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Miller Proves He's Growing Into His Role

September 05, 2000|LARRY STEWART

ST. LOUIS — You couldn't really call what Dennis Miller did Monday night a rant, and maybe that's a good thing.

Miller, in his regular-season debut, wasn't the star of "Monday Night Football." He wisely accepted a supporting role.

The game between the St. Louis Rams and Denver Broncos got top billing, and isn't that the way it should be?

In the booth, Al Michaels was the star, and Dan Fouts showed he might be on his way to becoming one.

"Al Michaels is the best there ever was," producer Don Ohlmeyer said after the game.

He then said, "Not a bad start, huh? If I'm sitting at home, I had a pretty pleasant evening. Good game, good replays, good announcing. But then what do I know?"

The graphics and pictures looked good, although the player introductions were a bit artsy.

"That's what appeals to the younger generation," Ohlmeyer said. He then asked his son Kemper, who will be a senior at Harvard-Westlake High, what he thought.

Kemper nodded in approval.

"See what I mean," Ohlmeyer said.

Simple mugs were used for the Bronco offensive linemen because those players, an odd group, refused to be filmed.

As for Miller, yes, he got in the way a little, but he wasn't as guilty of talking off the subject and forcing humor as he was during his three exhibition appearances.

Miller didn't have much to say after the game.

"I'm tired," he said. "It's pretty hard to screw up a great game."

Overall, Miller, wearing an old yellow ABC jacket borrowed from Michaels, did what he was supposed to do but also couldn't resist showing off his intellect.

When he said that Bronco Terrell Davis' ankles appeared "to have been wrapped like artist Christo wrapped the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris," how many viewers knew he was referring to the 59-year-old environmental artist?

Actually, Fouts made a better point about Davis' ankle wraps. He noted that both of Davis' ankles were wrapped as a deceptive ploy to not let the opposition know which was tender.

Miller, during the opening, had this to say about Ram quarterback Kurt Warner: "His debut was so preternatural last year one can only assume that he is a latter-day Joe Hardy."

Miller assumed viewers were familiar with the "Damn Yankees" character who sold his soul to become young again to help the Washington Senators beat the New York Yankees.

Miller compared the Broncos' Terrell Buckley to Jimmy Marsalis, assuming viewers knew Marsalis was a defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs who played in Super Bowl IV.

The big problem with Miller is that he needs an interpreter. Closed-captioning might work too.

But he'll also bring a smile to your face. Who else during halftime analysis would stop, reach out and grab a handful of Skittles.

Simplicity would serve Miller best. His best lines came when the Rams' Az-Zahir Hakim scored in the third quarter. "They don't need a football, they need a baton," he said of the Rams.

Simple and understandable. As was this earlier line: "The scoreboard operator may end up with carpal tunnel syndrome."

One thing is obvious: Miller isn't afraid to say whatever pops into his mind. United Airlines couldn't have liked this: "It's a good thing we're in the Trans World Dome. If it was the United Dome, the game would have been delayed an hour and a half."

Remember Miller's exhibition debut at the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio? He took at shot at his own company's finance department when he said, "The people on 'Survivor' have a better per diem. I had to buy a BLT with fur pelts."

Asked if there was any negative reaction to that line, Ohlmeyer said: "One group I'm not concerned about reviews from is our finance department."

Miller appeared at a pregame party wearing shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes. The only other people there in T-shirts were radio commentators Matt Millen and Boomer Esiason. No need to dress up for radio.

Esiason greeted and hugged Howard Katz, the president of ABC Sports who fired him. Esiason later shook hands with Michaels and the two talked.

"I like Boomer," Michaels said Sunday. "Our problems were over how we did the telecasts."

Monday night was a time to end old feuds and start fresh. And it wasn't a bad start.

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