Former athletes in the broadcast booth is a mixed blessing. Some are great at channeling the insights that helped them succeed in their sports–and some aren’t. This fall on Fox we’ll get to see which category former Eagles Pro-Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb goes into. McNabb is a likeable personality–he and his mom sold more Campbell’s soup than Andy Warhol. But McNabb’s TV interviews haven’t always been sharp and his athletic gifts were occasionally undermined on the field by a misunderstanding of the game’s rules. McNabb has also shown a propensity to talk about himself. Being able to relate what’s happening on the field only through one’s own experience has been the downfall of many an ex-player broadcaster.
But McNabb may surprise. Charles Barkley surprised many by being not just a firebrand but a pretty strong analyst. Frank Gifford’s turn at the microphone was so long and ubiquitous that it may outshine his legacy as a Hall of Fame player. Chris Collinsworth went seamlessly from wide receiver to broadcaster, where he generally improves the experience of watching the games he works on. John McEnroe is the voice of TV tennis–and McEnroe, you’ll remember, was rather interested in himself too, during his playing days. McNabb will have a lot to say–Fox is eager to find out if it’s what people want to hear.