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Theismann Broadcasting On 'Ultimate Stage'

For nearly two decades, Joe Theismann has been in front of the camera providing color analysis on NFL games--his first two years for CBS and the next 16 for ESPN Sunday night telecasts.

For the 2006 season, Theismann is part of the Monday Night Football broadcasting team on ESPN. He feels he has reached the pinnacle in football broadcasting because there's a mystique about Monday Night Football.

"When I did the NFL on Sunday night on ESPN, people would say, 'Oh, I remember that, that's really good,' " he said recently. "Now when I say we're doing ESPN Monday night football...as soon as the words Monday night come out of your mouth, the look on people's faces is totally different: 'You're big time now.' People still believe in Monday Night Football as being the ultimate stage."

Theismann, fellow analyst Tony Kornheiser, a long-time Washington Post sports columnist, and play-by-play man Mike Tirico made their debut in the Redskins-Vikings regular season opener on Sept. 11 at FedExField.

Theismann, a frequent visitor to Redskins Park, is as burgundy and gold as Americans are red, white and blue.

One of the greatest quarterbacks in team history, he holds several franchise passing records and led the Redskins to a Super Bowl win in the early-1980s under a young coach named Joe Gibbs.

In all of his years on TV, however, Theismann has never found it difficult to be objective when broadcasting a Redskins game.

"I never find it difficult to be objective because my first obligation is to the fans," he said. "The fact that the fans are the ones I'm responsible to makes it easy. Their eyes tell them what they see. I try to tell them why it happened.

"I've said things about guys that they don't like but I've never had a problem sitting down in front of them if they have an issue with me and telling them why. I played this game, and I understand a lot about it."

Theismann goes back a long way with Monday Night Football. He had a mixed record when starting in Monday night games as a Redskin quarterback in the '70s and '80s.

And in a 1985 game against the Giants, millions of viewers saw him suffer a horrific leg injury that ended his career.

But one career gone meant the start of another: network sportscasting. Equipped with public speaking skills he'd polished during his playing days, he became a CBS color commentator on NFL games. (He had been an ABC color analyst during Super Bowl XIX in January 1985.) He moved to ESPN in 1988.

He considers himself fortunate to have served as an NFL color commentator for so many years.

"I happen to be in a profession," he said, "where, right now, there's four of us that do what I do, prime time, big time football: Troy Aikman, John Madden, Phil Simms and myself.

"A lot of guys are in the profession, but the four of us are the ones who have 'the games,' whether it's Sunday night, Monday night, 4 o'clock on Sunday, the playoffs, the Super Bowl. I'm very respectful and very honored to be a part of that very elite group of people."

He added: "I've been lucky enough to have access to every football team, every owner, every general manger, every coach, every equipment man, every trainer. I have 32 sources of information about a world that I've been a part of for 32 years. I've had a chance to be around some incredible people."

Michael Richman is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who specializes in Redskins history.

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