Coach's Corner

Dennis Miller on MNF? Who cares? In other news: The Spurs and Heat are the NBA's big winners in the free-agent sweepstakes, and the Cowboys -- despite what you may be reading elsewhere -- will continue to slide.

Sportsfans, do you really care so much about Dennis Miller's rise to a broadcast booth? There are arcane elements buried deep in the Republican platform rivaling my interest in this saga, yet every day this is big news: in the newspapers, on talk radio, in newsmagazines, and on TV. A comedian's first attempt at sports broadcasting last week received more analysis and commentary than the two presidential candidates combined. I don't get it. My Sunday morning staple, ESPN's The Sports Reporters, normally a reliable barometer for real sports stories, spent its entire first segment critiquing Miller's performance in a July preseason football game -- a contest of less sports importance than an August pro-am at a Memphis country club. Is it only coincidence that ABC (MNF's network home for 30 years) just happens to own ESPN? Is it possible that ABC encouraged its monster sports child to keep pushing this story until it runs off a cliff? So ABC/ESPN chums the water with Miller, knowing this is how the monkey-see-monkey-do media operates and there you have it: a media feeding frenzy about nothing ... except buckets of free publicity for the network's ailing flagship sports product. Cynical? Not me.

The lavish media hype surrounding this "event" begs this question: Who really cares, the public or the media? I once had a talk radio show, so I well understand how any kind of a story -- particularly in the dead of midsummer -- is as welcome as Santa Claus barreling down the chimney on Christmas morn. But we're talking national media here -- folks presumably on the Big Stage -- not a sorry schlemiel trying to find something -- anything! -- to talk about other than Longhorn recruiting. Miller's broadcast took place over a week ago, yet people are still dissecting his every word as if Sir Winston Churchill himself came back to life to exchange witty repartee with Al and Dan up in the booth.

The attention loaded on Miller makes Junior Griffey's return to Cincinnati seem as pressure-packed as a movie date for a comfortable married couple. The media has shown it's fully able and willing to create an event all by itself (Monica was only last summer), and cram it down the public's throat. They concoct an event we're basically indifferent toward into something we feel we should -- must! -- care about.

Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. I do know this: I've never watched more than a few seconds of the biggest sports fraud ever perpetrated on the American public, the NFL preseason. I might reconsider if the Chargers announce that Tiger Woods will take 25 snaps against the Raiders. But short of that, I won't watch that crap just to grade Miller. I know Dan Fouts, who's also new, better learn how to use his inside-the-game knowledge to tell us something we don't already know. Otherwise a dragging telecast will be blamed on Miller. But enough. Let's get back to bitching about the heat. We can check in on MNF in October. This is their preseason too.

Time to grade the NBA's ballyhooed free-agent class. The big winners are the Spurs and the Miami Heat. The Spurs win because of what they didn't lose: Tim Duncan, the big fish of the free agents. The Heat went from a non-player in the free agent sweepstakes to a big winner. The addition of Eddie Jones gives the plodding, gritty Heat the speed, athleticism, and scoring they keep trying to squeeze out of a decrepit, run-down Tim Hardaway. No coach in the league gets more out of less than the puzzling ball of intensity that is Pat Riley. Now, for the first time since he left Los Angeles (it seems like a century ago), he won't have to manufacture every single point on garbage and muscle. Part of the Jones deal reunites Riley with the prototype of the post-Showtime Riley player: Anthony Mason. If Mase can be kept off of South Beach, and out of the back seat of Miami PD squad cars, he might be as big a pickup as Jones.

Parting Shots: The professional team with the most delusional media -- quite naturally begetting the most twisted, Peter-Pan-like fans -- belongs to the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboy statewide media persists (in the face of enough evidence to convince even Orenthal's jury) in their childlike parroting of the Jones party line that the Cowboys are simply the victims of bad coaching, that they're still only a player away from another Super Bowl. The speed with which the Cowboy media turns on whoever last year's savior coach was is astonishing. First Switzer, followed by Gailey, and next year it'll be Campo. Each hired beneath the Dallas hallow but now publicly crucified for their:

a) lack of intellectual credentials

b) play calling

c) dull schemes.

It's as if, if only Barry hadn't tried to get that .45 through airport security, or if Chan had let Troy pass more, The Boys would be going for their eighth straight Super Bowl. As if. The Cowboy fan (among the dimmest of bulbs in the fan light box) innocently accepts whatever excuse is hand-fed to them. I'll be shocked if the Dallas Super Bowl Express -- playing its weakest schedule in years -- finishes better than 8-8.

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