The time Jon Stewart was a color commentator for a basketball game

9 Comments

Late night television is about to undergo a huge shift — Jon Stewart is walking away from The Daily Show. More people may have watched when Jimmy Fallon took over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno (and Fallon kills it in that gig), but nobody has been more influential than Stewart.

That would be the same Stewart who once was the “color analyst” on a basketball game.

Not exactly a traditional game — 1993’s MTV Rock n’ Jock basketball game.

If you’re too young to remember, MTV used to put on softball and basketball games featuring professional athletes and musicians on the same court. So that means in 1993 you got Oliver Miller and Flavor Flav. Then there were made up rules. And Tiffani Amber Thiessen was a GM (she can be anything she wants, including a celebrity chef). So it was incredibly serious, obviously.

The play-by-play broadcaster was Steve Albert, the current Suns’ broadcaster, who recounted his experience working with Stewart on the Suns’ official Web site.

Jon Stewart? Whatever happened to him? I guess he peaked with MTV Rock N’ Jock and just couldn’t get a break after that!

But seriously, I kind of remember that experience working with Jon in generalities. I guess I could go back and look at the tapes but they’re the old Jurassic Park VHS type and on top of that, they’re packed away in a box in some storage closet gathering dust. I know, you’re saying: well why aren’t they in The Smithsonian where they belong? I’ll look into that.

Jon was an up-and-coming comedian at the time but one of those guys who had the “it” factor. You knew he was destined for something special. But of greater significance to me was his humility and the way he carried himself. He was a true sports fan, very respectful of yours truly as a play-by-play announcer and seemed genuinely thrilled to be my color commentator. For a situation that might have been somewhat foreign to him, he handled it like a pro, like he’d been doing it for years…knowing exactly when I was supposed to speak as well as when it was his turn to speak. And when he spoke, he was usually witty and funny.

We both knew our roles. I stuck to the play-by-play, with a hint of sarcasm. He listened well and reacted to things I said with a lot of enthusiasm and, of course, a lot of humor. In all due respect, for a few hours, I sort of sensed perhaps how Dean Martin might have felt working with Jerry Lewis, Carl Reiner with Mel Brooks, Bud Abbott with Lou Costello. It was an honor and a privilege and an incredible learning experience sparring verbally with one of the great comedic minds of our time.

Forget the VHS tapes — there is YouTube. Enjoy Stewart’s performance and the entire game.