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ESPN did a disservice to viewers with Jon Gruden’s “turkey hole”


GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jonathan Daniel

If ESPN wonders why last night’s ratings were so bad, perhaps it should examine how many people turned off the TV after the fifth time Jon Gruden said the words, “turkey hole.”

An embarrassingly bad segment of ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast started when Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford made a nice throw downfield, finding a receiver in the Packers’ secondary. At first, Gruden appeared to simply be analyzing the play.

“Watch Stafford fit the ball in the hole between the corner and the safety,” Gruden said. “I call that the turkey hole. Don’t ask me why.”

But then it became clear that the “turkey hole” thing was a pre-planned segment, and Gruden and ESPN’s producers had just been waiting for the right moment. The cameras turned away from the field and went to the booth, where Gruden stood in front of a picture of a turkey and offered insight such as, “Let me show you what the turkey hole is. It’s the turkey hole.”

As fans at home wondered what was happening on the field, Gruden gave an Xs and Os illustration of the turkey hole. Can we get back to the game now? No. Gruden still wasn’t done. He also had videos to show.

“Let me show you some of this turkey hole,” Gruden said, as highlights were shown of quarterbacks past and present throwing into the area that Gruden called the “turkey hole.” We saw Brett Favre throw into the turkey hole. We saw Stafford do it in a previous game. We still didn’t know what was happening on the field in the game we had tuned in to watch.

So what had actually happened while Gruden was blabbering about the turkey hole? Oh, nothing much. Just a Lions fumble that the Packers recovered. No reason the fans watching the game would want to know about something like that when there’s turkey hole to discuss.

Finally, just as ESPN went to a commercial, play-by-play man Sean McDonough realized that something consequential had happened on the field while his partner had hijacked the broadcast.

“I think we’re going to have a replay review here,” McDonough said. “For the moment, they’re saying Green Bay ball.”

Sure enough, when ESPN came back from the commercial, the Packers had the ball.

“The ruling on the field is a fumble by Ameer Abdullah. Green Bay ball. We’ll show you another look at it right after this play,” McDonough said.

There were two problems with that: First, ESPN wouldn’t be showing us “another” look at it. We were still waiting for the first look. Through all that “turkey hole” nonsense, we still hadn’t seen Abdullah fumble. Secondly, even after the next play, ESPN still didn’t show a replay of the fumble. It was only after another play that ESPN finally went back and showed the fumble.

Football fans don’t ask for much when we turn on a game. We want to see what’s happening on the field, and we want reasonably knowledgeable announcers to fill us in on anything we might not be able to see with our own eyes. ESPN didn’t show us the fumble on the field, and the announcers didn’t tell us about it, either.

If Gruden and ESPN have any similar segments planned this season, I think I can speak for all fans when I say: Shove it up your turkey hole.