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IF ONLY THEY'D SHUT UP; COMMENTARY CONTINUES TO RUIN MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.

Byline: NORMAN CHAD / The NFL

It was a dark and stormy night. It was ``Monday Night Football.'' Yes, it's time for our biannual assessment of The Greatest Show on Earth, featuring Al Michaels, forever refined; Frank Gifford, family man; Dan Dierdorf, feet in mouth, and halftime host Chris Berman, cave man cometh.

Every Monday morning I can't wait for it to begin, every Monday evening I can't wait for it to end. For ``Monday Night Football'' is, at once, the most entertaining and exasperating three hours in sports television. No matter how good or bad the game is, each week it's the same story line for the viewer: looks great, sounds grating.

The overload begins from the very first moments.

There's that new Hank Williams Jr. thing - ``Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, Bring in Da Corner Blitz on Third-and-Long.'' (Hank doing hip-hop is like Betty Crocker doing haute cuisine.) Then comes Gifford's breathless on-camera opening, a video accident waiting to happen. (It's the Giffer vs. the TelePrompTer, and the TelePrompTer is winning.) Then, for the first time ever, we get an advertisement just before kickoff. (Why don't they just put signage on Frank's forehead and save us the commercial break?)

Ultimately, Lynn Swann's on the sideline asking a rather unnecessary and inane question to a somewhat distracted and disturbed head coach seconds before kickoff.

Then the game starts, filled with clutter and chatter and clamor. Gifford - who just broadcast his 400th Monday night game - sounds ready for a full-time move to infomercials. Dierdorf chimes in with obvious and oft-repeated notions; heck, Dierdorf's making a point at this very moment and he's a day-and-a-half away from his next telecast! Even the nonpareil Michaels is having an off-year (which, granted, is like a Barry Bonds off-year: .291, 40 homers, 101 RBI).

At halftime, I crawl into my fallout shelter and wait for the highlight hurricane to pass. Frankly, I never thought I'd see ESPN3 on ABC prime-time. (You say ``Chris Berman,'' I think, ``Yabba dabba do!'')

Yet, they've still got the game, which means they've still got the goods. So, for all I care, Al, Frank, Dan and Lynn can speak in pig Latin - I'm not switching over to Brooke, Sharon, Lea and Tea on that lame NBC sitcom babe block.

Hey, give me the boys in the booth over ``Caroline in the City'' any day of the week.

As always, the following point-spread picks should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager:

Packers (-11) at Bears: In a world gone mad, in a city full of bull, the woebegone Bears will get an improbable first victory, beating Green Bay as Kevin Butler misses the ball completely on a field-goal attempt and holder Todd Sauerbrun runs for a score on the game's final play (and remember - Butler doesn't even play for the Bears anymore). Pick: Bears.

Dolphins at Jets (-4): Sure, Jets are 4-2 because of Bill Parcells, but let me say this about the so-called ``Parcells factor:'' He's a very good coach, but so much of this stuff gets overblown. If Parcells scratches his arm, we're told he does this as some psychological ploy to help his team, when, in fact, he's just got an itch. Pick: Jets.

Panthers at Vikings (-4): I'll be honest with you - this Brad Johnson, I have no idea who he is, no idea where he came from, no idea what he stands for, but every time I look up, he's leading Minnesota downfield on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive. Pick: Vikings.

Eagles at Jaguars (-4): Jaguars practice Tuesday concluded with free-wheeling discussion of potential MCI-WorldCom merger. When The Man heard this, he had the same thought all of you did: Isn't Tuesday usually a light day? Pick: Eagles.

Colts at Steelers (-10-1/2): At the sports bar where I watch games, once in a while I'll hear a nearby patron shout out, ``Harbaugh's hurt!'' Let me ask you this - when exactly is Harbaugh not hurt? Pick: Steelers.

Giants at Cardinals (-4): The presumption of innocence is a sacred right in this country, but in regards to Arizona's 1-4 start, that Kevin Butler's looking guilty as sin. Pick: Cardinals.

Lions at Buccaneers (-6): What, you think Lewis and Clark didn't encounter a bump or two on the road to the Pacific? Buccaneers are still playoff-hungry and playoff-ready, my friends. Pick: Buccaneers.

Falcons at Saints (-2-1/2): I like the guy, but I've got two words for Falcons QB Chris Chandler: desk job. . . . New Orleans, I believe, is using the long snapper from ``The Longest Yard.'' Pick: Falcons.

Bills at Patriots (-9): Video has just surfaced showing Patriots coach Pete Carroll having coffee with Asian offensive coordinators. Pick: Bills.

Bengals at Oilers (-2-1/2): Astrodome used to be known as the House of Pain; Liberty Bowl is simply the House in Vain. Pick: Bengals.

Cowboys (-2-1/2) at Redskins: Mr. Aikman of Dallas is a money player; Mr. Frerotte of Washington is a soft-money player. Pick: Redskins.

Rams at 49ers (-14): Like most morning TV shows, Rams game films now feature a popular cooking segment. Pick: Rams.

Last week: 10-2-1.

Season record: 40-39-3.

(Lady Luck just doesn't smile on The Man, she goes to comedy clubs with him and yuks it up)

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO (ran in Page 4 of Bulldog edition only) Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford can be grating, but it's still the best thing on TV Monday nights.

Daily News File Photo
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 12, 1997
Words:917
Previous Article:DIFFICULT WEEK FOR CHIPPER.
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