Sports

Valentines for the National Football League’s on-air personalities: past & present

As expected, the NFL season has petered out in a weak ejaculate due to unrestrained hype, tense security measures, miscast actors (Stinkin’ jingoes!), poor coaching, anxious play, unimaginative camera work, and a well-earned, contagious indifference directed toward the whole sordid affair known as Super Bowl XXX-whatever. Now begins football’s off-season, an endeavor as likely to titillate and upset true gridiron fans as any in recent memory. It is time to crank up the old “coaching carousel” while waiting helplessly for your favorite team to draft the next Ryan Leaf. Sure, there will be changes made; few of them will affect the price of bottled Bud. Still, like the hearty and foolish dogs that compete vigorously against their will in the Iditarod, we continue to play the whipping game. Dennis Miller, however, does not play that game, homeys. He cracks the whip on the whipping-willed.

Dennis Miller probably will not be invited back to Monday Night Football for the 2002-03 season. Of course, I could be wrong. But Miller knows too much, and for this reason he will likely not be allowed to see his own shadow again in a broadcast booth. Critics have ripped Miller because he does his homework; he knows a lot about professional players, their teams, and cities. Additionally, he’s brilliant and hilarious. So was Cosell—he’s dead now. Dennis Miller, it seems, is way too much of a good thing for a League that still mines Pete Rozelle’s undergarments for good clues. Parity (not parody) and banality are in vogue again. If Miller’s ass does get kicked to the curb, I hope that he’ll leave skid marks on every pair of lips that have ever uttered the letters “N-F-L” into a microphone. Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, this would be a fine time for Mr. Miller to send a message to many of the voices of the NFL, past and present.

Al Michaels: Despite your bulldozing through on-air partners, like Caligula making his way through the 1st Fluff Regiment before Sunday brunch, you’ve become ABC’s velveteen mensch—a sacred cow with an extra ‘Miracle’ leg so permanently ground into broadcast booths, one would think Kofi Annon spotted for Rocco Silfredi when the screws were drilled home.

Dan Fouts: Watching you dry-heave sweet nothings into Al’s lap is like watching a pardoned turkey advise George W. to put our GDP up in a game of canasta against a pair of Taliban warlords.

Melissa Stark: If graduating from the University of Virginia with a double major in foreign affairs and Spanish makes you qualified to roam NFL sidelines, than I’m getting breast implants and extensions put in tomorrow.

Eric Dickerson: I wonder if the network brass would consider hiring C-3PO to distill your Gungan concoctions of phlegm, frivolity, and reverb—which fail to resemble any forms of the King’s English currently available on Earth.

Boomer Esiason: When folks would rather open their own mail than spend four quarters getting their eardrums mashed by a serial quibbler, whose best work lies within airtight jars of tasteless salsa, you know that you’re the shortest straw stirring the gridiron cocoa, cha cha—not to mention, a sure-fire candidate for the Asshole Hall of Fame.

Frank Gifford: Poor bastard. It looks like you’ve spent your twilight years as an unbuckled hostage, forced to speed-read San Francisco street maps, while riding shotgun next to Steve McQueen, looking for Shangri La in drive-thru pharmacies. Something tells me that with Kathie Lee as the current controlling moral authority over Cody & Cassidy, Oliver Stone might want to show up at the next Gifford’s Family Christmas special with a box of snowman cookies in one hand and a script for Natural Born Killers 2 in the other.

Chris Berman: Looks like the reports have been confirmed. There’s a new sweat hog in a manila blazer rumblin’, stumblin’, and bumblin’ toward a van down by a river near Bristol these days. Alert the Swami that it’s high time he returned the megaphone, hackneyed monikers, and big-top histrionics to the ghost of PT Barnum, who incidentally could use all of your ESPN Countdown cohorts in an 11-man, 4-lion, 1-ring ensemble to be billed as “Maiming Football Clowns.”

Dan Dierdorf: You’ve been to insightful football commentary what Jack the Ripper was to carefree walks in the park. That said, I still think that you would have nailed the role as Siegfried’s widow in Kriemhild’s Revenge. I just know that silent-film maestro Fritzie Lang would have died to have a mustachioed, Hall-of-Fame tackle to play that position. It’s just too bad that he didn’t have your number at The Money Store.

Lynn Swann: Being ostensibly replaced by Eric Dickerson on MNF seems to me akin to finding out in divorce court that the other man in your wife’s life is actually a sasquatch named Judy, who, according to terms of the settlement, will assume full custody of your balls for the duration of your public life.

O.J. Simpson: Trying to guess which gargantuan pile of O.J. Simpson’s dung you’ll step into next is like postulating how much dynamite Wyle E. Coyote will need from ACME next time he decides to immolate himself. Through your exploits, I can imagine how the good son, Gregor Samsa must have felt when he woke up one morning with tentacles, a coarse underbelly, and a hankering for rotting cheese. It’s your golf game, Juice. We just want to play through and get home without getting stabbed to death or run over, or…

Don Meredith: I can remember when the Lipton Iced Tea “Plunge” was the provocative stunt-dive to perform at community pools. That is, until Thornton Melon pulled off a “Triple Lindy.”

Fran Tarkenton: What penalty is called when a quarterback breaks from the pocket and scrambles around for easy money, before finally being brought down by the SEC for accounting fraud and financial reporting violations?

Joe Namath: Coming to Broadway in December 2002: 59-year-old Joe Namath reprises his role as a pantyhose-clad nincompoop, accepting a role in The Nutcracker alongside reluctant ballet newcomer Tony Siragusa as “The Mouse King.”

Alex Karras: Where have you gone, George Papadapolis? The child-support payments aren’t coming in and Ma’am is sending fanny-faxes to any lawyer willing to accept lousy sex in lieu of financial compensation. Needless to say, explaining your disappearance to Webster has been like feeding David Lynch plot lines to a St. Bernard.

Dick Enberg: “Oh, my!” What else can I say to a man who is best known for expressing verbally what Munch’s The Scream would not? Still, who could forget your work on Sports Challenge, when you played a perfidious croupier who bogarted smokes from ex-athletes, famous for forgetting their most memorable moments under the sun?

Greg Gumbel: Couldn’t you lose 50 lbs., adopt a sheepskin wardrobe, eliminate your brother, and restore dignity to your family name?

Phil Simms: One has to wonder how much of your time around the Giants locker room was spent in hiding? Between LT’s volatile, crack-aided eruptions and Coach Parcells’s relentless mind fucks, you must have felt like Mr. Pasty handling security at a Black Panther demonstration.

Joe Theismann: Bronzed and coifed to look like a candied yam at a White House luncheon, yesterday’s George Hamilton is today’s Joe Theismann. Lucky for you though, the Heisman was not named the Assman Award. You would have had a hard time finding a center willing to let a quarterback with SPF-5 tanning oil dripping out of his helmet and a name pronounced, “Th’assman” to call audibles at the line.

Howie Long: Hey, Howie! Hey, Howie! John Matuszak and Lyle Alzado just called from Valhalla. They want to know if you’re fucking Lois Lane? Alzado says that you probably just bought her a battery-powered dildo from Radio Shack instead.

Chris Collinsworth: I’m avoiding the ‘Noid.’ Now, can I get my 2 medium, 2-topping pizzas with cheese sticks, a 6-gallon drum of coke, and a Bengal-free football world delivered in 30 minutes or less?

Terry Bradshaw: Yet another member from the Cannonball Run family tree is conferred a star upon the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It shouldn’t be long now before Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing is dipping his stethoscope into fresh cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Why not? Never mind Robert Redford or Clint Eastwood. Somebody call The Shiek! What? He’s already got one? Fetche lavache! Can Theismann or Klecko be far behind?

James Brown: “…[O]ne’s got a weasel (Bradshaw) and the other’s got a flag (you!) One’s got on the pole (Howie), shove the other (Collinsworth) in a bag.” Might be time for another hot tub party, eh, JB?

Mike Ditka: Not since Bobby DeNiro played Rupert Pupkin has an American bad ass morphed into a buffoon so convincingly. Were it not for Uncle Buddy and his vaunted ’46′ defense treating NFL teams like an adolescent male’s sock puppet collection condemned to kung-fu gripping hell, you might have spent your So-Called, Post-Bear Life commandeering Handsome Cabs, while mindfully keeping the talent gassed-up with regular, loving spoonfuls of Beef-o-rino.

Jerry Glanville: What sucks helium, mimics Boris Karloff in a giant hamster suit, and leaves game day tickets for dead people? Maybe you can tell me after you jump off the pogo stick and get through playing “hide the Braunschweiger” with Ditka.

Pat Summerall: You know that you have less than six decades left in the booth when your new assigned interns are named Dr. Quincy and Mr. Whipple. You’ve become yesterday’s Addie Bundren, an accidental tourist assigned to rigor mortis, who took more unfortunate pit stops than Robert Downey, Jr. on his way to an Emmy’s ceremony.

John Madden: Can I really trust a hardware man who seldom wanders more than a few bus rows from his own lavatory? If you really want to help, offer limited, exclusive performances of your “Rain Man Discovers An Etch-A-Sketch” routine to anyone willing to follow your fat ass into a bus stall on any given day but Sunday. I’m tired of bringing my television set to the fucking cleaners every Monday morning just because you wanted to make like some kind of scrimshaw wizard diagramming Pop Warner plays on the greasy remains of a turducken carcass. It’s football, already. We get it!