Dierdorf Blocks Out Criticism as He Did Defenders


Dan Dierdorf realizes he’s not going to win too many popularity contests. He’s well aware of the criticism directed at him.

A clipping service sends along newspaper columns, and the post office delivers mail.

The criticism, generally, is that he talks too much, is overbearing and is too opinionated. A case can be made for these complaints. At times, he’ll take a point and beat it to death. He can grate on you.


Almost everything Dierdorf says on the “Monday Night Football” telecasts comes under scrutiny.

Last Monday, after he perseverated on the nonsensical topic of whether partner Al Michaels is 45 or 46, complaints came from viewers who said they’d have rather heard more about Brian Mitchell, the Washington Redskins’ reserve running back who played quarterback and led his team to a late touchdown in a game won by the Philadelphia Eagles, 28-14.

Dierdorf’s good points include a strong delivery, wit and a fair share of opinions that hit the mark. He drew considerable praise earlier in the season for his strong stand concerning Eagle Andre Waters’ alleged cheap-shot tactics.

Some viewers like Dierdorf, a former all-pro tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals, some don’t. Whatever, he is hardly deserving of a public lynching. Off camera, he’s a pretty good guy.

Unlike his on-air persona, he doesn’t come across as someone who takes himself too seriously.

And unlike Howard Cosell, a “Monday Night Football” predecessor, Dierdorf is popular with his co-workers. They hardly view him as an ogre.

Bob Wheeler, a former ABC staffer who worked closely with the “Monday Night Football” crew, said: “In my 6 1/2 years at ABC, Dan was one of the most popular sportscasters with the crew. He was always supportive of their work, always cooperative and willing to do whatever was asked of him.”

Before leaving for Miami, where he will work this Monday night’s game between the Raiders and the Dolphins, Dierdorf said from his home in St. Louis: “If I was just starting out in this business, the criticism might bother me.

“But I’ve reached the conclusion that if you have opinions and you express those opinions to an audience of 30 or 40 million, everyone won’t universally agree with what you say.

“The more opinionated you are, the stronger the response. I think it’s all a part of being in the ‘Monday Night’ booth.”

Dierdorf said he’s not trying to be another Cosell.

“I don’t see myself filling any particular role,” he said. “I’m not trying to mold myself into a Cosellian- type role. My style is just the way I am.”

Dierdorf says he doesn’t really crave the limelight. “If I was, I’d move to New York or Los Angeles, but I like living in a smaller city like St. Louis,” he said.

Dierdorf has three daughters and a 21-year-old son. His oldest daughter is 19, and the other two, by a second marriage, are 9 and 4.

In 1985, he and his wife, Debbie, lost 2-month-old Kelly, the victim of sudden infant death syndrome.

ABC took a survey two seasons ago to determine the most popular announcer on “Monday Night Football.”

Frank Gifford was the overwhelming winner. That wasn’t quite what ABC was looking for, so another survey was ordered. The result was the same.

“Hey, that isn’t exactly shocking news,” Dierdorf said. “Al and I don’t operate under the false assumption that either one of us is more popular than Frank.

“He is, and justifiably so, the celebrity of our group. He is such a decent human being, it’s pretty tough not to like Frank.”

Score, please: The pet peeve here about the announcing on “Monday Night Football” is you don’t get the score often enough.

It’s a common fault, but Michaels, possibly the best play-by-play man in the business, is one of the worst offenders.

It seems like such a simple thing.

Talk update: If Lee Hamilton of San Diego’s XTRA doesn’t end up at radio station KABC, is KMPC a possibility?

“There’s two chances of that, slimsky and nonesky, “ KMPC’s Jim Healy said.

A year ago, KMPC General Manager Bill Ward asked Healy for his opinion of Hamilton’s performance.

Healy apparently said something like, “What do you think is my opinion of his performance?”

Said Ward: “We’re satisfied with everyone we have now. We’re simply not interested in Lee Hamilton.”

A lineup of Hamilton and Healy in drive time would no doubt blow away KABC.

Besides being an outstanding sports talk-show host, Hamilton is also a solid play-by-play announcer.

College football: Often this season, the West has been deprived of an attractive Big Ten game while ABC shows a so-so Pacific 10 matchup.

That isn’t the case this week. While most of the country gets USC-UCLA, Big Ten country gets what figures as a dog, Purdue at Iowa.

Keith Jackson and Bob Griese will work USC-UCLA at the Rose Bowl, and they will be back the following weekend for Notre Dame-USC at the Coliseum.

TV-Radio Notes

Pro football this Sunday begins with the San Diego Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs on NBC at 10 a.m., with Charlie Jones and Todd Christensen reporting. The 1 p.m. game on CBS is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the San Francisco 49ers, with Dick Stockton and Merlin Olsen, and the ESPN 5 p.m. game is the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Cincinnati Bengals, with Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann. L.A. doesn’t get a fourth game because the Rams are at home. . . . The Rams fell 2,301 shy of selling out in time to lift the blackout . . . Oops Dept.: Last Sunday night, during ESPN’s 49ers-Dallas Cowboy telecast, Theismann made a crack about the replay official’s shirt being inspected by No. 60, because that was the number on an armband. Actually, the armband was worn in honor of referee Dick Jorgensen, who wore No. 60. Jorgensen died of cancer recently.

Name game: CBS’ Pat Summerall was actually born George Allen Summerall. Says Summerall: “Pat doesn’t stand for ‘point after touchdown,’ which a lot of people think. The truth is, while growing up, I lived with an aunt and uncle who had a son named Mike, and they called us Pat and Mike.”

On the Fox Network’s “Personalities” program tonight on Channel 11 at 11:30 p.m., 49er quarterback Joe Montana responds to reports that he never so much as sent a picture to his former high school coach in Monongahela, Pa. “I’m not the kind of person who goes around sending pictures out like flyers,” Montana says. . . . “NBA Inside Stuff” on NBC Saturday at 11:30 a.m. takes a look at a Laker Girl tryout and also visits with the Lakers’ Vlade Divac, who says watching “The Flintstones” has helped him learn English.

The second City of Hope/Eric Tracy Open celebrity golf tournament will be held Monday at the Braemar Country Club in Tarzana, with a number of current and former baseball stars participating. Tracy, a sportscaster for radio station KABC, said last year’s tournament raised more than $50,000 for the City of Hope. Information: (818) 995-7459.