Norm Macdonald, cockroach killers, and the Curse of Curtis Martin
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online

Ladies and gentlemen: Dennis Miller. He can do anything Boomer Esiason can, only backwards and in stiletto heels...

Pregame
The set-up: Miller discusses the rise in popularity of the West Coast offense, but admits to Al Michaels that he's a bit vague on the details.

The quip: "I have no idea what it means -- Horace Greeley invented it."

The read: Horace Greeley founded the New York Tribune in 1841 and as its editor became a crusader against drinking, smoking, gambling, whoring, the death penalty, and most famously, slavery. The first truly national newspaper, the Tribune became the benchmark to which American journalism aspired and Greeley the personification of the brilliant, principled editor.

Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley: fun with collars, but nothing else.
In 1859 the Tribune sent an Indiana editor, John Soule, off to California to report back in support of a transcontinental railway, and it was Soule who first penned the phrase "Go West, young man." However, the slogan became forever associated with Greeley and his desire to see the West settled, preferably, we assume, as a new utopia free of smoking, drinking, whoring, and gambling. Today Greeley's dream has been brought to life in such gleaming citadels of the West as Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Greeley helped organize the Republican Party in 1854, but in 1864 he opposed its re-nomination of Abraham Lincoln. In 1867 Greeley further distanced himself from public opinion by signing former Confederate president Jefferson Davis's bail bond. He later formed the Liberal Republican Party and ran for president against Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, but the campaign and the death of his wife destroyed Greeley's physical and mental health and he died shortly after the election. His funeral in New York City was better-attended than Lincoln's.

First quarter
The set-up: Dan Fouts described Wayne Chrebet as "not very tall," noting that Miller is taller than the 5-foot-10-inch Jets wide receiver.

The quip: "But you know, Dan, I'm wearing stiletto heels."

The read: The high-heeled shoe began to appear around the 1300s, as nobility attached wooden pieces to the bottom of their footwear to keep the shoes from getting dirty. In 1955, upon the development of a thin metal tube that allowed heels to stretch higher and thinner without breaking in half, Roger-Henri Vivier, a French shoe designer, introduced the truly high heel in Italy. These thin, three to four-inch heels were all the rage, and came to be known as "cockroach killers," "winkle-pickers" (for their pointy toes) and other, racier names that referred to the way the heels shaped women's calves and buttocks. The narrowness of the heels also led to their taking the name of the slender Italian dagger, the stiletto.

Stiletto Heels
Early basketball shoes, before they perfected the air bubble.
However, it required the skill of a Wallenda to move gracefully and safely in stiletto heels, and with the coming of the feminist movement in the '60s, the heels shrunk back to normal size. The stiletto returned again in the late '70s, as part of the female fashion uniform of disco and New Wave (see Donna Summer, Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry, or any girl in a Duran Duran video), though the shoes had never really gone out of style with street walkers, porn stars, and Tina Turner.

None of which fully explains why Mr. Miller is wearing them, but hey, this is the hip, new MNF.

Second quarter
The set-up: 49ers defensive end Andre Carter, an alumnus of University of California at Berkeley, came around the right side in pursuit of Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

The quip: "An interesting anomaly on that play: usually people who come from Berkeley go to the left."

The read: UC Berkeley, founded in 1855, distinguished itself in the 20th century with research into nuclear physics, chemistry, and biology. But it was the Free Speech Movement of 1964 that made the name Berkeley synonymous with left-wing, liberal causes and political activism, rather than cyclotrons. Frustrated with the administration's attempts to curtail the on-campus recruitment of students to leftist organizations, students held sit-ins and demonstrations, with 774 people arrested during one December 1964 sit-in. The unrest continued through the '60s, turning to such causes as the war in Vietnam and civil rights. In 1969 community organizers decided to build a "People's Park" on the campus, but the university quickly moved to reclaim the land. People's Park became the site of many clashes between protestors and police, which grew increasingly heated, then violent, over the next several years. Berkeley remained a hotbed of political activity through the '70s and '80s.

Third quarter

The set-up: Jets running back Curtis Martin left the New England Patriots in 1998 to play for New York.

Babe Ruth
Why doesn't this man have a "B" on his cap?
The quip: "It's almost an inverted curse of the Bambino: that [Patriots] franchise has been on a slow, downhill trend ever since he moved on…."

The read: In 1920, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold his star player, George Herman Ruth, to the hapless New York Yankees for $125,000 cash and a $300,000 loan. As legend has it, falsely, Frazee needed cash to finance "No, No, Nanette" and other Broadway musicals.

It was the best deal New York had seen since Peter Minuit got Manhattan off the Indians for 60 guilders (or $24). Over the next 15 seasons, the Yankees won four World Series with Ruth, and have now won 26 in all.

Meanwhile, the Sox, who had won five world titles before the sale, have not won a World Series since, despite having come close four times, only to lose the 7th game, often to dopey errors or just plain freakishly bad luck. (Even today Frazee's deal remains so reviled that each year Baseballpage.com gives out the Harry Frazee Award in "Celebration of Front-Office Incompetence.")

The city of Boston has taken several steps over recent years to exorcise the Curse. In 1993 they invited the families of the 1918 World Series team, including Ruth's daughter Julia, to a special Fenway ceremony and awarded them the commemorative championship pins the team never received due to cutbacks during World War I. And this fall Massachusetts officially recognized Ruth's retirement with a special ceremony in Canton, MA, once again with the 84-year-old Julia in attendance. If this doesn't work, next year they'll call in Max Von Sydow, and after that, they'll start sacrificing the virgins.


The set-up: It was reported from the locker room that X-rays of Jets running back Chad Morton's ankle were negative and the ankle was sprained, not broken.

X-Ray Image
An X-ray of the mysterious man with two right hands.
The quip: "Isn't it weird that when an X-ray is negative, that's good?"

The read: X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation with a very short wavelength. Since X-rays are scattered and absorbed differently by different materials, such as bone and tissue, this allows for the creation of photographic images, or radiographs of the interior of objects, including humans. Upon discovering this new invisible radiation by accident in 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen named it "X" ray due to its mysterious nature. The first X-ray photograph was of Röntgen's wife's hand, and within months of their discovery, X-rays were being used in orthopedic and dental medicine to provide images of bones and teeth. However, it would take almost 60 years for technology to advance to the point that X-ray glasses could be sold out of the backs of comic books to young men wishing to see through girls' clothing.

Fourth quarter
The set-up: Melissa Stark gave the usual injury report from the sidelines, displaying her new haircut.

The quip: "It looks like Missy's doing something a little different with the coif tonight, Al. A little flip in it like Watergate lawyer John Dean's wife Mo."

The read: Maureen and John Dean married while the young lawyer served as Richard Nixon's White House counsel from '70 to '73. John Dean opened wide the Watergate cover-up when he began to talk to federal investigators, and after a brief prison stint for obstruction of justice, he wrote his memoirs, "Blind Ambition." Meanwhile Maureen wrote "Mo: A Woman's View of Watergate" and later two steamy below-the-Beltway novels: "Washington Wives" and "Capitol Secrets." The latter is the 1992 tale of a congresswoman aiming to become speaker of the house, but who must first "stand up to the media's probing of her and her sexy young daughter's darkest secrets."

But wait, it gets better. Earlier this year that wacky rat-eating, hand-burning, "Miami Vice"-guest-starring Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy testified that the Watergate burglars were really looking for photos that connected Dean's then-fiancée Maureen Biner, to a call girl ring. The claim had been previously raised by authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin in their best-selling 1991 Watergate book "Silent Coup." The Deans let fly with lawsuits in both instances, but the Colodny suit was dropped and the Liddy suit dismissed.

However, it should be noted that in Oliver Stone's 1995 film "Nixon," the role of Maureen Dean was played by actress Donna Dixon, who is married to Oscar-nominated actor Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd got his start on a little television show called "Saturday Night Live" where he went on to co-host that show's "Weekend Update" mock news segment. You can see where this is going -- that's right, that very segment was later hosted by Norm MacDonald, who also appeared in the Adam Sandler vehicle "Billy Madison." And who else has appeared in an Adam Sandler movie? Brace yourself. That's right, "MNF" commentator Dan Fouts, in "The Waterboy." Coincidence? You decide.

Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.

Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld



 
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