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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

True Test for Miller Is Coming Sept. 4

August 04, 2000|LARRY STEWART

Imagine a theater critic reviewing a dress rehearsal. It rarely happens.

Then why has so much been written about Dennis Miller's dress rehearsal this week?

USA Today assigned seven reporters to cover Miller's debut on "Monday Night Football." It has been written to death. But what the heck, here's one more view:

Miller was a little stiff, and too much of what he said seemed scripted.

So he wasn't perfect. So what? This show doesn't need to be ready for Broadway, or even St. Louis, until Sept. 4. That's when the Rams play the Denver Broncos in the first regular-season Monday night game.

Miller did manage to show that he will be unique. Only Miller could have managed to work the pope and "genitalia" into a broadcast.

Talking about his approach, Miller said: "I realize it's a game many of you take seriously. It's not the Vatican, but then again, the pope doesn't have to go across the middle on guys like Ronnie Lott very often."

Talking about New England Patriot rookie J.R. Redmond, out because of a groin injury that required surgery, Miller said: "I'm not sure there's such a thing as minor groin surgery. Anyone has a sharp instrument around my genitalia, I'm thinking it's major."

Miller could have easily used the phrase "around my groin," but "genitalia" has more shock value, and that's why Miller is there.

HE'S NO ONE'S PAPA

If you haven't heard the One-On-One Sports Radio Network's "Papa" Joe Chevalier on the new KMPC (1540), check him out weekdays, 3-7 p.m.

You may not be that impressed at first, but he'll start to grow on you. You may not like some of his conservative viewpoints, but he often makes sense. For instance, he's for stiffer college entrance requirements for athletes, not more lenient ones, and he makes his case without being offensive.

Chevalier got into radio by first being a caller. But he was never a "Mayor of Poway" or "Cheesesteak Al" or some loud obnoxious wacko whose life revolves around calling into sports talk shows.

Chevalier is from Mount Lebanon, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb of 30,000. He's a journalism graduate from Duquesne. Miller, coincidentally, attended Point Park College across the street, but not at the same time.

Chevalier is older, but not much. Miller will be 47 on Nov. 3. Chevalier will be 52 on Sept. 12. The nickname "Papa" and his crackly voice are misleading.

He was a sports stringer for United Press International in Pittsburgh for 17 years. Seeking a warmer climate, Chevalier, a bachelor, moved to Las Vegas and began writing for gambling publications. In the late '80s, he was working the overnight shift in security at a casino, watching monitors. In his spare time, he began calling sports station KVEG and expressing opinions.

The hosts invited him down to be an in-studio guest, he ended up doing some fill-in work and landed a job at the Las Vegas-based Sports Entertainment Network, which later merged with One-On-One in Chicago.

When he first got his own show in Las Vegas, he used the Dixie Bells' "Down at Papa Joe's" as his theme music. A listener began calling him Papa Joe, and the name stuck.

Papa Joe, now based in Chicago, began a two-week stint at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott on July 31. Nancy Cole, KMPC's general manager, said she would like to have Chevalier based in L.A. permanently.

Chevalier likes the idea.

"I moved from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to get away from snow and ice," he said. "I'd love to get away from the snow and ice in Chicago too."

One-On-One's Jay Mariotti, the Chicago Sun-Times columnist who coincidentally is also from Mount Lebanon, returns to his morning slot Monday. He has been off the air while attending to his wife, who has breast cancer.

MEANWHILE, OVER AT 1150

Word is there are changes going on at KXTA (1150), the Dodgers' flagship station. Operations manager Mike Thompson is apparently out and Bill Pugh and Jay Meyers of sister station XTRA (690) are in charge. Thompson's voice mail said he is on vacation, and Pugh's said he was out of town. A KXTA source said the station is changing from the "guy talk" Thompson likes to a purer sports format with credible reporting and more sports news updates. One thought: It's about time. . . . Wonder what will become of Arnie Spanier? He epitomizes "guy talk." . . . KXTA has a weekend show you've probably never heard that fits into the new format. It's called "The Third String" and it's on Sundays, 7-10 a.m. The hosts are Sean McCormack, Dave Broome and Jay Craven, three friends who have worked together in radio sales. McCormack is now head of national sales for Fox Sports Net, Broome works in sales at KXTA, and Craven works for a sales agency. There is already talk of moving the show to a regular weekday spot.

SHORT WAVES

Game shows seem to be the craze, so why not a golf game show? Gaylord Event Television, formerly Jack Nicklaus Productions, and a Florida production company are developing a show, "Killer Golf," in which hackers will compete on virtual courses for up to $40,000. If anyone gets a hole-in-one, it's worth

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