Dennis Miller might prove just dandy

June 25, 2000|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Really, why all the fuss over Dennis Miller on "Monday Night Football"? Al Michaels will do play-by-play, Dan Fouts will provide analysis, and Miller will add levity. Sort of like Dandy Don in his prime.

Network executives are a cynical, detestable lot, and the hiring of Miller might be nothing more than a desperate attempt by ABC Sports to make "MNF" edgier than the World Wrestling Federation's "Monday Night Raw."

Still, producer Don Ohlmeyer had a point when he said that football "is not played in St. Patrick's Cathedral." Quite the contrary - "Monday Night Football" is played in prime time with the goal of attracting the largest possible audience, casual fans included.

One could argue that "MNF" did a pretty fair job of that as the third-highest-rated show on television last season. But with technology continuing to increase the number of leisure-time options for viewers, the competition is fiercer than ever.

Let's face it, the line between sports and entertainment no longer exists. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant cut rap records. The Disney Co. owns teams and networks. The Yankees want Sammy Sosa as much for his ratings potential as his slugging percentage.

Frankly, Miller's caustic wit could prove a welcome tonic on NFL telecasts. Imagine his comments when the referees blow a call. When some idiot celebrates a sack with his team trailing by 35 points. When Redskins owner Daniel Snyder starts throwing one of his petulant fits.

Rush Limbaugh also might have been fun, but his political brand of humor could have proved too one-dimensional. Can't you just hear him chiding a team for repeatedly running left, or questioning whether Senator Hillary roots for the New York Giants, even though they play in New Jersey?

Ohlmeyer spoke of making the show "relevant, accessible and unpredictable." Maybe Miller will satisfy that goal; maybe he won't. But what are we talking about here? Miller can't help but be more interesting than Frank Gifford. And the No Fun League could use a few laughs.

Speaking of "MNF," maybe it's a good thing that the Ravens aren't scheduled to make an appearance this season.

What would Miller say about Ray Lewis? About Art Modell? About Tony Siragusa?

Michaels and Ohlmeyer spoke breathlessly about Miller's football knowledge. But Dennis the Menace would be challenged to explain how the Ravens will protect Tony Banks with the unheralded Mike Flynn and Edwin Mulitalo as their starting guards.

On second thought, maybe ABC did blow it.

With Siragusa, Brian Billick and Shannon Sharpe, the Ravens might be able to field a better broadcast team than "Monday Night Football."

In case you missed it, owner Peter Angelos spoke publicly for the first time in weeks about the Orioles in a story that appeared in Friday's Washington Post.

Angelos said little of substance, but he accepted blame for failing to prevent mistakes that have occurred - a positive step - and said that perhaps he should become more involved in personnel decisions.

Where are Woodward and Bernstein when you need them?

The warehouse doesn't carry the significance of Watergate, but Angelos didn't address the questions that Orioles fans most want answered.

The problem here isn't with Angelos, who is entitled to speak to the newspaper of his choice, even if most of his fans live near this Beltway and not that one.

But here are five questions that are just slightly more relevant than Angelos' view of his place in Orioles history:

How far will the Orioles go to sign Mike Mussina?

Do they wish to trade Scott Erickson?

What assurances can they make B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick about their futures in Baltimore?

Why can't they overcome their differences with agent Scott Boras and sign Charles Johnson?

How can they fix their bullpen?

Maybe those questions were asked, but they were not answered. In the end, it's not what Angelos says that matters, but what he does.

The true answers will come before the July 31 deadline for completing trades without waivers.

And the final answers, as always, will be on the field.

From a business standpoint, how can Juan Gonzalez say no to the Yankees?

If he wanted to stay in Detroit, he presumably would have accepted the Tigers' offer of an eight-year, $140 million extension. And if he rejects a trade to the Yankees, he likely would eliminate them as a potential free-agent suitor.

His options then could include Cleveland if the Indians lost Manny Ramirez as a free agent and possibly a return to Texas, the path chosen by current Rangers Rafael Palmeiro and Kenny Rogers.

Then again, the Rangers traded Gonzalez after he rejected their overtures of a six-year, $75 million extension. Why would they offer him more now?

Gonzalez's agent, Jim Bronner, is seeking to extract maximum leverage, knowing the Yankees would need to pay a higher price for Sammy Sosa. But George Steinbrenner also has leverage, knowing Gonzalez might face a limited free-agent market.

The bottom line is that Gonzalez should have tried to stay in Texas. And now, it might be too late for him to go back.

Just to set the record straight, I blew it Friday when I wrote that the Orioles held an option on Bordick's contract for next season. The option was for this season, so Bordick is, indeed, in his final year, and eligible for free agency.

At the warehouse, I'd be cleaning out my desk.

Sorry for the mistake.

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