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SPORTS WEEKEND | T.V.-RADIO

Miller's Presence Makes Little Impact

November 24, 2000|LARRY STEWART

So how is "Monday Night Football" doing? Here's a quick report card:

* Al Michaels, solid as ever.

* Dan Fouts, even better than expected.

* Games, excellent.

* Production value, improved. Halftime segment on a player wearing a microphone is a brilliant idea.

* Ratings, down 6% overall but ranked No. 1 in prime time among male viewers.

Oh, almost forgot the other new guy in the booth.

Polls will tell you so many people want to see Dennis Miller come back, and so many don't. For instance, here are results of a poll by Bonham research: 53% yes, 27% no, 20% don't know.

There should be another category: Who cares?

There seems to be indifference toward Miller now that the hoopla created by his hiring has died down.

An informal vote at an L.A.-area sports bar Monday night indicated indifference. No one seems to love Miller in the booth, nor is anyone throwing bricks at the TV sets.

Some of his one-liners work, some fall flat.

He delivered this cliche during the Washington Redskins' victory over the St. Louis Rams on Monday night: "The Ram receivers are so fast that super slo-mo looks like real speed."

About Redskin quarterback Jeff George's passing, he said, "The guy is hitting the seams like Betsy Ross."

After the Redskins' injury-hampered Darrell Green replaced an injured Deion Sanders and the Rams threw a pass in Green's direction, Miller said of Ram Coach Mike Martz: "He goes right at Darrell Green. Makes Patton look like a conscientious objector."

Miller is neither provocative, nor outrageous. He's just sort of there.

Producer Don Ohlmeyer was quoted in this space last week saying Miller will be back next season.

The response: zilch. No e-mails, no voice mail, no snail mail, nothing pro or con.

THE TWO BEST

One of the things that makes Michaels so good is his ability to react quickly. When a Ram defender intercepted a pass on a two-point conversion attempt Monday night and took off down the field, Michaels immediately informed the audience, "That is just for show. There are only points [for an interception return on a conversion try] in college ball."

If there is another football play-by-play announcer that ranks with Michaels it is Howard David, who does the Monday night games for Westwood One radio.

David has a sharp, crisp delivery, and this season he has shown he can work well with two commentators, no easy task. And since Boomer Esiason and Matt Millen have learned to quit stepping on each other and instead play off each other, that team is jelling.

"This is my 30th year in broadcasting, and I've never had more fun," David said.

David, a native of Brooklyn, is also the radio voice of the New York Jets and Boston Celtics. He lives in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island.

Small-world story: Another pretty good radio football play-by-play announcer is Lee Hamilton, whose 85-year-old mother lives in Northport.

ANOTHER RUDY

In 1998, Matt Sarb of Chicago made the Notre Dame team as a freshman walk-on. In an overtime loss to Nebraska this season, Sarb got in the game on a kickoff return and made a hit that people are still talking about.

Sarb wears jersey No. 45, the number worn by Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, the walk-on immortalized in the movie "Rudy."

But the ties to the original Rudy don't end there. In his final home game against Georgia Tech in 1975, Rudy was one of four seniors who had never dressed for a game. The coaches asked four other seniors to give up their roster spots for them. Sarb's father, Pat, a second-string defensive back, was one of them.

ABC will tell this story in a halftime feature during Saturday's USC-Notre Dame game.

ANOTHER UPLIFTING STORY

On ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" will be a feature on Redskin rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington and his father, Michael, who had both legs amputated--one above the knee, one below--after being accidentally run over by a tank during the Vietnam War.

The Arringtons, in a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, are interviewed by Greg Garber. Ask about his father's sacrifices, Arrington says, "I couldn't . . . there's not enough time in this interview to express how proud . . . " He then breaks down crying and has to step away.

WEIRD CAREER

Matt Vasgersian, a 1989 USC graduate, this week was named NBC's play-by-play announcer on XFL telecasts beginning in February. Sort of fits in with his career.

Although Vasgersian started out doing minor-league baseball and now does Milwaukee Brewer telecasts as well as baseball for Fox Sports Net and FX, he also works on such shows as "Toughman" on FX and "Sports Geniuses" on Fox Sports Net.

A "Toughman" show with Vasgersian tonight at 10 on FX features William "the Refrigerator" Perry against wrestler Bob "the Beast" Sapp, who was cut by the Chicago Bears. On Sunday at 11:30 a.m., Vasgersian hosts a poker tournament on Fox Sports Net.

On "Toughman," Vasgersian's commentator is Lawrence Taylor. On the XFL, it will be Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

TIME FOR SKINS

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