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By Kim J. Harmon



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By Kim J. Harmon


ow, I love football – I mean, I LOVE it . . . and not just because Sunday afternoon is the only time in my house when there is NO dispute about who is running the remote control. But even though I grew up on those old black-and-white NFL Films newsreels and my heart pounds louder and louder each week right up until the opening kick, I have been whining for years now that the NFL really stands for the No Fun League.

The NFL is so rigid in its rule, so inflexible. It has done everything it can – and this is why the XFL, the new league owned by the World Wrestling Federation, will do so well (at least initially) – to suck the life out of the game.

Alan Page, one of the ol’ Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings, in this past issue of ESPN The Magazine, says the NFL is unwatchable. I won’t go that far, but I do admit it might be sliding in that direction.

Which is why I greeted the new addition of Dennis Miller to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth with some enthusiasm. Much of the NFL hasn’t been fun for very long (I used to be able to watch any game, any time, no matter what teams were playing but right now you can’t pay me to watch, say, the Eagles play the Saints), but while the rotten play on the field has something to do with that, the announcers also have their hand in it, as well.

Now, I can listen to Phil Simms and John Madden analyze a game ‘til the cows come home, but it can get so hard when some of these other announcers treat the game with such reverence. It’s supposed to be fun, for crying out loud! Miller’s first comment this past Monday, right before the New England Patriots were set to blank the San Francisco 49ers, 20-0, is, “Hey, this isn’t the Vatican.”

It’s not. It’s a football field. And football is supposed to be fun. Maybe back in the old days of Jim Brown and Gale Sayers and Vince Lombardi and Walter Payton (with visions of that old Jim Thorpe bronze statue, the heavy rain coat draped over his tired shoulders, in your mind), you can speak of the NFL in hushed tones.

You can’t do that anymore. Sure, back then, when football was a way of life and those guys played because they had to play, had to eat, it was different. But now it’s just silly – especially when you realize that the players in the NFL are no different than anyone else. There are few heroes anymore. Just some good guys intermingling with a bunch of thugs and criminals.

Miller cracked wise a few times on Monday and went to some pains to set himself up for a joke (which is wrong – it should just some out naturally), but what he did was make the game seem a little more fun and lot less stodgy and boring than the old booth of Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf.

Al Michaels does a great job of calling the game and Dan Fouts wasn’t bad throwing in his bits of color and Miller – who, admittedly, was off on his timing – was amusing.

The NFL should be fun again. And now it just might be. Just judging from the performance of the booth on Monday night, I’ll be more willing to watch a late game this year even with two teams who don’t interest me. That’s how good it was on Monday.

And to that guy on WFAN who was whining about Miller cheapening the game and detracting away from the reverence we should all be showing to it, I say lighten the heck up.

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