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Michael Strahan is the current NFL record holder for most sacks in a single season – 22.5. He set it in 2001, and the record still stands.

I wouldn't be too dismissive of that half-sack if I were you. Or, for that matter, of that final controversial sack of Brett Favre.

If you were any NFL quarterback facing the New York Giants in 2001, his was not a number you'd want to see bearing down on you. You'd probably wish that all 6-feet-5, 275 pounds of him were somewhere else.

His mouth guard at the time, no doubt, covered the huge gap between his two front teeth – a gap about three times the size of the Alfred E. Neuman gap for which David Letterman is famous.

But in his new line of work, Strahan's vast front tooth gap (he could probably suck a kumquat through it) is as prominent as can be, mostly because he spends an hour a day beaming broadly at the camera about half the time it's on him.

In one of the more creative decisions in years made by TV's honcho class, Strahan was named to replace Regis Philbin as Kelly Ripa's partner on the “Live with Kelly and Michael” show.

Say what? some said. An old sack-monger for the New York Giants and a current wiseguy on a Sunday football crew of joshery and towel-snapping parked every morning next to the saucy little Tinkerbell of morning TV? And, no less, in the spot formerly occupied by a fellow whose TV career began before either Ripa or Strahan were born as a talk show second banana to Joey Bishop?

Yup.

I've been saying for many years now that some of the most natural comedy on television is some of the trash-talking sarcastic stuff ex-jocks brought with them from the locker room and cleaned up for public consumption.

Even so, I was surprised that someone was brainy enough to pluck a cheery pigskin wiseacre from the ranks of Sunday sports blather and put him down in a daily chair next to the woman who replaced Kathie Lee Gifford.

I was equally surprised that it was Strahan's preferred way to be earning a paycheck after all those years of knocking quarterbacks on their rear ends and shoving behemoth linemen out of his way.

If you watch him at 9 a.m. today (cultural surrealism alert: scheduled guests include Dame Judi Dench), you'll discover that he's actually rather good – not so much in the celebrity interviews, the traditional TV fawning and hype festivals devoted to the splendors of the famous and their good works, but in the pre-celeb stuff when the two hosts talk about the regular doings of their lives.

Considering what has happened all along the East Coast this week, this is far from a minor subject. And in their own limited and personal way, Strahan and Ripa were up to it.

To put it mildly, they were no replacement midweek for any news report – or for anything that might be done on a talk show anchored by, say, a TV news reporter as experienced as Katie Couric or even Anderson Cooper.

But in their casual reportage of the details of living in a New York divided between a fully functional uptown and a downtown without power, Ripa and Strahan, in their pampered celebrity way, relayed real textures and details of life in New York City after Sandy's havoc – the carpoolings, the people routinely opening up homes to others, those who left electrical connections outside their houses for others to recharge cellphones, etc.

You can always guess, but you can't always know who's going to make it in the daytime talk racket. Cooper, for one, has not. His syndicated daytime talk show, despite all of his skills and susceptibility to the giggles, was canceled this week. It will end in the spring.

It's not that he's going to be unemployed. He'll still be on CNN nightly. It's just his somewhat loony attempt to keep both a daytime talk and nighttime news career going simultaneously that has ended. I, for one, am happy the fellow might be able to get some sleep.

The horrors and changes wrought by Sandy in America's largest city – and its media capital – have shown us a stark cross section of all sorts of things, both expected and unexpected.

For instance, if the scheduled New York visit of Jimmy Kimmel's show did anything during the unexpected Sandy, it revealed the full extent to which Jay Leno has been marginalized from the fraternity of Late Night Talk Show Hosts.

Kimmel is about to move up a half-hour and be a direct competitor to both Leno and Letterman (pushing “Nightline” to 12:30 a.m.). Both, then, have reasons to be peeved.

Nevertheless, Letterman, in a highly unusual step, went right from his own first show with an audience after two stark, Sandy-tossed days without one to a rare interview on Kimmel's show in its New York visit (after Kimmel showed photos of his younger self, when his Letterman idolatry was so extreme he had “Late Night” birthday cakes and a “L8NIGHT” license plate on his car).

And, on the next night, Kimmel scheduled Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the latter another future direct competitor.

It's now official – the whole late night fraternity of talk show comics idolizes Letterman and only tolerates, if that, Leno. All of them – Kimmel, Stewart, Colbert, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon – go out of their way to pal up with old Dave, future Kennedy Center honoree.

If they appear on Leno at all, it seems only to prove open-mindedness.

Sides have been taken here. For a man with his ratings, Leno has turned into something of a pariah whose show many people visit only when they're on the West Coast and need to sell something (if only themselves).

A suggestion to Oprah Winfrey for her OWN network: Now is the time for the next installment of a Winfrey interview with Leno about what it's like to live through what seems like covert ostracism from one's peers.

That, I'd watch.

email: jsimon@buffnews.com