Wednesday November 24th, 2010

Unlike many men I know, I am not a compulsive clicker-type person when watching television. However, this fall, on Mondays, I haven't been able to help myself: I keep switching between two shows, Monday Night Football and Dancing With The Stars -- or MNF and DWTS, as we aficionados know them. Surely this is the alpha and omega, the yin and yang, the dark and light, the heaven and hell of programming.

One second I am watching concussions, and then the next the paso doble. One second I am watching vulgar breast-beating after a sack, and then the next sweet hugs and kisses after a tango. Is this healthy, doctor?

Of course, what both shows share is competition and athleticism. Indeed, five of the dancing tournaments have been won by athletes: Kristi, Emmett, Apollo, Helio and Shawn. They just use first names in DWTS, like they do in Brazilian soccer. Two more athletes were in this fall's competition: Kurt and Rick. I think athletes make such good dancers because they are almost by definition nimble afoot, they have good stamina and they're used to taking instruction.

Both shows also have three god-like figures presiding. On MNF, it is Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworksi and Jon Gruden announcing. On DWTS, it is Len, Bruno and Carrie Ann judging.

Let me tell you, there is no contest here. The judges are so much better than the announcers. Much of the time, I can't even differentiate between Jaworski -- who is known as Jaws -- and Gruden -- who is called Coach, because everybody in sports who ever coached, if for only a day is forever known by the honorific of "coach". They just pronounce the same X's and O's gobbledygook.

But the judges on DWTS are all distinct -- and Carrie Ann is very pretty too. Len is very professorial. He wants the dancers not only to have good technique but to present themselves well. I wish Len could judge wide receivers, because they all present themselves as show-offs. Bruno is very excitable. No sports announcers are allowed to be like Bruno. He jumps up from his seat and screams, "That is wonderful!" and, "You are magnificent!" Only Howard Cosell was ever as distinctive on football as Bruno is on dancing.

Also, the dancing judges have to make decisions without benefit of instant replay. Jaws and Coach need to see stuff over and over before they are ready to pontificate. Hey, is it any easier watching a lady fox trot in high heels than a linebacker blitz in cleats?

Best of all, on DWTS, there is no scroll at the bottom of the screen and no statistics. It is nice and clean, the way sports used to be on TV.

Skating With The Stars started this Monday. I'm ready: it's third-and-long and time for a double axel.

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