Miller TimeBy: James Alder
Dateline: July 31, 2000
Dennis Miller made his debut in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth in the preseason match-up between the San francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots at Canton, Ohio. He took his seat in the booth next to Dan Fouts and long-time MNF broadcaster Al Michaels in what was probably the most anticipated debut in Monday Night broadcast history.
ABC shook up the football world by naming Miller to the MNF booth in an unprecedented move to try and spice up the weekly broadcast. The announcement brought in a wide variety of feedback ranging from, "He'll really liven up the broadcast", to, "I'll never watch Monday Night Football again." The Dennis Miller fans were ecstatic and could hardly wait for the first game, but the doubters were proclaiming the the end of civilized broadcasting as we know it.
Many of Dennis' critics claimed that he had never done a live sports broadcast and he did not have an adequate knowledge of NFL football. Others claimed that Dennis would never make it through the three-hour broadcast without including at least one or two choice four-letter words. Many people even thought Dennis would try to overshadow the game itself with his quasi-hip comedy style.
There was also the question of how much Miller would be able to contribute without being told what to say. After all, at Saturday Night Live he had an entire staff of writers providing him with plenty of cute little quips to keep the audience rolling in the aisles. But here he would be on his own. No script, no one to tell him the difference between illegal procedure and illegal motion.
Well, the night has come and gone and the censors have not removed Monday night Football from the airwaves. Not once did I hear Miller let an expletive escape from his lips. Not once did the MNF editors need to take advantage of the seven second delay to clean up any of his "not ready for prime time" vocabulary. Miller even brushed on the subject when he commented, "I hope my boys are watching tonight. I swear too much in my other show for them to watch".
Not only did Dennis keep the act clean, but he also seemed to know a little about the game of football. It was obvious to me that he had thoroughly prepared himself to cover the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. And the aspects of the game that he did not understand, he made a point of getting an explanation from his colleagues on the air so that others could benefit from his learning experience.
For having never been a sports broadcaster, Dennis did a fine job of knowing when to jump into the conversation and when to hold back. Sure there were times, especially early in the game, when things seemed to be forced a little bit, and some of Miller's comments seemed to be a little more off-the-wall than most conservative football fans are comfortable hearing. But for the most part the new combination of announcers blended well together, Michaels calling the play, Fouts providing a little more technical detail, and Miller adding to the commentary with his perspective of the play and maybe a little comic relief.
As far as Dennis turning the game into the Dennis Miller Show, I think he managed to control himself well and focus more on the action on the field than the cute little comments between plays. There were a few times that the game would have progressed just as well without his comments, but for the most part I felt most of his comments were quite amusing.
At one point, while commenting on the poor play of the San Francisco squad, Dennis said, "They look like the 47ers". Now his style of comedy may not be for everyone, but his cute little comments at the right time are a nice change from the boring banter that use to fill the between-play air time.
In classic Dennis Miller style, he touched on some Monday Night Football nostalgia and then added his own twist when he proclaimed, "Start blow drying Teddy Kopel's hair, the party's over".
Isn't that just "Dandy".
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