Sack Or Samba? The Monday Night TV Dance

Originally published on November 24, 2010 3:10 am

Unlike many men I know, I am not a compulsive clicker-type person when watching television.

However, this fall, on autumn Mondays, I haven't been able to help myself: I keep switching back 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 ying 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, Emmitt, Apolo, 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 godlike 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 tell 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") apart. They just pronounce the same X's and O's gobbledygook.

Whereas the judges on DWTS are all distinct -- and Carrie Ann is 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 showoffs. 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 foxtrot in high heels than a linebacker blitz in cleats?

And 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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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Jennifer Grey emerged, last night, as the winner in the 11th season of "Dancing With The Stars," and commentator Frank Deford was probably watching.

FRANK DEFORD: Unlike many men I know, I am not a compulsive clicker-type person when watching television. However, this fall, on autumn Mondays, I havent been able to help myself, I keep switching back 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 the yang, the dark and the 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 falls competition: Kurt and Ric.

I think athletes make such good dancers because they're, almost by definition, nimble of foot; they have good stamina; and theyre used to taking instruction.

Both shows also have three god-like figures presiding. On "Football," it is Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden, announcing. On "Dancing," 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 cant 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.

Jaws and Coach just pronounced the same Xs and Os gobbledygook. But the judges on "DWTS" are all distinct - and Carrie Ann is pretty, too. Len is very professional. 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 showoffs.

Bruno is very excitable. 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're ready to pontificate.

And 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. Im ready: its third and long and time for a double axel.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Frank Deford is always ready when he joins us each week from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.