When Don Ohlmeyer took over MNF, with so far as anyone could tell the objective of driving ratings down to their lowest ever (that's what has happened), he unceremoniously booted 46-year-old sideline reporter Leslie Visser and replaced her with 26-year-old Stark. Even the barroom demographic was dismayed, for though Visser is a senior citizen by network standards for women, her work is well-regarded among sports nuts. Rumors swirled that Stark had been hired because she had two talents, if you catch my drift.
Instead it's turned out that: 1) Stark is not an airhead, her sideline reports are fine if run-of-the-mill, and 2) she is also not a bimbo—cute but hardly a bombshell. So if we weren't going to get a sex goddess, why can't we have Visser back? TMQ has received dozens of e-mails from fans convinced ABC is using "body shots" of Stark to emphasize her figure, opening the shot low as if the cameraman were kneeling in an erotic position, then slowing panning upward. TMQ has watched carefully for evidence of "body shots" of Stark and can report: They are being used, but they ain't workin'.
On the looks and bod scale, MNF's other new sideline reporter, Eric Dickerson, has more going than Stark. This surely Q-scores well with female viewers and certain XY individuals. But given that MNF's straight male viewers must still at least slightly outnumber its gay male audience, shouldn't the aesthetic emphasis be on the babes, not the studs?
Which brings us to Robin Roberts, formerly an ESPN football commando and now vanished into hosting Wide World of Sports. Jenna McKenna is wise to speak well of her. Roberts is nonyoung, unexceptional in appearance, and hands-down one of TV's best sportscasters. TMQ and about 48 million guys in barrooms would vote for Roberts any day.
Ridiculous K2 Survival Gear ? Victory: For the Flaming Thumbtacks at Browns (Release 2.0) game, played in snow, Cleveland coach Chris Palmer came out in a heavy parka, mega-gloves, a ski mask, and a fur-collar hood so tightly cinched his eyes were barely visible. Palmer looked like he was preparing to go EVA to fix the Jupiter ship antenna in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher wore a turtleneck sweater, a medium-weight jacket, no gloves, and nothing on his head. TMQ doesn't have to tell you who won.
All-Undrafted All-Pros: Last week this column featured its All-Waivers All-Pros. Now that the official Pro Bowl roster is out, TMQ adds an All-Undrafted component. Among the 84 players selected are eight who were never drafted and had to talk their way into tryouts: Darren Bennett (San Diego), Jeff Garcia (San Francisco), Larry Izzo (Miami), Chad Lewis (Philadelphia), Keith Mitchell (New Orleans), Scott Player (Arizona), Rod Smith (Denver), and Kurt Warner (St. Louis). Congratulations to these undaunted gentlemen.
Big Week for Harvard Except … Harvard grad Matt Birk made the Pro Bowl for Minnesota while Crimson alum Isaiah Kacyvenski intercepted a pass for Seattle. Harvard did much better in the NFL than the Supreme Court.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading 24-14 late in the third, Tampa had the Rams facing third and nine, down and distance favoring the defense. It's a blitz! Specifically an actual zone blitz (meaning a DL drops into coverage in the area the blitzer came from), not the "zone blitz!" announcers have begun to cry out whenever they see anyone rush the QB. In this actual zone blitz, 285-pound Bucs DE Chidi Ahanotu ended up covering Marshall Faulk, the league's leading TD scorer, deep to the end zone. Ahanotu almost stayed with him! Only almost. A 27-yard Faulk touchdown catch pulled St. Louis back into the game.
Hidden Indicator of the Week: On Sunday there were six late or overtime field-goal attempts to win or tie. Eerie symmetry: Two were good, two were bad, and two were blocked. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the sport. Unfortunately, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has no idea what it means.
Running Items Department
Obscure College Playoff Scores: Georgia Southern 27, Montana 25 (Division I-AA championship). Mount Union 10, St. John's of Minnesota 7 (Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, Division III championship).