'Saturday Night Live' to highlight sports
Talk about your interesting counterprogramming.
While the Grammy Awards are on CBS Sunday night, NBC will counter with the "Saturday Night Live" version of sports, called "SNL Presents: Sports All-Stars," in prime time from 9 to 11 ET.
The two-hour special will be hosted by "SNL" favorites Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte. Posing as ESPN commentators "Pete Twinkle" and "Greg Stink," the two will air "SNL" clips featuring sports stars such as Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Charles Barkley. New material by Twinkle and Stink also will be involved.
Why watch a clip show of many of SNL's "classic" sports moments instead of the music awards show?
"Because Sunday is a good time to laugh at millionaires making fun of themselves," Sudeikis said. (Well, the same could be said of the Grammy Awards, but we won't go there.)
Perhaps no current athlete is willing to make fun of his own image more than Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who will be seen live in the Super Bowl one week later.
"Peyton is a legitimately funny person who was funny in the sketches because he's a funny person," said Forte, probably thinking of Manning's wonderful faux United Way commercial. But Forte admits other athletes appearing on "SNL" fall short of Manning's acting skills. "Their bad acting maybe helped out a little bit."
(Cough -- Tom Brady -- cough.)
Twinkle and Stink also praised Charles Barkley.
"Everyone fell in love with him," Forte said. "Everything that comes out of his mouth is so funny. He's just naturally funny."
"People won a lot of money off him, too," Sudeikis added drolly. "That's another reason they like him so much."
What about the skits themselves? Everyone has a No. 1.
"Mine has to be -- pretty much hands down -- the synchronized swimming sketch with Martin Short and Harry Shearer," Forte said. "I love that so much."
"I'm a big fan of the Stuart Smalley [Al Franken] with Michael Jordan."
My top 10 sports skits on SNL
10. "Little Chocolate Doughnuts" -- It's just a 55-second "commercial," but it's John Belushi as a decathlon champion who couldn't have made it without his doughnut cereal. And he's smoking through the entire bit.
9. "Bill 'The Gun' Van Goff" -- A documentary about a forefather of football, the quarterback who had a football in one hand and a gun in the other. The defense decided to blitz in the title game because "He can't shoot all of us." In his panic, Van Goff threw the gun instead of the ball -- and lost both the game and his star wide receiver.
RANK THE "SNL" HOSTS
Where do you think Charles Barkley ranks among the sports figures to host "Saturday Night Live"? How about Peyton Manning? Derek Jeter? Michael Jordan?
Make your choices and see how they measure up against SportsNation.
8. "Chico Escuela" -- About 30 years ago, Garrett Morris portrayed Chico, an aging Latino player working as the sports anchor on "Weekend Update." Because of Chico, there was a terrible time in our country when every guy under 50 was walking around saying: "Baseball bin berra berra good to me."
7. "Yankee Wives" -- Who can forget Derek Jeter in drag as Alfonso Soriano's wife and describing his appearance "as if The Rock had sex with a Muppet"?
6. "The Charles Barkley Show" -- Kenan Thompson portrays Barkley hosting a talk show in a casino to pay back gambling debts. He describes how he got on the Olympic "Dream Team," saying: "I got a call from Michael Jordan, saying 'Hey, you wanna go play poker in Barcelona for two weeks? Here's the catch. We gotta leave the casino for two hours to beat Angola by 80 points.'" Only thing that would have made it better was if they had actually used Barkley.
5. "Spartan Cheerleaders" -- Pick your favorite. Will Ferrell's timing was always spot on, while Cheri Oteri was always on the creepy side.
4. "Harry Caray" -- Again, pick you favorite. Ours was when Ferrell had Caray declare: "If I were a scientist, I'd clone hot dogs."
3. "SportsCenter" -- Ray Romano is hilarious as the rookie anchor working beside Stuart Scott (Tim Meadows) and trying to match his "booyahs" with catch phrases of his own, such as "sweet sassy molassie!" and our favorite: "Get out the checkbook and pay grandma for the rubdown."
2. "Men's Synchronized Swimming" -- It's a major upset that this is not No. 1 because it is truly a classic. Short and Shearer -- with a wonderful assist by Christopher Guest -- are marvelous as the struggling pair looking for acceptance in the difficult world of synchronized swimming. Bad enough that they are men, but there's an even tougher obstacle: Short can't swim. And there's this last line from Shearer: "We're thinking gold. I mean who would want to wear bronze anyway?" Find it. Watch it.
1. "United Way" -- The timing is too perfect with Manning in the Super Bowl. His work with kids playing football is even topical when he orders a kid to "go get in the portalet for 20 minutes." Our favorite revelation by Manning about his true character: "I'd kill a snitch. Not saying I have, not saying I haven't."
Jerry Greene is a retired columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.