13 Ways of Looking at Dan Dierdorf

Among the many professional sports broadcasters whose voices filled the melancholy autumn Sundays of my childhood, Dan Dierdorf was the one whose words and demeanor consoled me the most. Dierdorf’s sympathetic, walrus-like face (low brow, bushy mustache, fangy smile) seemed to promise that ease and contentment were possible despite the long school week ahead.

Dierdorf was born in 1949 in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1996, Dierdorf himself was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I heard Dierdorf praising the sit-com “Two and a Half Men” a few weeks ago in the middle of a game. It happened during a network cross-sell moment—the kind I rarely notice anymore—when NFL announcers are forced to mention other programs on their home channel. Dierdorf’s on-air partner Greg Gumbel did the honors, reminding the audience not to miss the shenanigans of two mismatched brothers living in a Malibu beach house. Then Dierdorf took off: “That is a funny show,” he said. He went on, complimenting the sit-com’s sharp writing, Charlie Sheen’s keen comic timing, circling back to more general observations along the lines of “‘Two and a Half Men’ is funny, funny stuff.” On the field, as Dierdorf concluded his appreciative riff, a running back was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and thrown onto the turf.

Dierdorf. The name alone beats Nantz, Michaels, Buck, Madden, Engberg, and even Siragusa.

My mother always had a thing for John Madden. Not a crush, exactly, but she was a little sweet on him. She liked watching football games, and although she had forbidden her sons from playing such violent, high-velocity sports, she would often try to sit with me when I was rooting for my favorite team, the Dolphins. My mother wanted to cheer and shout and scream at the television just as I did, but I sent her out of the room whenever she got loud. I couldn’t stand it when the Dolphins were losing and my mother tried to warmly commiserate with me—her presence only heightened the disgrace. I was mean to Mom on Sundays when the Dolphins were on TV, playing the Jets or the Giants, the New York teams I was supposed to root for. My mother had to share her interest in football with someone else, and eventually that someone else became John Madden. This is another reason for my loyalty to Dan Dierdorf.

A kid like me could be won over by grown men who cracked wise. Dierdorf was funny, more prone to verbal mischief than the typical NFL analyst, sort of like a physically imposing version of my Uncle Marvin.

When I heard Dierdorf going on about “Two and a Half Men” that day, I felt a division in my soul. On the one hand, I wanted to give myself over to his enthusiasm, be the kind of guy who tunes in to sexist sit-coms full of canned laughs. Yeah, I could be that way—I could do that. There are legitimate reasons to do that. On the other hand, I was disappointed in Dierdorf. “Two and a Half Men”? Come on. You’re better than that, Dan. You’re smarter than that!

Dierdorf was an offensive tackle with the Saint Louis Cardinals from 1971-1983. He was All-Pro six times during his career. He missed two games in 1977 because of a broken jaw.

If I broke my jaw playing football, I would miss more than two games.

The interesting thing is that John Madden, with his potato face, his unruly hair, and his massive, microphone-engulfing hands, was not at all the sort of man Mom seemed comfortable with in real life. Instead, she preferred the company of slight, undemonstrative men who occasionally wore bow ties, men to whom she might apply the word “spiffy.”

Dan Dierdorf is approximately twice as spiffy as John Madden.

According to Wikipedia, L’il Wayne references Dierdorf in the song “Chain Hang Low (Remix),” rapping boastfully, “my diamonds big like Dan Dierdorf.” I have mixed feelings about Wikipedia, but if it’s right on this count, I will start to like Wikipedia a little bit more.

At least when Dan Dierdorf holds a microphone, you don’t feel sad for the microphone.

Read Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”.

Dierdorf doesn’t look too spiffy in that pic. He looks like a a bad guy in a James Bond movie.

— RolandC    Dec 19, 12:03 PM    #

I like Keith Jackson calling an Oklahoma-Nebraska game. I always feel like Dierdorf says every game has an “auspicious” beginning. Doesn’t he like that word (with a lisp)?

SneakerGrouch    Dec 19, 04:30 PM    #


Leave a Reply