Comedian Dennis Miller is back for a second season as analyst on ABC's "Monday Night Football," a year after stumping viewers with his obscure pop culture references.
Miller sprinkled references to literary works and old TV shows into his comments on game action, annoying some viewers and sending others scurrying to look up what he meant.
Miller said the initial fan reaction was mixed before improving as the season went on.
"They were very nice to me and they were kind of honest, too," he said. "At the beginning, they'd go, `I don't quite know what to make of you yet, but you seem to be making progress.'
"When they say something like that, the compliment later in the year means something to you. Toward the end of the year, it seemed people were relatively happy."
Analyst Dan Fouts, a former player,
emphasized that football takes precedence over Miller's references.
"What I tell people is `Don't worry about the ones you don't get. Enjoy the ones you do and remember there's a ballgame going on,' " he said.
ABC's decision to add Miller to the booth with veteran play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and first-year commentator Fouts was widely criticized.
"I'd only been to one football game in my life when I was seven years old, so I figured I better not drop that nugget on ABC," said Miller, who made his name on "Saturday Night Live" and also hosts a self-titled talk show on HBO.
"Dennis fit in magnificently as far as I'm concerned because he cares about it," Michaels said. "He knew this wasn't going to be `Dennis Miller Live' on HBO.' "
Miller said his nerves had disappeared by the end of the season.
"At the beginning of the season I was scared because I didn't how hard it was going to be and at the end of the year, I was scared because I knew how hard it was," he said. "By end of the year, I can honestly say I savored showing up for the game, I was excited."
Miller compared his job to that of an air-traffic controller, knowing when to talk and when to be quiet among three people in the booth.
"You've got to think, Al has got to get the info out, so watch out there. Dan knows football and I don't, so watch out there," he said. "It's a crazy job."
Miller said players and coaches initially kept him at arm's length.
"They want to know that you treat what they do seriously, so you're not given the keys at first," he said. "I think they want to see that you're not going to question idiotic things that you know nothing about. Once you prove to them that you're just going to try to do your job, they let you in eventually."
Miller said Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was the first to speak kindly of him. "I thanked him profusely down the road," he said.
"Monday Night Football" begins its season Sept. 10 with a game between the Giants and Broncos in Denver's new football stadium.
Fred Gaudelli takes over as producer after 10 years producing ESPN's Sunday night football games. Sideline reporters Eric Dickerson and Melissa Stark both return for their second seasons.
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