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We need Booger McFarland in our NFL game-watching universe

Matt Harmon

To err is human. Who among us has not misjudged a person, or simply come around on them after an acceptable period of time? We’ve all changed our minds on the value someone brings to the table.

I’m here to admit my own personal transformation on a crucial reality in the football universe. Two months ago, I staunchly believed ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” color analyst Booger McFarland had to go. His brand of cliche-fueled commentary had driven me to the brink of madness. The removal of “The Booger Mobile,” a 2018 artifact that carried McFarland down the sideline for his complementary takes to Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten in the booth, was not enough. The experiment had failed. Change needed to take place.

Now, as the conclusion of the final ESPN game broadcast of the 2019 NFL season has come and gone, I am of a completely different mind. Not only do I believe that he should reprise his role on “MNF” in 2020 and beyond, I think the NFL straight-up needs Booger.

Nothing about the program changed. Booger has been the same guy throughout the season. Rather, I changed.

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 22: ESPN Field Analyst Booger McFarland during an NFL regular season game against the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 22, 2018, in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Booger McFarland's "Booger Mobile" was short-lived, but hopefully his run in the MNF booth lasts longer. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Let’s start with the facts: Calling a live NFL game is an impossibly hard job. It’s easy to sit on your ass at home and take shots at the folks in the booth when they say something off, but the reality is it’s just going to happen. You try talking for three straight hours and not offer up a peculiar bit of commentary. The odds are against you.

Honestly, I can’t go the course of our 90-minute episodes of “Fantasy Football Live” on Sunday mornings here at Yahoo without messing up a player’s name, getting a stat wrong, saying something weird or committing the unforgivable sin of defaulting to a cliche. In total, I probably talk a combined 15-20 minutes through the show. Put me in Booger’s shoes and I’d be an internet meme before the first quarter was over. Book it. By the way, so would you, my dear reader.

Booger makes mistakes. He offers up strange analysis. So what? Lighten up and get over it. This is entertainment, after all.

It’s in that vein that we come to the reason Booger shouldn’t just stay in the “Monday Night Football” booth but that we need him in our NFL universe. My personal transformation goes beyond just admitting the man has a challenging task on his plate.

I love this game. The NFL brings me joy to watch, and yet, let’s be real. The experience of being a football fan can be downright dull. There’s still a segment of the audience, the analysts who cover the game, and the teams themselves that take this whole thing way too seriously. Sanctimony is in no short supply. Levity is often put on the shelf as we prioritize repetitive debates between old school “Football Guys” and analytics.

Booger makes “MNF” fun. Perfect example: It was during a 34-7 Saints blowout win over the Colts that he drew this image on the screen.

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A game that was good for nothing except the overly dramatic plaudits Drew Brees was set to receive for breaking another passing record was suddenly interrupted by what the NFL should crave at a far deeper level. Fun. Booger drew an image on the screen that caught all of us by the eye. He offered up a moment that millions could enjoy.

I have often looked on in jealousy as my friends on NBA Twitter live a fully joy-immersive experience. There is no truer statement than this: On NBA Twitter they’re laughing and sharing memes with each other, while here on Football Twitter we’re too busy with an exhaustive 500th round of the running back value debate. They are having fun. From my outside perspective, it bleeds into the coverage of the sport. The analysts who cover basketball lean into the madness, especially on TV. I cannot tell you how desperately I want that attitude to seep into the NFL landscape.

What we need is someone to lead the revolution. Sitting at the top of one of the largest stages available, Booger McFarland is in prime position to lead us into a new decade where football is fun.

At times last year, I thought Booger’s former counterpart Jason Witten could be that figure. “Monday Night Football” suddenly had an extra layer of entertainment to it with Witten at the center, as the entire community gathered around the television with Twitter at the ready just waiting on what the then former Cowboys tight end would do next. Witten provided entertainment beyond the game and made the second-screen communal experience of watching the game along with social media outrageously enjoyable.

As time went on, it became apparent that Witten was not the entertaining prince who was promised. He was just legendarily bad at the gig. Witten often looked unprepared, out of his element and just not comfortable in this spotlight. When he broke the Pro Bowl trophy last season, the disaster was over.

Booger is nothing like Witten. You can clearly poke holes in his analysis (again, who among us) but you can never for a second assert Booger the man on TV isn’t 100 percent comfortable being Booger. He doesn’t back down. He has entered a role as a foil that the NFL audience needs. When he errs on the broadcast, he suddenly commands the attention of the NFL community. Whatever the moment, he drives the conversation.

My advice to Booger, not that he needs it, would be to totally lean into that. In the digital age, the rules to achieve the status of tastemaker has changed. To become forever immortalized as a meme, one must deny the ability to take oneself ultra-seriously. One must lean in. I would do it in a heartbeat if I could.

Consider Cris Collinsworth on “Sunday Night Football.” Collinsworth has drawn my ire for some flubs but is one of the better NFL color commentators in the business. However, for all his smarts and ability to tell a story in a big game, it was his strange “Collinsworth slide-in” that took him to another level to the point that the internet and the league’s own network dedicated space to coverage of the phenomenon. By literally leaning in, he had become a meme and we loved him further for it.

In his final act of the 2019 NFL season, Booger authored himself a masterpiece. A classic slip-up occurred when he suggested the Bills should run a draw play on third down and then spike the ball on fourth down with time expiring in regulation. At that moment, mind you a crucial period in the contest, Booger grabbed hold of the conversation and owned it. We all couldn’t help but talk about it, if just for a minute or two in the game.

I also noticed something in that moment. Booger paused. He took a full beat after offering his spike suggestion as if to acknowledge the mistake but allowing it to marinate. Also, recall that he did the exact same thing when he feverishly tried to erase the unfortunate telestration from the Saints and Colts game weeks prior. Oh, but he wasn’t done yet. Booger gave himself one more pause-worthy moment when he drew another impossible to miss design as the Texans were driving.

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So far, it’s a strange coincidence he did it twice and it’s unlikely becoming a character artist of that particular body part is going to be his brand. However, it’s in the pause where Booger can find that truth. That’s his space to lean in, to own the hilarity of the moment and seal himself as a legend to the evolving football audience.

The football audience is not short on grand storytellers or folks ready to teach us something about the game. What we are absolutely starving for are national media members on television willing to lean into the madness and offer us a collective experience where we can have fun. No one is in a better position to do that, while not sacrificing their analysis than Booger McFarland. The NFL landscape needs him to remain right where he is in the booth and it’s us who has to come full circle to adore it.

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