The Annotated Dennis Miller: Hall of Fame game
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online

Pregame
The set-up: His readiness for this, his second season with MNF.

The quip: "I'm coming in ripped. Not only have I been bunking with Mackie Shilstone, but I also attended the Pete Newell Big Man Camp."

The read: To Shilstone, the New Orleans-based health, wellness, and motivational trainer and media figure who's made his name as fitness and lifestyle guru to professional athletes.

And to the former college and NBA basketball coach who for 24 years has hosted the Pete Newell Big Man Camp. Held in Hawaii for the past eight years, the offseason camp began simply as an informal one-on-one clinic with a couple of NBA draft picks. Today the camp is considered critical post-graduate training for many NBA prospects, particularly post players.


The set-up: The Rams' ruthless cutting of players during the offseason.

The quip: "Rams head coach Mike Martz looked at last year's defense and thought it was pretty offensive, so he ripped it apart like a 'raptor on a pork chop."

The read: To the Velociraptor ("quick plunderer") family of Late-Cretaceous dinosaurs, popularized as intelligent, vicious predators in the Jurassic Park films. Found mainly in Central and East Asia, velociraptors were bipedal carnivores, distinguished by a large sickle-shaped second claw on each foot. Most 'raptors were about six feet long and four feet high, smaller than they appear in the movies. In fact the Hollywood-ized creatures seen trying to eat various small children and Laura Dern in the movies are more representative of the 'raptor's North American cousin, deinonychus, which reached lengths of 13 feet. Also, most scientists believe velociraptors were probably not the super-smart pack hunters portrayed in the films -- there's no evidence they traveled in packs, and while they may have been brighter than most other dinosaurs, if you were smarter than the average ostrich, you'd probably be able to outwit a velociraptor. Which still wouldn't let Laura Dern off the hook.

First Quarter
The set-up: A shot of the bronze bust of Hall of Famer Earl "Dutch" Clark while David Bowie's "Fame" played.

The quip: "Something oddly schizophrenic about Bowie playing over the Dutch Clark bust. Seems like two disparate genres there."

The read: To Clark, who in the '20s became one of the most heralded football players of his day due to his stunning on-field versatility, which included playing both quarterback and tailback. All-American in '28, Clark became an all-sport coach at the Colorado School of Mines and played pro ball for the Portsmouth Spartans, which later became the Detroit Lions. The last drop-kicker in the NFL, Clark entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 as a charter member.

And to Bowie, who in the '70s became one of the most heralded musicians of his day due to his stunning on-stage versatility, which included playing both a spaceman and a French clown. Performer of "Young Americans" in '75, Bowie was inspired by mime and went on to play in Tin Machine, which later became a Trivia Pursuit question. One of the first glam cross-dressers in Brit-pop, Bowie entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as a clean-cut member.


The set-up: The XFL's first and last season.

The quip: "I want to thank Jesse Ventura for making me look like Ray Scott."

The read: To Ventura, the Navy SEAL-cum-pro-wrestler-cum-Schwarzenegger-second-banana-cum-mayor-cum-governor-cum-XFL-color-commentator.

And to Scott, the '60s Green Bay Packers announcer who went on to partner with Pat Summerall, broadcasting NFL games on CBS for 30 years and earning a spot in the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.


The set-up: The final, moribund days of the XFL.

The quip: "People were calling NBC and asking them to run the movie Heidi.."

The read: To the infamous Nov. 17, 1968, decision by NBC broadcasters to go ahead with the scheduled 7 p.m. EST start time for the featured film that evening, Heidi.. The classic family story aired as scheduled, despite the fact this meant cutting away from the final 65 seconds of the Jets-Raiders game, in which Joe Namath and the Jets had just pulled ahead 32-29 in an exciting game that had featured multiple lead changes and ties.

The Raiders went on to win the game, scoring two touchdowns in a nine-second span on a long pass and a fumble return on the ensuing kickoff.

In their effort not to disappoint fans young and old of the little Swiss orphan and her kindly grandfather, NBC had enraged a nation of football fans and led the NFL to revamp its TV contracts to guarantee that the future televised games would be shown in their entirety.

Maximilian Schell, the renowned Austrian actor playing Heidi's grandfather in the TV movie, went on to star in The Black Hole and John Carpenter's Vampires. Jennifer Edwards, the newcomer who played Heidi, went on to star in eight of her father Blake Edwards' films, including A Fine Mess and Son of the Pink Panther.

Second Quarter
The set-up: The upcoming MNF Broncos-Packers game in Green Bay.

The quip: "We're all having a sleep-over jammie party at Fuzzy Thurston's up on the tundra!"

The read: To the Packer's left guard in the '60s, Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston, a member of the classic Lombardi teams that won five championships and the first two Super Bowls. For many years following his retirement from the game, Fuzzy owned a local Green Bay tavern called Shenanigans, but recently closed it and opened a new establishment called, appropriately on several levels, Fuzzy's.


The set-up: Rams rookie linebackers Brian Allen and Tommy Polley, both alumni of Florida State.

The quip: "The seminal piece of information is that they're both Seminoles."

The read: To the adjective derived from the word "semen," meaning the originator, or seed, of later growth and flowering.

And to "Seminole," the Creek Indian name meaning "separatist" or "runaway," given to a Native American tribe originally located in southern Georgia and northern Florida consisting in part of runaway black and Indian slaves. In the first half of the 19th century the Seminoles fought a series of battles against the whites in what is now Florida. The first Seminole War was fought to fend off the recapture of black slaves living among the tribes. Later the Seminoles, led by the warrior Osceola, refused to move to reservations west of the Mississippi under the Indian Removal Act, choosing instead to hide their families in the Everglades and wage war on the U.S. government. These Seminole Wars cost the government dearly in both lives and money and established the tribe's legacy as a fierce and noble people.

Today the "Chief" Osceola mascot (the real Osceola was not a chief) of the Florida State Seminoles sports teams is often at the center of the ongoing controversy over the use of Native American mascots. Florida State officials say that all Seminole imagery and gestures are approved of by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.


The set-up: The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The quip: "The Vatican of the gridiron."

The read: To the Holy See, Vatican City, the center of the Roman Catholic world, located on the right bank of the Tiber River in Rome. The 109-acre city is the smallest independent nation-state in the world and is centered around St. Peter's Basilica, which was constructed in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 16th on the site where Peter, the first pope, was supposedly buried. The Vatican is also home to the Sistine Chapel, the pope, and the corps of Swiss Guards assigned to protect him. It has its own phone and postal systems, but all water, electricity, gas, and food must be imported.

The term "gridiron" is believed to have derived from the late 19th century observation that the yard lines on a football field made it resemble the sort of iron grids used to cook over an open flame.


The set-up: Longtime NFL groundskeeper George Toma, who received the Dan Reeves Pioneer Award at Canton.

The quip: "George Toma is to turf what Sy Sperling is to fake hair; nobody grooms it like Georgie."

The read: To the Bronx entrepreneur who compares his drive to create and test, on his own head, new and increasingly lifelike methods of combating male baldness to the Wright Brothers' passion for jumping off North Carolina sand dunes in motorized gliders. To further muddle the metaphor, Sperling's Hair Club for Men could be considered the Los Alamos of hair-replacement technology -- after pioneering the mass-marketing of hair weaving in the late '60s, in 1991 HCM introduced the replacement of the classic hair weave method with a new process called Polyfuse. Today Sperling touts the arrival of a non-surgical hair transplant that looks like real hair right down to the scalp. Having backed ourselves into a fairly tight corner metaphor-wise, we're left only to compare this to walking on the moon.

Third Quarter
The set-up: Co-commentator Al Michaels being "quicker on the draw" than Miller in making a "Gideon's Crossing" quip about Rams wide receiver Sherrod Gideon.

The quip: "You Jimmy Arness-ed me!"

The read: To James Arness, who played U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon of Dodge City, Kansas, in "Gunsmoke," the longest-running drama in television history. "Gunsmoke" began as a radio drama in 1952 with William Conrad as the voice of the stoic marshal, and the starring role in the TV series was initially offered to John Wayne. The Duke turned it down, suggesting instead Arness, who had appeared in several feature films with Wayne. Brother to Peter Graves, the 6'7" Arness was a decorated war veteran -- one of the first on the beach at Anzio, his right leg was hit by machine-gun fire, causing his famous limp. Aside from the Wayne films, Arness's most notable roles had been as the Thing in The Thing from Another World (1951) and as the hero of the giant ants epic Them! (1954).

Aided by his trusted companions, Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), and Miss Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), Matt Dillon kept the peace in Dodge City for 20 years, engaging in countless gunfights and getting shot more than 30 times. The series was almost cancelled in 1967, but was saved by CBS president William Paley, who decided to cancel "Gilligan's Island" instead. The last villain to ever meet Marshal Dillon in a gunfight was played by Gerald "Major Dad" McRaney on February 24, 1975.


The set-up: Rookie Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett's personal foul on Miami quarterback Mike Quinn.

The quip: "That hit was later than Godot."

The read: To the classic of modern absurdist drama, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1953), in which two tramps, Estragon and Vladimir, meet daily near a tree to await the arrival of the mysterious Godot, who never shows up. Within this existential artistic puzzlebox, which resolutely defies simple analysis, Godot is most often considered an allegory for God. From that reading, the tramps' patience, even in the face of Godot's absence and their lack of certainty as to his identity, could represent humans' willingness to suspend disbelief and endure misery while holding on to an ungrounded hope for deliverance at the hand of a supreme being. Or so we're told. We've never quite understood the play ourselves and have been hoping for a movie version with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon that will make it all much clearer.


The set-up: One of the broadcast's animated graphics.

The quip: "Beautiful stuff -- like SpongeBob."

The read: To the Nickelodeon cartoon that centers on SpongeBob SquarePants, a yellow sea sponge who resides in a pineapple at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In his city of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob lives with a pet snail named Gary, works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, hangs out with his surfer-friend Sandy Cheeks, and inadvertently irritates his neighbor Squidward. Not surprisingly, all of this makes much more sense to us than anything in Waiting for Godot.


The set-up: An offside penalty on Rams defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson.

The quip: "Of course Tyoka left the tour because he felt that Michael had priced the tickets too high."

The read: To the likely absence of Jermaine Jackson from two upcoming Jackson brothers concerts scheduled for September in Madison Square Garden to celebrate Michael Jackson's 30 years as a solo artist. Originally the concerts were to feature all six of the singing Jackson brothers, including the former Mr. Lisa-Marie Presley, but two weeks ago an open letter from Jermaine and Randy (the only Jackson brother not part of the original "5") took issue with the shows' high ticket prices. Seemingly as a result of this breaking with the ranks, Jermaine's name was removed from the lineup. Jackson major-domo Marlon issued the official statement "we wish Jermaine all the best on his solo career," which in show-biz speak translates roughly to "please do not let the door impact you in your hindquarters as you exit the building."

It is not the first time Jermaine and his brethren have parted company -- when the Jackson 5 split with Motown in 1975, Jermaine, who was married to Motown head Barry Gordy's daughter, remained on the label and was replaced by Randy in what became known as the Jacksons. It appears Randy, though his name was on the "ticket price" letter, will remain in the show, most likely out of fear that if there's another open spot LaToya might try to wiggle her way in. Time will tell whether or not Jermaine will be welcomed back in 2005 to celebrate Michael's 20 years as a complete and total rat-in-a-bucket nutcase.


The set-up: Sideline reporter Eric Dickerson interviewing his former Los Angeles Rams teammate and new fellow Hall of Famer, tackle Jackie Slater.

The quip: "Talk about a symbiotic relationship. Those two men went a long way to get the other man into the Hall."

The read: To a biological living arrangement between members of two separate species. There are several types of symbiotic relationship. If the arrangement allows both organisms to prosper, it is a mutualistic relationship. If one organism prospers and the other neither gains nor loses from the arrangement, it is a commensalistic relationship. However, if one organism is prospering at the expense of the other, the relationship is considered parasitic. The wry observations that present themselves about college roommates, significant others, and sports and entertainment agents are so obvious that we'll let you go forth and make them amongst yourselves.

Fourth Quarter
The set-up: Rams rookie defensive tackle Damione Lewis buying a very large house and property in Texas.

The quip: "That's Larry Hagman stuff."

The read: To the Southfork Ranch in Texas, setting of the prime-time soap opera Dallas (1978-91). Site of exterior location shooting for the television series and home to the fictional Machiavellian machinations of J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the real Southfork Ranch is located 20 miles north of Dallas. The original family living on the ranch when the series premiered soon had to move out due to the constant presence of fans and gawkers. By the mid-'90s Southfork had been completely converted into a tourist and convention site. The Southfork museum displays the gun with which Kristin shot J.R., and dining options include "Miss Ellie's Deli."


The set-up: A shot of the nearly-full moon over Canton.

The quip: "Wow, the Hadley Rille and the Sea of Tranquility. Buzz Aldrin ..."

The read: To the rille, or valley, located in the Apennine Mountain area of the moon, visited by the astronauts of Apollo 15 in late July-early August, 1971. A rille ("furrow" in German) is usually between one and three miles wide with the sinuous rilles, such as the Hadley Rille, cut by ancient lava flows to resemble winding river beds. The Hadley Rille is named for John Hadley, the English mathematician whose improvements on the reflecting telescope aided astronomical observations.

And to the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis in Latin), the large flat area in the northern hemisphere of the moon, and the site of Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin's famous July 20, 1969, landing. The Apollo 11 "Eagle" landed at the southwestern rim of the Sea, at a spot henceforth known as Tranquility Base (Statio Tranquillitatis). Upon surveying his lunar surroundings, Aldrin declared the scenery a "magnificent desolation." As he was born in New Jersey, we assume Aldrin knew of what he spoke.

Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.

Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld


 
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