ESPN’s ‘BoogerMobile’ won’t return to ‘Monday Night Football,’ sources say | NFL
Put a fork in ESPN’s “BoogerMobile” on “Monday Night Football.” It’s done.
The wheeled sideline contraption carrying analyst Anthony “Booger” McFarland will not return for “Monday Night’s” historic 50th season, sources tell Sporting News.
McFarland himself could still be part of the “Monday Night” announce crew with play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore and sideline reporter Lisa Salters, sources said. But his on-field crane will join the late, unlamented Mobile ESPN phone on the network’s list of technology flops.
The BoogerMobile’s vanishing act would follow the recent departure of “Monday Night” lead analyst Jason Witten back to the Cowboys. The former tight end surprised his former employer by suddenly announcing he was retiring to America’s Team after only one season on the air. ESPN declined to comment on the BoogerMobile or the “Monday Night” announce crew on Thursday.
Look, give ESPN credit for trying something new. McFarland’s sideline high chair was supposed to give the Super Bowl-winning defensive tackle a closer, more revealing view of the war in the trenches than the faraway broadcast booth. When ESPN announced the new “Monday Night” team, it touted McFarland as the “first field-level analyst for sports television’s signature series.”
But the sideline crane ended up being more trouble than it was worth. Witten, McFarland and Tessitore were all “Monday Night” rookies. By having Witten and McFarland in separate parts of NFL stadiums, it became tougher for the new crew to develop on-air chemistry. Witten and McFarland hesitated to talk first, leading to too much dead air. Other times they talked over each other.
“What makes a three-man booth challenging is everybody’s gotta give up a little something. Right?” McFarland told The Athletic in December. “Because normally you’d have one guy being the analyst and he’s got the ability to go at his own pace and do everything and break down everything, but when you’ve got two people somebody’s gotta give up a little something.”
Many fans inside NFL stadiums despised the BoogerMobile. The device blocked the view of football fans paying big money for lower-bowl, sideline seats. These frustrated fans hurled invective at McFarland while he analyzed the game and posted videos of their obstructed field views to Twitter.
ESPN initially tried to solve the problem by having a TV monitor on the back of the device. But that didn’t work either. Finally, the network tried see-through plexiglass to give fans a somewhat better view around McFarland.
By the end of the 2018 season, even ESPN producers seemed tired of the device. McFarland was in the broadcast booth for the last four games he called with Witten, Tessitore and Salters, including ESPN’s telecast of the Colts 21-7 Wild Card win over the Texans on Jan. 5th.
The question now is whether ESPN will just go with a two-person booth of McFarland and Tessitore, with Salters as sideline reporter, or try the trickier three-person approach instead. Possible candidates to succeed Witten include ESPN insiders such as Louis Riddick, Matt Hasselbeck and Rex Ryan, and outsiders Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner of NFL Network and Greg Olsen of the Panthers, who’s contributed on-air to both ESPN and Fox.