Denver Bar Association
September 2000
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Analyze This: Monday Night Football Steps Up

by Marshall Snider


At last, common-sense sports commentary makes us laugh instead of annoyed.

You don't need to have played the game to understand it. Anyone who watches a fair amount of sports on television can analyze the action on the field with the same accuracy as 98 percent of the so-called "color commentators" in the business. After all, these broadcasters make a living simply by telling you things you already know. You already know these things because you, too, are watching the game.

I know this is true. You know this is true. And Frank Gifford proved it was true. Gifford made a fortune announcing football games despite the fact that he rarely knew what down it was or what yard line the ball sat on.

So it should not be a shock that the newest analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football is not an athlete who played the game. Further blurring the distinction between entertainment and sport, your Monday football fix is now delivered by comedian and former Saturday Night Live anchor Dennis Miller.

I assume Miller has watched some professional football on TV, and maybe has even been a celebrity guest in the broadcast booth. As such, he is as qualified to comment on the game as you and I, and you and I are as qualified as the majority of the bozos working on football broadcasts.

The football analyst tells you the obvious because he talks to the lowest common denominator: the guy with the six-pack in one hand and the Fritos in the other, who will live and die with the result of the Tampa Bay/Oakland game. How often have we labored through insightful comments from the play-by-play guy's sidekick, such as: "The Buccaneers keep throwing successfully to the right side, and Bob, they will continue to do that until the Raiders adjust to stop it."

Duh? I was watching the game; I know the Bucs were throwing right all night, and I assume that as highly talented professionals, they will be able to continue doing that until the Raiders do something to stop them. And for this, the color guy gets paid how much?

At least Miller will inject some humor and sarcasm into Monday Night Football, two elements the show has been missing since Howard Cosell walked the earth. I can foresee this dialogue with play-by-play announcer Al Michaels:

Michaels: "Griese drops back to pass, here comes the rush, and he's sacked at the Broncos 47."

Miller: "Now I don't want to go off on a rant here, but the Broncos' offensive line has less chance of stopping the Packer pass rush than Yassar Arafat has of keeping more Jewish settlements from springing up on the West Bank. I haven't seen a line this ineffective since George W. Bush snorted cocaine in the '70s and still turned out to the right of Pat Robertson. I've seen hookers go down faster than the Broncos' right tackle can get his pads on a defensive lineman's knees. Right now, the Packers are confusing their opponents better than any defense I've seen since the O.J. Simpson trial.

Of course, that's just my opinion; I could be wrong."

Michaels: "Thanks, Dennis. Just to catch you up, fans, during Dennis's rant, the Broncos moved 53 yards in 3 plays, scored on a 38 yard pass to Rod Smith, and recovered an onside kick on the Green Bay 49."

Even if you are bothered by the specter of a comedic sidekick on football broadcasts, remember that it could have been worse. ABC actually considered Rush Limbaugh for the job. Fortunately, with the hiring of Dennis Miller we will be spared the following dialogue:

Michaels: "Griese throws to the wide side and hits Davis in the flat for a gain of 12 yards. What a pretty play."

Limbaugh: "There is your typical, liberal media bias at work, ditto-heads. That pass was to the right side, of course, but the liberal media hacks like Al Michaels here would never tell you that. Have success throwing to the left side and that's all you hear about in the media, about how good the left is, about the gains we make on the left. But just let the right pick up a few yards, and it's like it never happened, for all you see on CNN and in the New York Times."

So there are a lot of reasons not to worry about Dennis Miller doing football. To begin with, Monday night games are always boring, and you won't be watching anyway. Worst-case scenario, Miller will make that soporific 13 to nine game you are looking at a little entertaining. Best case, he might actually know something about football, even if it is no more than what you, I and Frank Gifford know. Either way, I won't care; I always watch Saturday Night Live reruns on Monday night.



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