Live, from New York, it's Monday Night!

Dennis Miller's biting wit should win over even the dumbest jock straps -- as long as he doesn't give us Miller Lite.

By Jake Tapper

Published June 23, 2000 5:17PM (EDT)

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility that a lot of testosterone-and-Tuborg-addled sports barflies will greet the announcement of Dennis Miller joining the "Monday Night Football" team with the shudder that Hank Williams' ghost assumes every time his son sings that inane "Are You Ready for Some Football?" song.

You know the kinds of guys I mean: the ones who think Steve Guttenberg's character in "Diner" was too soft on his fiancie after she came up two points short in that Colts quiz.

But they shouldn't. Because ABC Sports hasn't had this much promise since it added that flailing "agony of defeat" Euro-skier to the intro of "Wide World of Sports." As Miller himself once observed on his HBO show, "The world of sports could use a shot in the arm, couldn't it? ... I just don't want to read about vicious brawls, random drug testing, salary squabbles or venomous court proceedings. For chrissakes, it's enough to make you wanna go to the front page."

I mean, after all, where on earth could "Monday Night Football" go after Boomergate? You think anything could be worse than that S-O-Esiason of a season we just went through, the season-long sight of that Dan Quayle-by-way-of-Cincinnati trying to wax triple-digits?

Last year's "Monday Night Football"? I mean, I haven't seen anything stick out that much as needing repair since Joe Theisman's last down.

Lots of folks wondered about the rumors that right-wing bloviator Rush Limbaugh would put the pig back in pigskin. To be frank, such talk didn't really even faze me. I mean, last season the only thing keeping me awake on Monday nights was the prospect that an unexpected downpour would hit the sidelines and melt away whatever Lesley Visser's plastic surgeon has been doing to her face.

Al Michaels doesn't need to ask that M.D. if he "believes in miracles," am I right? He must see the Shroud of Turin in every spent Kleenex.

Sure, back when Limbaugh was toppin' the scales at pachyderm density he felt free to rip Chelsea Clinton for being a "dog," and mock former Labor Secretary Robert Reich for a spinal disease that left him shorter than Verne Troyer. But at least with Limbaugh, by the second half I might still be awaiting his next clueless, wildly inaccurate observation with the same curiosity I previously reserved for Bill Walton's acid flashbacks.

I mean, let's be honest. After the past season, anyone who even remotely enjoys decent sports commentary is as hungry for anyone -- anyone -- new as Frank Gifford at a stewardess convention.

And what exactly are these jock straps mourning, anyway? The merging of sports and entertainment? If that's the case, they're about as hip to the facts as Dennis Rodman's next bride.

Because if you think sports has ever been anything to the networks other than ratings and money, then you're thicker than the layers of hair spray serving as the bizarre "Dry Look" membrane-helmet that protects Jimmy Johnson's skull. If you think -- during that last game between the Lakers and the Trail Blazers -- that the refs weren't looking the other way like a Chappaquidick police chief, then you're about as much on the ball as Bill Buckner. "Monday Night Football" producer Don Ohlmeyer would have the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders grab whichever Cowboys aren't currently making their way through the justice system and fellate them on camera, in 3-D, after each touchdown, if he thought he could get away with it.

I'm just happy it's Miller who was picked -- a guy with half a brain -- to join Michaels and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts. Sure, Miller's profiled a tad elitist in the past, mocking those of us whose jobs necessitate that we wear nametags or Chuck-a-boots, and now his audience consists of a lot of those same guys. And yeah, he can be as precious as Britney Spears' maidenhead.

But in a sport as shiny and flawless as the Texas death-row justice system, you've got to hope that a MacMurphy inside the cuckoo's nest might at least make it bearable for those of us who'd like to make it through a game without one of the players rushing the end zone in a white Ford Bronco with A.C. sitting shotgun.

As Miller once said about the sports days of yore, "There was a predictability to the equation then that was, in one word, comforting. The plot line read as simply as a "Spy vs. Spy" comic strip. Young man works hard, plays fair, becomes hero, gives back to fans and rides off into the sunset. Nowadays, young man squirts bleach at reporters, throws firecrackers at kids, becomes a felon and drives Porsche off into sunset.

"The math now dictates that Bonnie Blair trains hard, keeps her mouth shut, wins five gold medals -- five -- and she can't get a headband endorsement. Nancy Kerrigan comes in second -- once -- tells Mickey Mouse to go fuck himself, and she strikes the mother lode."

Amen, my man. A-fucking-men.

So welcome, Dennis. Don't pussy out. Bone up if you need to, and don't be afraid to lash out at the boardroom of Mr. Burns clones who are about to start signing your checks. Because if you bring your pointing-at-the-naked-emperors shtick to the masses, the masses will reward them with ratings, and in the end, that's all they care about. If not, you'll have as much chance of staying in that revolving door they call a job as did the Fouts-led Chargers of making the Super Bowl.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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