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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, June 24, 2000

What MNF needs
is flexibility

I had this nightmare. I turned to Monday Night Football and there was comedian Dennis Miller yukking it up with Al Michaels and Dan Fouts.

At first, I thought it was my TV set screwing up, mixing the channel signals from ABC and HBO. It wasn't.

Yes, it's really Dennis Miller. Boy, these Saturday Night Live guys sure get around.

Some people might think it was a cool idea of Don Ohlmeyer to go with Miller. I thought maybe it was because Chris Rock wasn't available.

The rationale apparently is to boost MNF's ratings, which have decreased in each of the past five seasons.

"It's not as special as it used to be," said ABC Sports president Howard Katz.

Of course, if Miller Time doesn't cut it this season, ABC can always go with its sure-fire ratings' winner -- Regis Philbin and have him host "Do You Want to Be a Millionaire?" at halftime on Monday Night Football.

I know, it could have been worse.

Ohlmeyer might have opted for Rush Limbaugh, who had been in the pool of candidates to join Michaels in the booth.

If nothing else, it goes to show you MNF's dire straights. Who would have thought it needed comic relief?

Obviously, the wise-cracking Miller is hardly the type to be a straight man for Michaels. So you have to wonder what insights he can bring to the table.

Fouts, a proven professional as a color commentator, will definitely be an asset. Switching ex-quarterbacks Boomer Esiason for Fouts is a good move.

If Fouts sticks around long enough, oldtime MNF watchers will start calling him Dandy Dan in fond memory of another dandy who once worked with Big Al -- Don Meredith.

Anyway, I hope poor Michaels, who's starting to thin at the top, doesn't mind working with two bearded guys.

I've heard of turning to a hockey game and a fight breaking out. But turning to "Monday Night Football" and finding a comedy show on is something else.

INSTEAD of playing musical chairs in the broadcast booth, ABC-TV could immediately help Monday Night Football with a change proposed before by some critics.

Don't plan out the entire Monday night schedule before the season and get locked into meaningless games.

Schedule the first five Monday night games. Then select one of the games not scheduled on the other networks for viewing on Monday night.

Last season, Monday Night Football had more than its share of clunkers: Atlanta-Pittsburgh, Oakland-Denver, Green Bay-San Francisco and San Francisco-Atlanta.

They looked good on paper at the start of the season. But with the 49ers, Falcons, Packers and Broncos all falling on hard times, many of the MNF games simply weren't unappealing.

The 4-12 Niners and 5-11 Falcons were each featured in three Monday night games.

While it was never on a 1999 Monday night for the two teams who eventually played for the NFL championship in the Super Bowl -- the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.

Another Monday night no-show were the Indianapolis Colts, another surprise team in the NFL last year.

Giving Monday Night Football an opportunity to select a "wild-card" game or two during the season would give the nation's fans a chance to see a surprising team without having to wait until the postseason playoffs.

What Monday Night Football needs isn't comic relief. It needs a more flexible schedule to avoid meaningless games.

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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