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    How about them Stooges?


    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000

    Today, class, we're going to compare the three men in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth to the Three Stooges.

    That is not to say the three men are as dumb as the Three Stooges or that they're dumb at all. True Stooge groupies know there's more to the multilayered art of the troupe than just their dumbth.

    (If you're not into football or the Three Stooges, you're in the wrong classroom this morning. Robyn Blumner's lecture is next door.)

    On with today's pedantry:

    First let's examine chief broadcaster Al Michaels, who is the Moe of the MNF outfit. He's clearly the leader, the anchor. He holds the show together.

    Fellow commentator Dan Fouts, the one with the full beard and some actual playing time on his resume, equates with Larry. You get the feeling he's mainly there to make it three. The third stooge. He contributes; he's even essential to the mix, but he's always slightly in the background. A little downstage from the others.

    Then there's the Curly character (later carried on with equal effectiveness by Shemp). Although Moe is the boss, Curly/Shemp usually is the center of the action. A little upstage from the others.

    This is where the next man in the booth, new guy Dennis Miller, comes in. He is not Curly or Shemp. He's Joe Besser.

    Besser replaced Shemp in the Stooge lineup, you will recall, and it was all downhill from there. Besser always was a funny guy in his own right, but his style and personality just didn't fit the group chemistry. He was out of context. Sorta like Dennis Miller.

    I guess I missed the story on how and why Miller was picked to round out the crew in the booth. Was it to add comic relief, as in the days of country-boy ex-quarterback Don Meredith? Was it to appeal to non-football fans channel-surfing Monday night prime time?

    If you or I were choosing someone to fill that slot, we would have gone through dozens of names before coming up with Dennis Miller. O.J. Simpson would have been higher on my list. Soupy Sales. Martha Stewart. Ben Stein. Oprah. Wen Ho Li. Mayor Fischer. Marcel Marceau. Were none of these people available?

    I can enjoy Miller just fine. Definitely a gifted humorist. Hip to a fault. But on Monday Night Football his wit comes across as packaged, prepared material that seldom fits the situation. Is he reading off crib notes? No wonder they call it "ready wit."

    Also, sandwiched between the two seasoned sports announcers, he comes off as a giddy kid who has been allowed to visit the pilot's cabin. And finally, if I want a layman's opinion, I'll ask my barber.

    The positive side? For having the courage to give it a try, he's a far, far braver man than I.

    Of course, that's only my opinion. I could be wrong.

    Confession time: When I was a wee lad summering in Wildwood, N.J., I shot my big brother in the rump with my little bow and arrow as he crouched on the living room floor reading the Sunday funnies. The arrow didn't have a point on it -- just the blunt dowel- but it hurt enough to set my brother howling and Mom into her standard operatic "you'll put your eye out" speech. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. It got a big laugh when the Three Stooges did it.

    When I consider how many other kids may have emulated such Stoogian antics -- Moe raking a handsaw across Curly's head, double finger pokes to the eyes, pitchforks to the seat of the pants -- I'm amazed we survived to caution our own kids about avoiding getting shot with real bullets by their classmates.

    When last we spoke, I wrote about "loony laws," totally silly ordinances actually on the books in some places. Too bad this one happened too late to be included. In Le Lavandou, France, because of a shortage of cemetery space, they passed a law against dying. The situation is so bad, they say, some of the recently departed are rooming temporarily with other dead people in family vaults. Hope they like each other.

    I wonder what the penalty is for this particular offense. A fine? Jail time? Death row? Suspension of one's driver's license? House arrest? That might create a hardship for the family, especially after a few days.

    Do you suppose the punishment is harsher if it's determined to be a hate crime? Do you suppose a perpetrator could get time off for good behavior?

    Since the problem is full-up cemeteries, maybe deportation would be convenient, if not appropriate.

    A junior high principal in Eules, Tex., punished two eighth-grade girls for hugging in the hallway, saying it "could lead to other things." Right. Last thing we need in our schools is an outbreak of senseless friendship.

    The new, kinder, gentler IRS has decided it's okay for parents to claim their kidnapped children as dependents. I assume that's only if the abductor hasn't claimed them first.

    Underheard: "Viagra? None for me, thanks. What's the point in having lead in your pencil if you have nothing to write on?"

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