especially for Coachman, who was a sportscaster in his home state of Kansas before WWE came a' calling. And a few clicks down the road in Stamford, Vince McMahon will tune in to ESPN with a smile on his face. We think.

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