Kenny Mayne's snide comments -- The ''Sportscenter'' announcer prefers words to sports

Once upon a time, sports announcers uttered simple, comprehensible phrases like ”Going, going, gone!” Well, folks, those days are going, going, gone!

Consider these newfangled home-run calls: ”Quadrangular!” Or ”Yahtzee!” Or how about, ”Your puny ballpark is too small to contain my gargantuan blasts. Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!”

The poet behind these absurdist gems? ESPN’s Kenny Mayne, 39, perhaps the funniest of a new breed of snide sportscasters. ”My premise is, I like words a lot more than sports,” says Mayne, who cohosts SportsCenter — the hour-long jock news show that inspired ABC’s Sports Night. ”I’m not as big a sports nut as maybe I’m supposed to be.”

SportsCenter is the former home base for Craig Kilborn (who departs Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to host The Late Late Show) and Keith Olbermann (who traded his own show on MSNBC to host Fox Sports News) — no slouches in the smart-ass department. But Mayne’s humor verges on Dada. ”He’s very, very dry,” says cohost Dan Patrick. ”Sometimes I’m parched after listening to him.”

Take a swig of these other Mayne-isms: ”I don’t know what the pitch was, but it tastes like chicken!” Or, to footage of a player arguing with an ump: ”It’s a homonym! No, it’s an antonym!” Or this minimalist paean to a shot-making basketball player: ”He’s tall.”

Just as eccentric as his delivery is Mayne’s career path. Living in Seattle after graduating from UNLV, Mayne desperately wanted a gig on ESPN, but the net would give him only freelance work. His day jobs? Pushing MCI and assembling garbage cans. ”That wasn’t a lot of fun,” deadpans Mayne, who now lives with his wife, Laura, in Connecticut.

In 1994, he got a break at ESPN2, where he eventually hosted a car-racing show. (He’d open by thanking viewers for having electricity.) Then last year, he finally scored the SportsCenter beat. ”It was a strange path, but it worked out, so I don’t regret everything I went through.” Quadrangular!