January 28, 1991 12:00 PM

>ABC begins its broadcast of the NFL finale on Sunday (Jan. 27) at 6 P.M. ET from Tampa, with the Monday Night Football troika of Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford calling the action. Their presence is more reason than ever to hope for the boon of a closely contested Super Bowl, rather than the nail-growers we usually get.

All season long on MNF, Michaels, Dierdorf and Gifford got disconcertingly giddy whenever the score turned lopsided. The trio has taken its fair share of both praise and abuse, but no one has ever accused them of being funny, and when they start that “just three guys having a hell of a time in the booth” routine, the boisterous laughter rings painfully false. It’s a bad burlesque act put on by three straight men.

The not-so-hearty gaiety was not all their fault. The MNF schedule, especially early on, was extremely weak, with a lot of Moe-stomping-Curly sleepers, so the guys had hours of dead airtime to fill. (Bad teams in blowouts are a broadcaster’s nightmare.)

Still Gifford, who a few seasons ago seemed a likely candidate for enforced retirement, had himself a pretty good year. His observations were confident and timely, even though he continues to express them only in clichélets.

Michaels’s truest talent is as a baseball announcer, but once again he proved himself to be a man for most seasons. He was his usual efficient, prepared self, and when the trio got a crack at a play-off game, he wisely took over, dominating the microphone.

Dierdorf, however, provided neither enough color nor insight to distinguish himself. He has grown too fond of vacuous outbursts of enthusiasm of the “Boy, this guy is just some kind of ballplayer” school. He cravenly retreated from his only strong opinion all year: that Philadelphia Eagles’ safety Andre Waters is a dangerous cheap-shot artist. The second time the Eagles were on Monday Night, Waters hit a Redskin with a vicious shin-shattering shot on one of the first plays of the game, and Dierdorf was conspicuously mute.

Anyway, let’s hope the score is still close when the New Kids on the Block take the field for the halftime extravaganza on Sunday. Otherwise, we may be subjected to a frantic “old guys in the booth” act during the second half.



For the real superbowlaholic, these six 90-minute tapes include highlights (lowlights in a number of cases) of the first 24 events. The early games remain interesting for such marginalia as Kansas City Coach Hank Strain’s rambling rap during IV (when he wore a microphone) as well as the on-field dynamics. If all the tapes have an off-the-charts hype quotient, NFL fans are seldom known for their love of subtlety. (Media, $29.98 each or $119.98 for the set; 800-635-8273)

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