Howard Stern: Get rid of the Phony Outrage

Howard Stern has been pretending to be mad at Stuttering John of Jay Leno’s Tonight show lately because John supposedly stole his bit of having a chicken pick NFL games.  But long before Howard did that bit, Washington, DC sportscaster Glenn Brenner was having an elephant pick games.  This happened in the 1980s, and Howard was in Washington from 1981 to 1982 at DC-101.  I’m pretty sure Glenn had not started the elephant bit when Howard was still there.  Anyway, I have a lot of those old Channel sportscasts on tape.  So I’m not saying Stern stole it from Brenner, but at a minimum, Brenner was clearly doing this bit 15 years before Stern did.  I also include a couple of blog entries:

From Easton, Md.: Your “monkey” stunt brings to mind the elephant prognosticator used by the late, great Glenn Brenner to pick NFL games. Each week Glenn would ask a celebrity guest to pick each week’s winning teams, with the winner receiving a donation to his or her favorite charity. One year the winner was a 90 year old cloistered nun! But far and away the best was his use of a trained elephant. He put the helmets of the 2 teams side by side, and the elephant would indicate his choice with his trunk.  Also popular was the guest prognosticators segment featuring celebrities, local and national, as well as an elephant.

Brenner was one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen — possibly the funniest person I’ve ever seen in my life besides myself when I’m on (kidding).  I put him right up there with David Letterman from the 1980s.  (In the 1990s and beyond, Letterman seemed to jump the shark for me as he just wasn’t cutting edge anymore, and started being too nice to his guests – sounds a lot like the road Howard has taken).  Brenner made sports interesting and funny.  He was way ahead of his time.  His humor was a lot more genuine and spontaneous than the smug one-liners that ESPN anchors are known for.  He was in another universe than someone like Tony Kornheiser, who thinks that he is the funniest guy out there.  (Though, back in the day, when Kornheiser wrote columns, he was actually very funny – about 25 years ago).  The rapport Brenner had with his news anchors Gordon Peterson and Maureen Bunyan was unbelievable.

Check out some of the youtube clips (unfortunately there are only a few and they only begin to show Glenn’s humor):

I have tons of Channel 9 sportscasts from the 1980s on betamax somewhere.

In interned at Channel 9 sports during the summer of 1988, though Glenn was actually off about half of that summer on vacation.  On January 12, 1992, the Redskins beat the Lions 41-10 in the NFC Championship game.  After the game, I was standing about 10 feet away from Joe Gibbs in the locker room when he said the game ball was for Glenn Brenner, who was in the hospital because of an inoperable brain tumor.  Glenn died a couple of days later at 44.  He had collapsed two months earlier while running in the Marine Corps Marathon.

The 1980s was a golden era for Washington TV sportscasters.  Glenn Brenner at Channel 9, George Michael at Channel 4, Frank Herzog at Channel 7, and Bernie Smilovitz at Channel 5 were all stars and great at what they did.  Nobody knows or cares who the current anchors are.

Stern is right that he changed radio and spawned many imitators.  But remember that Glenn did the animals picking NFL games bit first.


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