Miller time for ‘MNF’

Comedian, Fouts sign up for ABC's gridcast booth

NEW YORK — Are you ready for some ranting?

ABC has hired Dennis Miller as the third man in the “Monday Night Football” announcing booth.

“Football is not played in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun,” said Don Ohlmeyer, the producer of ABC’s “MNF,” in a conference call with reporters Thursday evening.

Ohlmeyer announced that Miller — the standup comic who hosts his own live weekly series on HBO — and National Football League Hall of Famer Dan Fouts will join Al Michaels as a three-man “MNF” team, backed up by Melissa Stark and Eric Dickerson as sideline reporters.

When a reporter asked if he was surprised to be chosen, Miller asked rhetorically, “Do you believe in miracles?” — a reference to Michaels’ famous comment on the 1980 U.S. hockey team Olympics victory over the Soviet Union.

Miller added, “I admire Don Ohlmeyer’s cojones.”

Tackling new subject

Miller said he’s confident he’ll succeed on “MNF’ because “I have a good trivia knowledge of football, and I’ll bring an odd, idiosyncratic list of quirky abilities” to the weekly broadcast.

After doing some run-throughs with Miller, Michaels said, “I was blown away by his knowledge. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of all of the players and knew about the histories of the teams.”

Ohlmeyer said the new three-man team will be “a work in progress because they’ll be getting to know each other’s nuances. You can’t manufacture chemistry, but I hope the three will be hitting their stride by October.”

To a reporter’s question about Rush Limbaugh’s well-publicized audition to become one of the analysts, Ohlmeyer said, “Rush was someone I considered seriously because he communicates so well with 20 million people a day. He came out and did a session with Al. But he has a commitment to do three hours a day, five days a week, on his radio show.”

Adding a Rush or two

Ohlmeyer didn’t rule out Limbaugh “doing a couple of guest appearances” during the season. Ohlmeyer said he originally thought of hiring Miller to do a “football rant” during one or two games during the season, but was so surprised at Miller’s grasp of the sport that they began negotiating about a full-time gig.

Miller said he’ll continue to do the weekly half-hour “Dennis Miller Live” series on HBO because the current season ends just before he has to begin immersing himself in football statistics for the NFL season. When “MNF” goes off the air in December, the new season on HBO will be starting up.

Ohlmeyer denied that by hiring Miller and Fouts to join Michaels he was trying to re-create the glory days of “MNF” during the 1970s when Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford became so popular as the announcing team that they often upstaged the game they were calling.

“You can’t re-create the past,” Ohlmeyer said. “The world is such a different place than it was in the ’70s that Howard Cosell wouldn’t be that outrageous today.”

Fouts, a former quarterback for the San Diego Chargers, has served as a college football analyst with ABC since 1997. From 1988-93, Fouts was an NFL analyst for CBS.

“The chemistry between Al and Dan in our workout sessions elevated each of their performances,” Ohlmeyer said.

Melissa Stark, a reporter with ABC’s sister network ESPN since 1996, will replace Leslie Visser as a sideline reporter. Eric Dickerson, the other reporter, is a Hall of Fame former running back with the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Rams.

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