“I’m in the booth!” Aqib Talib announced last Wednesday, elaborating, “I’m in the booth booth. You gotta say it twice if you really mean it: I’m in the booth booth!” Talib was indeed in the booth booth yesterday, and he brought that same enthusiasm into his commentating debut for Fox, where he joined Brandon Gaudin for the Washington-Detroit game.
Modern NFL announcing is characterized chiefly by a certain proud staleness of form, which reflects a sort of backwards-looking solemnity about the game and the way it should be played. This sense of propriety and bloodlessness is both an understandable choice for a brand as large and bland as the NFL, and also an especially hilarious posture for announcing a sport as absurd as professional football. The NFL thinks it is selling Tom Brady and the stoic pursuit of victory on the fields where men win glory or something, but what I am buying is the Buttfumble.
This is why Tony Romo is more than just a breath of fresh air in the fart-stale room of NFL announcing. While it is inarguably cool that he seems to know every play, he also projects a sense of genuine enthusiasm. Talib shares this quality, which is noteworthy because there was precious little to be excited about in a matchup between the Matt Patricia-led Lions and a football team called Football Team. Talib livened things up, though, which is a part of the job that many color commentators never figure out.
As it was his first game, there are still some rough patches to smooth (he seemed to end every third sentence with “man”), though it seems from one game that he could be very good at this. Talib played last season and even turned down a deal with the Patriots this offseason, so it’s both clear that he knows what he’s talking about and is familiar with the players currently on the field. What I want from a former player doing color commentary is a clear explanation of how football works on a mechanical level and some personality, not a distracted guy telling me about someone’s will to achieve.
Here is Talib doing just that, delighting in the prospect of open space and succinctly explaining what makes a screen play work.
The hidden yards really are crucial.
This is definitely the work of a man confident enough to rip off an opponent’s chain during a game.
After listening to Troy Aikman for essentially my entire football-watching life, I will happily take Talib’s rough edges in exchange for this much insight and energy. The only downside I can see is that Michael Crabtree isn’t on an NFL roster and so we will probably never see Talib call one of his games.