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Football, Academically Speaking.

Comedian Dennis Miller's often lofty and cerebral performances as the new guy on ABC's "Monday Night Football" have earned him quite a few negative reviews. As is his shtick, Miller adds Trivial Pursuit-ish references to his color commentating, and many in the press aren't impressed by the un-football-like behavior.

But one Web site has capitalized on the high-minded talk to offer a helpful guide to puzzled fans: Britannica.com, as is fitting, draws upon its wealth of resources to explain, in excruciating detail, Miller's quips in its feature, "The Annotated Dennis Miller."

"It just sort of bubbled up naturally," the guide's author, Locke Peterseim, says of the idea. Peterseim, coeditor of the arts and entertainment section, provides a finely detailed history of the obscure references and then offers a "What Miller might have meant" section, designed to poke fun at the comedian's comments. The history can be as humorous--or more so--than the analysis, which can be as off-the-wall as MNF's new commentator. Readers seem to enjoy it, Peterseim says.

"You think Britannica, you think leather bound," he says. "We're trying to inject a little bit more of levity and have some fun with this stuff...make it more engaging."

For example:

WEEK FIVE (OCTOBER 2): SEAHAWKS AT CHIEFS

Referring to: Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones.

Miller said: "He was raised in Carrotown, Ala., so you know he has good peripheral vision."

The reference: To the edible root of the plant of the Apiaceae family, native to Afghanistan and cultivated in the Mediterranean area more than 2,000 years ago. The orange carrots are rich in beta carotene, a source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a component of visual purple, a pigment-bearing chromoprotein, which accounts for carrots' and other vegetables' bright colors. Ingestion of vitamin A can help improve vision, as visual purple is part of the light-sensitive rod cells in the retina of the eye, helping the eye adapt to dim light, hence the belief that eating carrots can improve one's night vision.

What Miller might have meant: While it may improve night vision, vitamin A does nothing for your peripheral vision. However, what will improve your peripheral vision is walking around with two pickup truck rearview mirrors duct taped to your forehead.

WEEK THREE (SEPTEMBER 18): COWBOYS AT REDSKINS

Referring to: Ray Rhodes, Washington's defensive coordinator, fiercely masticating in the Redskins' booth.

Miller said: "Ray is workin' that thermalmandibular joint tonight."

The reference: He probably meant the hingelike temporomandibular joint, where the jawbone meets the lower skull, or temporal bone. It is aggravation of this area due to injury, overstretching, grinding, stress, or arthritis that can lead to the painful Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ).

What Miller might have meant: Being the defensive coordinator for a team whose owner has spent millions in an attempt to buy his way to the Super Bowl can be a little stressful, so it's best to keep your jaw relaxed and flexible. Rhodes seems to accomplish this by mauling an enormous wad of Big League Chew shredded bubble gum. (Exactly the wrong thing to do for TMJ.)

WEEK TWO (SEPTEMBER 11): PATRIOTS AT JETS

Referring to: Pats wide receiver Chris Calloway taking a hard tackle from Jets defensive back Victor Green following a catch:

Miller said: "You know Calloway's nickname is 'Cab' and Vic Green just hailed him."

The reference: While technically referring to the act of "hailing" or calling from the curb for a "cab," or taxi, the joke is a play on Calloway's nickname. Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (1907-94) was a beloved bandleader, best known for his composition and performance of "Minnie the Moocher," with its "hi-de-hi-de-ho" refrain. The slang term "cab" for a taxi derives from the 18th-century French cabriolet, a horse-drawn carriage with only two wheels.

What Miller might have meant: Perhaps Vic Green only wanted to take Calloway aside for a rousing sideline rendition of "Minnie the Moocher," but his enthusiasm got the better of him.

Referring to: [Patriots quarterback Drew] Bledsoe's growing performance problems in recent seasons:

Miller said: "You know Bledsoe's whole world is in flux--he's getting sacked when he didn't used to get sacked, he's seeing his tight end drop passes...it's koyaanisqatsi, Hopi Indian word for 'life out of balance.'"

The reference: The Hopi word made its way into the public consciousness in 1983 with Godfrey Reggio's postmodern, pseudo-psychedelic film Koyaanisqatsi, which used dialogueless time-lapse photography of modern cities, set to Philip Glass's minimalist score, to underscore the environmental theme of modern existence being pushed out of balance with nature. Reggio followed it in 1988 with Powaqqatsi (life in transformation) and plans to release Naqoyqatsi (life at war) in 2002.

What Miller might have meant: Maybe Bledsoe is a big fan of conceptual cinema and minimalist opera. (Yeah, Miller can pronouce "koyaanisqatsi," but how about "naqoyqatsi"?)
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Author:Robertson, Lori
Publication:American Journalism Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Words:802
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