Notebook: Dennis Miller was pretty good

The buzz everywhere last Tuesday morning was about Dennis Miller's debut on Monday Night Football.

I was coming back from a trip to Los Angeles that morning, and as I drove through the heart of California, it seemed that every morning talk show devoted a healthy amount of time to the topic and took listener calls.

So, ABC can check one goal off the list. The new broadcast team has definitely created a buzz.

The buzz was mostly good, too. Although he got some harsh criticism from the press, you have to keep in mind a couple of things.

First, sports writers tend to be sports purists, and putting Miller in the booth is about as palatable to us as touching up the Mona Lisa with spray paint would be to the art community.

Also, remember that all of us sports writers wanted that job, and giving it to a scruffy-looking goofball isn't exactly our idea of paying one's dues.

The fact is, Miller showed that he understands football. When he was hired, he told the press that he was going to be the "ultimate fan" in the booth, asking the questions fans would ask and making the kind of comments fans would make.

Miller stayed true to that. I can recall at least six or seven questions he asked, and Fouts or Michaels were there to step in and provide answers. They were good questions too, the kind I found myself wondering. It's refreshing - we've gone from know-it-all jocks that act like experts to a comedian who asks intelligent questions.

Miller's performance gave us the best part of watching a game. When I sit on the couch and watch games with my friends, I'm usually making some wisecrack. Few of us treat an NFL game like a trip to the Vatican, and that's a good thing.

This is going to start a trend. I still think Chris Rock would be hilarious in a broadcast booth.

Bottom line, ABC can call the first week of this experiment a success, and it will be great with a little polishing.

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

My notebook is getting full, so it was either write a column or rip out some pages...

- A side benefit to hearing Miller's jokes: Never before have I appreciated my college education so much, and that's coming from a guy who only understood about 50 percent of what Miller was saying.

- Prime example: It was hard to make the connection between blocking for Steve Young last season and having the Sword of Damacles hanging over one's head.

- Although, if ABC wanted to create a buzz: Why not pick O.J. Simpson?

- Trade deadline winners: Mets, Diamondbacks and Yankees.

- Trade deadline losers: Giants, Giants and Giants.

- Unless, of course: You think Doug Henry is as good as Curt Schilling.

- After one game, here's an idea for the 49ers: Give rookie quarterback Tim Rattay a nice, long look.

- Although I love a good rags-to-riches story as much as the next guy: The Rams giving Kurt Warner $7 million per year after one good season seems a bit like, well, the Rams.

- Sure, he's serious about not running for office: Steve Young spoke to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.

- Another explanation: Boredom.

- Again, we're ignorant, but: Couldn't the U.S. replace Pete Sampras in the upcoming Olympics with someone better than Jeff Tarango?

- Hey, we thought reruns were only for the summer: Everything at the Olympics is on tape this year, meaning you can log on to the Internet and get results 12 hours before it airs.

- One idea for lighting the Olympic flame in Sydney next month: Paul Hogan driving up the steps in his 2000 Subaru Outback.

- Lost in the shuffle at the MLS All-Star game: The 13 goals scored nearly equals the number of goals scored in the league all season.

- Weep for him, and blame that damned media: Carl Everett returned from his 10-game suspension on Saturday after head-butting an umpire.

- Teams that could surprise and win their league championship series: Athletics, Mariners, Mets.

- Teams that will surprise hardcore fans by not making the playoffs: Giants, Giants and Giants.

- One guy who never learned how to let go: David Cone.

- Sure, they defy the laws of both physics and baseball, but: The Oakland A's sure are fun to watch after the seventh inning.

(Jeremy Littau is the Nevada Appeal sports editor. Write to him at jlittau@tahoe.com)

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