King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Whatever you think of their relative sex appeal, Michelle Tafoya replacing Lisa Guerrero on "Monday Night Football" is good news for sports fans. Plus: Shoo-in champs ain't what they used to be.

By Salon Staff

Published May 5, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

I don't know how to say this without it sounding like I think Michelle Tafoya's ugly, but it's great news that she's replacing Lisa Guerrero as the "Monday Night Football" sideline reporter because it's a rare victory for solid sports reporting over eye candy.

Guerrero, a B-list actress, was comically inept in her one season on the sidelines after a few years as set dressing on various Fox Sports shows. Or at least she would have been comical if her performance hadn't been so sad and insulting to football fans.

The hiring of Tafoya is an unusual case of the sports TV industry catering to its best customers, actual sports fans. Again and again, those folks are taken for granted, assumed to be willing to put up with anything as long as they can see the game they want to watch. TV networks instead concentrate on increasing their ratings by drawing in non-fans with gimmicks like Rush Limbaugh, celebrity interviews during game action, silly cellphone poll questions and hot babes.

Maybe it worked for ABC last year. The ratings for "Monday Night Football" were up slightly. But the hiring of Guerrero to replace Melissa Stark, who left after three seasons to have a baby, was a timid compromise move.

The network wanted to hire a babe, but not just a babe, like Fox Sports news reader Lisa Dergan, whose main qualification as a sports reporter is that she might be the best golfer ever to have been a Playboy centerfold. So it went with Guerrero, who was never an Internet search champ but was certainly FHM covergirl material, and who'd logged some time doing fluff interviews and reading scripts, so she had some flimsy credibility.

"I'm a believer in her talent," said "Monday Night Football" producer Fred Gaudelli of Guerrero, "but I didn't think the role and her talent matched up."

If you say so.

I'm on record as believing that sideline reporters are pretty useless, adding nothing to the broadcast of a game. But if you're going to have one, at least have a real reporter, just in case there's a need, and to reward the people who have done good work, like Tafoya, who's reported and announced games for CBS and ESPN for a decade.

And one more thing, which I hesitate to say but I think this story is going to go in the books as "hot babe canned, plain reporter hired." I think that's how ABC looks at it. Guerrero was hired for her looks and the experiment failed, so now here's Tafoya, the seasoned journalist, and, within the bounds of TV reason, looks be damned. But Michelle Tafoya's cute as can be. Only in the bizarro world of TV would she be considered anything but good-looking.

And wait, another one more thing. I never knew this, but Tafoya's my homegirl from Cal. I found this out because she appears on notable alumni page of the Cal recruiting Web site, where a certain columnist is notably absent.

I love the idea of that page, by the way. It tickles me to think of a star running back saying, "Actor Bill Bixby, TV sports personality Michelle Tafoya and Federal Communications Commission member Rachelle Chong were all Golden Bears? Berkeley, here I come!"

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Another loaded team tanks [PERMALINK]

Did you watch the Calgary Flames take out the Detroit Red Wings in six games, and if so, did it look like an upset to you? Me neither.

The Red Wings, bursting as usual with future Hall of Famers, had the best record in the league during the regular season, but couldn't get past the younger, quicker, hungrier Flames, the sixth seed in the West. Detroit had its moments. Its two wins were by a combined five goals while Calgary's four were each by a single score, and two of them were in overtime. But as the series went on, the aging Red Wings seemed to sag while the Flames just kept coming.

So that's one out of this year's three loaded, let's just hand 'em the championship teams that's gone. The Lakers, another, are down to the Spurs 1-0 in their NBA quarterfinal series. Game 2 is Wednesday night, Game 3 is Sunday and if you're old enough to ask when Game 4 is, you're too old to live long enough to see it.

The Yankees, as always, are the other team accused of throwing off competitive balance, this time for the Alex Rodriguez deal. With A-Rod struggling, the Yanks started 8-11, but Tuesday night Rodriguez led them to their seventh straight win and a first-place tie with the sliding Red Sox.

So there's still some hope that an automatic champion might win a championship this year.

Previous column: Pat Tillman

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