It didn't take long for sports pundits to weigh in last week on ABC's selection of Dennis Miller as a commentator on Monday Night Football.
"The move was a sure sign that the TV landscape has changed since the halcyon days of MNF when Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford ruled the airwaves," lamented Bob Raissman, New York Daily News
"Looks like ABC's picked the one guy who could've sent even Howard Cosell running for a dictionary," cracked eonline.com's Mark Armstrong.
"In hindsight, Rush Limbaugh might not have been such a bizarre choice after all," knocked CNNsi Web site.
Not so, says Chicago Sun-Times columnist Phil Rosenthal. "If you watch ESPN, if you watch FOX, if you watch your local sportscast, these people seem to think they are stand-up comedians, so why not go with the genuine article?" Besides, he said, "they've got three guys in this booth anyway. The third guy is really irrelevant."
But FOX Sports Net's Keith Olbermann was less kind. "Somewhere in the great amorphous ethosphere, Howard Cosell is laughing his toupee off and anticipating how much we'll all miss him the first time Miller laughs over the punchline of his own joke," he said in his sports commentary last Thursday. Then, mimicking Miller's signature phrase, he added, "Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."
As part of the network's effort to shake up its MNF franchise, producer Don Ohlmeyer, who rejoined the ABC sportscast earlier this year after running NBC's West Coast entertainment operations, last week announced an almost entirely new on-air team for the show's 31st season.
Miller, known for his "rants" as the sarcastic host of his own HBO comedy series (one of his frequent targets has been ex-MNFer and Ohlmeyer pal O.J. Simpson) and a former cast member on Saturday Night Live, joins fellow newcomer Dan Fouts and veteran MNF play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in the booth this season. MNF also added two sideline reporters: former NFL running back Eric Dickerson and ESPN reporter Melissa Stark.
"I have one thing I'm never going to say," Miller says. "I'm never going to question a player's fortitude because, quite frankly, you look lame as a guy who never played the game doing that.
"I don't know what sort of intestinal fortitude it takes to cross the middle [of the field] with someone like Jack Tatum. So I'm going to try to stay in the background and ask questions that a fan might ask..I hope to bring some humor to this thing."
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