I'm sitting here in front of the Magnavox, waiting for Monday
Night Football to come on, a cold beer in my left hand, an
aerodynamic brick in my right. O.K., I know it's early, but
can't you hardly wait? I mean, let's fire just about everyone on
the show, hire a loner college-football analyst, a grouchy
ex-running back with no sideline experience, a 26-year-old
neophyte and a blue-tongued comedian who's never worked sports.
God, I hope it works. I hope it works because it's so different.
I hope it works because maybe--just maybe--we won't have to listen
to the usual booth full of jocks discussing the merits of the
Dan Fouts, the new analyst, has always been different. While the
rest of his San Diego Chargers teammates would listen to halftime
speeches, Fouts would sooner go have a smoke and a beer. He was
the kind of quote you'd send a limo for: He just didn't give a
damn. His dad was an announcer too. Plus, he replaces Boomer
Esiason, who always seemed to be broadcasting from an Arena
Football League game on a smaller TV set somewhere.
During his playing days, new sideline reporter Eric Dickerson was
always about as congenial as a dyspeptic rattler. He never talked
to anybody unless he thought he could make a buck out of it. Then
again, I can't think of an NFL running back who seemed to want to
get to the sideline more.
The other new sideline reporter, Melissa Stark, is
walk-into-a-pole gorgeous and knowledgeable. Of course, Lesley
Visser, at 46, is walk-into-a-pole gorgeous and knowledgeable.
Which brings us to the new third man in the booth, turbo-mouthed
Dennis Miller, who is such a crazy, inspired long shot that
producer Don Ohlmeyer must have titanium marbles. It's a little
like hiring Lenny Bruce to emcee your parents'
75th-wedding-anniversary party. Could be fun. Could be the worst
television disaster since She's the Sheriff.
The only tiny, little problem I can see with giving Dennis Miller
an open mike on prime-time network TV is giving Dennis Miller an
open mike on prime-time network TV. First of all, how will Miller
stop himself from using four-letter words for three hours when he
can't go 12 seconds on his HBO show without them?
Ohlmeyer: O.K., Dennis, if you think you're ready to try it
again, we'll remove the duct tape.
How will Miller's sophisticated, scatological rants play at
places like Darlene's Trucker Eats in Keokuk, Iowa?
Trucker: What'd that boy just say about the Bolsheviks?
Darlene: Believe that's the new expansion team in San Antone.
How will Miller sandwich his hilarious, breathless,
triple-espresso opinions into the time between the tackle and the
next snap when he can't clear his throat in less than four
Miller: ... So, in conclusion, that's just an emotional orifice I
don't think any of us want to spelunk! (Huge inhale.)
Al Michaels: Dennis, we went to break two minutes ago.
How will the simpleton world of pro football satisfy the
intellectual curiosity of a man who routinely mines every subject
from Martha Stewart to Albert Einstein?
Miller: You know, that last jarring tackle by Stinkowitz reminds
me of something, Al. Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here,
but why, in this country, are men so willing to plant their face
masks squarely in another man's crotch to make a tackle, and yet
if the same two men were to approach each other in the
frozen-foods aisle at Kroger's after not seeing each other for 30
years and one of them even attempted a homophobic half-shoulder
bump-hug, the other would throw a roundhouse right that Tonya
Harding would admire? (Huge inhale.)
Michaels: Dennis, we went to break two minutes ago.
How will testosterone-leaking NFL players like being criticized
by a skinny wiseacre whose only sniff of athletic competition was
losing to Sinbad in Ed McMahon's Star Search and who was beaten
half to death by 93-pound Rebecca De Mornay in the movie Never
Talk to Strangers?
Neckless 400-pound tackle: I hear you said sumpin' 'bout my mama.
Miller: No, no! I was merely commenting that they must've been
able to hear her labor screams in the Christmas Islands when an
infant of your copious dimensions arrived, in the sense that she
must've been left with a birthing canal the size of the Holland
Tunnel, in the sense that it had to be like giving birth to a New
York City brownstone. Of course that's just my opinion, I could
be wrong. (Huge inhale.)
Michaels: Dennis, he left two minutes ago.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Maybe we won't have to listen to the usual booth full of jocks
discussing the merits of the roll-up zone.