KSK: What are some storylines that you’re looking forward to for this season?
Menefee: I think the Saints are the ones that jump out at you. You look at them and if there were no head coaching issues or Bountygate suspensions, you’d look at them and think they’re a Super Bowl contender. But you don’t know how they’re gonna respond. Will the talent rise? Will they unify? Will they rally around the cause? I think that’s an intriguing thing to watch because I think the talent is there to be one of the best in the league, so we’ll get to find out just how valuable coaching is. I think obviously everyone is looking to the New York Jets situation. And it has been overhyped to death. Once the games start, I think that’ll take some of that issue out. But I think people are intrigued to see how Mark Sanchez responds and how the team responds to having Tebow looking over his shoulder. Because every single game that Mark Sanchez doesn’t play well, people are gonna say it’s time to play Tebow, it’s time to play Tebow, it’s time to play Tebow. After a while, that grates on a team, it grates on a coach. And also how Peyton Manning responds out in Denver. I saw him play in two preseason games and I think that you saw improvement in both of those games. Will he go back to being the Peyton Manning of old? Who knows? We’ll find out. If he does get that back, you couple that with the defense they had last year, they could be really good. At the same time, for the first time in his life, he won’t have Jeff Saturday as his center, with Tom Moore running his offensive line. He’s been surrounded so long by the same people, now everything’s different for him. Will his skills take over and allow him to continue his success with a brand new team. I think there’s something to be excited about with every team. That’s what’s great about the NFL. I love the Atlanta Falcons this year. I think Julio Jones could be a breakout player. Their skill guys are as good as anybody in the league. That’s what we love about football: you can make an argument for just about every team to be good.
KSK: Do you have a team that you root for?
Menefee: I grew up in Atlanta, so I’m happy when the Falcons do well. I think what happens, though, in this business is that over the years, you end up with relationships and those relationships aren’t necessarily with one team. You got a relationship with somebody and they’re here with four or five years then they’re on another team. That’s with players, that’s with scouts, that’s with general managers, that’s with coaches. So your allegiances tend to be towards the people you know and like more so than the teams you root for.
KSK: The NFL television contracts are such huge business that the networks are almost partners with the league when it comes to presentation. Does that ever affect autonomy of your show? Do you ever receiver notes from producers about how you should or should not approach an issue, like, say, the replacement referees or the ongoing issues with head injuries?
Menefee: No. That’s one thing I can honestly say, that in all my years with FOX, and I started doing games in 1997, never have I been told what to say or how to say it. I tend to believe that’s the case with everybody at FOX. They’ve been open that they hire you to do a job. Obviously, they don’t expect you to go on the air and start saying things that are controversial and starting trouble. Now, do we have discussions about how we want to have a discussion about an issue? I’m sure we will talk about the replacement refs this first week. We’ll have a discussion about we’ve got this much time on it and what are each person’s opinions in general just so we don’t step on each other’s toes. But no one says, “oh man, you shouldn’t say that.” Or, “why don’t you say this?”
KSK: Do you have any concerns for the future of the sport? There have been current and former players coming forward to say they wouldn’t allow their children to play. A couple writers have written pieces even questioning whether it’s still even morally justifiable to be a football fan, given the brain injury issues. Where do you come down on that?
Menefee: To me, those are two separate questions, about whether I have concerns and what I think of the future of the sport. I think, first of all, people hate change. Roger Goodell has ticked off a lot of people. But what he is doing is necessary for the future of the National Football League. Everybody started highlighting it this year, but it’s been going on for a number of years. It used to just be mothers who said I don’t want my son playing football. But there have became a lot of fathers, not just professional athletes but everyday parents, who say I don’t know about my son playing football. So you get a lot of kids who don’t grow up playing the game. 10, 15 years from now, the kids that are now 8, 9 or 10 will be 23, 24, 25 but they won’t be looking to get into the league. The number of players goes down. The quality of football goes down. So if you gotta address it, you gotta address it now. Gotta make sure not only the league takes care of it, but that it filters down to youth football. As far as concerns for the future of the sport, and I know it sounds weird coming from someone on television, probably my biggest concern is the league getting overexposed. I think you have to get concerned after a while that you’ve got games on Thursday, Sunday, Monday and then towards the end of the season, you get those Saturday games as well. College football is a big deal. Big on Saturday, but you get those games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, after a while, people just go, “You know what? I can’t watch everything. I have to have a life. I can’t give up four, five nights a week.” Then they start tuning out. So I think that’s a big concern for me about the future of football. People seem to be at a point where they can’t get enough now, but at some point if it’s there all the time, will they get enough. Football just used to be on television Sunday and Monday night. Then you’d have to wait another week to get your fix. I think that’s part of the issue with the NBA, with Major League Baseball. The oversaturation. We haven’t gotten there yet, but I have a concern with that happening down the road someday. And I know it’s ironic for me to say because if it weren’t for so much football, I wouldn’t have the life that I have, but you do get concerned about these things.
KSK: One common criticism of the NFL studio shows is that they’re too bloated, there are too many people on set. Do you think it would be easier or more coherent with a smaller on-air staff?
Menefee: I don’t think so. I think everybody does a good job of integrating all the people they have. It’s never a situation where you have nine people talking about the same thing. You get a lot of voices that come in and out. Jay Glazer, the guy on our show, well he’s in for three minute-and-a-half segments a show. ESPN does the same thing with Mortensen and Schefter. So, numbers-wise, there are a lot of people on the show, but I don’t think it actually impacts it in a negative way.
KSK: I don’t know if you can speak to this, but you mentioned Glazer. He’s FOX’s top reporter for the NFL and he seems to have a lot of close relationships with players. He does the MMA training with some guys. How does FOX square those relationships with players with his responsibilities as a reporter?
Menefee: I can’t answer that. I don’t know what conversations they’ve had with Jay or what they continue to have with Jay. Jay Glazer and I have known each other since 1995. I was working for the local FOX station in New York and he was writing for a free newspaper and his checks were bouncing because they couldn’t afford to pay their guys. I’ve known Jay forever and I don’t think he’s compromised at all. By any means. I think it’s helped him break some stories because it establishes better relationships with guys. On a yearly basis, you can go back and go wow, Jay was the guy breaking all these stories. I think if he were trying to protect people he’s friends with, he wouldn’t put out half the stuff he puts out there.
KSK: Why is it that at halftimes or later on during Sunday coverage that Terry Bradshaw is doing the highlight packages? It just seems like an odd choice. The most charitable way I can think of saying it is that Bradshaw isn’t the most polished of broadcasters.
Menefee: I think that’s something that was determined when the show first began back in 1994. I think there are benefits to him doing it. Look, I’m there. He’ll mispronounce a name here and there. He’ll mess up a play here and there. But there’s nobody, I don’t think – and that includes myself or anybody else at any other network – that can break a play down as it’s happening like he can. He can spotlight exactly why a guy got open or what the reason was why the play worked while the highlight is going on. He’s able to recognize that right away. For most of us, it’s just became a matter of name, yardage and score and he’s able to give you more than that. If he flubs a name here and there, that’s why I’m there. I’ll support him and I’ll back him up. I’ll make sure we get the name right and the score right. We all laugh it off and we all have a good time. But I think he brings something unique to the highlights.
KSK: Do you pay attention to online media? Do you read blogs regularly?
Menefee: I do, every day. I check out WithLeather, which is one of yours. I have five or six that I go to every day. I check in a few times per day. I usually start out the day with USSportspages.com because that gives me a chance to read stuff from all over the country. I’ll go to ProFootballTalk. I’ll go to Big Lead. Then I’ll go to WithLeather, then Awful Announcing. Then I’ll finish up with Bleacher Report, since they have a wide focus on a lot of sports, including football, soccer and UFC, which are the main things that I care about.
KSK: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Hope you enjoy the season and best of luck to you on the show.
Menefee: Well, thank you. No problem. Best of luck to you as well.
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