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 BRISTOL, Conn. - Here's a simple test for whether the three-person combination in the ``Monday Night Football'' booth is clicking:
``You want everybody who's watching to want to be in that fourth chair,'' said John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president for content.
Viewers feel that way when the commentators enjoy a comfortable rapport. That wasn't always the case during ESPN's MNF debut last season with the team of Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser.
``We felt we had a better chance for the fourth chair to be attractive with a little different chemistry,'' Skipper said.
So Ron Jaworski, a longtime studio analyst, replaces Theismann this season. Jaworski has worked previously with every member of the MNF crew. He and Kornheiser are especially familiar with each other because of Jaworski's appearances on his colleague's radio and TV shows.
When the change was announced in March, ESPN executive Norby Williamson denied chemistry was the reason. But it's now the catch phrase used repeatedly by network officials as they discuss why they expect Year 2 to be better.
Jaworski, a former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl in January 1981, made his reputation as an Xs and Os expert. ``A football guy,'' he called himself. His strengths contrast with MNF's history of mixing football with show biz.
Speaking of that fourth chair, director Chip Dean said producers will be more selective about choosing celebrities to appear in the booth this season. There may be some weeks with no guests, he said, and those that are invited will be ``A-list'' and relevant to the broadcast.
Dean mentioned Spike Lee's cameo during the Saints' return to New Orleans as an example of one that worked.
Jaworski, who recalls watching the inaugural MNF broadcast from his Youngstown State dorm room, acknowledged that ``'Monday Night Football' is different.''
``It's not totally focused on the game,'' he said. ``It's an entertainment vehicle.''
But he also believes NFL fans are much more knowledgeable than they used to be and crave the insider analysis he can provide.
``People want to know why a play worked,'' Jaworski said, ``and why it didn't work.''
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