St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on June 10, 1985 · Page 23
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 23

St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Monday, June 10, 1985
Page 23
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sportsextra 3C Mon., June 10, 1985 ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCa i J! By Bernie Miklasz Of the Post-Dispatch Staff here are several reasons why Dan Dierdorf drives around town with the receiver of a car telephone glued to his ear. The most important one is this: the former Big Red All-Pro lineman has become a human corporation. A power lunch waiting to happen. A 6-foot-3, 280-pound bulk of nonstop business. For starters, there is his new job. And his new home. And don't forget about his new restaurant. In the next few days, Dierdorf and his family will move into a new home in west St. Louis County. He says it is bigger and better. In the next few weeks, Dierdorf and former teammate Jim Hart will open a second restaurant that emblazes their names. The original Dierdorf & Hart's can't satisfy all the requests for reservations. And this fall, Dierdorf will begin his new job as a CBS commentator on National Football League telecasts. Dierdorf took the job after turning down offers from ABC and NBC. Imagine this contradiction in terms: a former offensive lineman in the big time. Well, Dierdorf was an offensive lineman, a member of that anonymous band of muscle-packed grunts who are supposed to be seen and not heard. And the former tackle now is somebody. Roll over, Joe Namath. "Dan is the No. 1 broadcasting prospect in the country," said Terry O'Neil, the executive producer of NFL football for CBS. "We feel fortunate to have him." There are other reasons why this tackle turned entrepreneur needs a car phone. Who could be calling? Many. Perhaps a producer. Dierdorf continues to host KMOX radio's sports talk show, Sports Open Line. He also puts in an occasional stint as the afternoon drive-time host on KMOX. Last winter, Dierdorf provided color commentary on broadcasts of Blues hockey. In the fall, he did some college and pro football games for the CBS Radio Network and was an analyst on radio broadcasts of University of Missouri football. He also provided the color for the football Cardinals' games on KMOX. Chit, chat, talk, gab, giggle, argue, expound, discuss, .report. Hello, you're on the air. Dierdorf jabbered so well that he soon became a commodity. As he raised his voice, network executives raised their eyebrows. "We have known about Dan's work for quite some time," O'Neil said, "but Dan has grown unbelievably in the past year or so. His work is very impressive. He has really developed." And so has Dierdorf s daily itinerary. You can reach Dierdorf at home, but don't count on it. He's there in the mornings with his wife, Debbie, and children Dan, Kristen and Dana Lynn. Then he hops into the auto for some business appointments and phone calls. The man makes more deals than Monty Hall. At night, Dierdorf finally returns home and makes a nest near the TV set. He studies boxes of videotapes of last season's NFL games on CBS. Not that he needs the homework. "When we look at potential talent," said O'Neil, "almost every candidate must go through several auditions. It wasn't necessary with Dan." The big questions: When does Dan Dierdorf sleep? Does he need a cue card to remember the name of the family dog? Does he find time to mow his lawn? "I admit I work the candle at both ends," Dierdorf said. "I like to keep busy." Obviously. And the car phone? "Like an ex-teammate said to me 'Dan, as busy as you are, you're never too busy to answer that car phone,' " Dierdorf said. "That's why I got it. I needed it. I'm on the go a lot." On the go like a cyclone. Let's see: husband, father, new jobs, new home, new restaurant, KMOX, Blues, Cardinals, Mizzou, CBS TV, CBS Radio, Sports Open Line, TV pitchman, video-worm, drive-time DJ, car-phone operator power lunches, bull sessions with network executives. Is there an area left undisturbed by Dan Dierdorf in the days of his retirement from the NFL? "Yeah," Dierdorf said. "I need to learn more about baseball." it it t Even while he was sumo wrestling with strongboys like Randy White during a celebrated string of violent Sundays, Dan Dierdorf often pondered his future. He was realistic. "When I first came into the league (1971), I saw some veterans who didn't have anything to turn to at the end of their careers," Dierdorf said. "And that frightened me. I realized how fragile an athletic career was, how even the most successful career can . come tumbling down like a house of cards." f I . - -'- - ?f r " ' ' '''' ; ' j ' ; . -' ! ' ' J : ; - j $ J.B. ForbesPost-Dispatch Dan Dierdorf answers a caller on KMOX's Sports Open Line. The former Big Red All-Pro is now one of the country's best sportscasters. Dierdorf s consciousness was stirred by a knee injury he suffered in 1979. It came after four straight appearances in the Pro Bowl, a gloomy intruder in the brightest days of his career. "Until then," Dierdorf said, "I thought I was immortal. The injury caused me to think. There was an obvious downside to suffering a knee injury. It affected my career. It probably robbed me of a few productive seasons. But there was also a good side. It got me to prepare for the after-life of professional football." Dierdorf already had taken some steps in that direction. During the mid-1970s high tide of the Don Coryell wave in St. Louis, Dierdorf and Hart began to host a Saturday afternoon talk show on KMOX. Later, the All-Pro quarterback and his All-Pro bodyguard branched out to a Monday night call-in show on KMOX. "It grew from there," Dierdorf said. "In the late '70s, I started to do some general-assignment reporting for KMOX. I began hosting shows instead of guesting on them. "I was making progress with my radio work. It became very comfortable. After I hurt my knee, I had a long talk with (KMOX general manager) Bob Hy-land. I expressed apprehension over my football career, and it was then that he assured me that I would have a job here at KMOX after I retired as a player. It gave me peace of mind." That serenity helped Dierdorf grow into his role as a sportscaster. He began to view it as a profession rather than a hobby or a way to earn a few dollars in the offseason. Dierdorf retired in 1983 after a rich, 13-year career with the Big Red. In his new domain, Dierdorf gradually developed an on-air style: opinionated, glib, quick to respond and not afraid to laugh at himself or the world of sports. "That's the way I've always been. I like to have a good laugh at whatever I'm doing," Dierdorf said. "Football like all sports is not life or death. The loser doesn't get fed to the lions. Sure, there is drama, excitement and suspense. But it's not enough to cause someone to jump off a bridge. It's football. Let's watch the game. Let's have fun." ' -tt -A' And the on-the-air execution of that attitude is what made Dierdorf the most attractive color commentator prospect to come down network row on Madison Avenue in a few years. CBS outbid ABC and NBC for Dierdorf s services this winter. O'Neil said he received applications from 25 to 30 current or former athletes this past year, but he called Dierdorf "the only true prospect out there." ' O'Neil likens Dierdorf s budding style to that of top CBS analyst John Madden, a former NFL coach. The boisterous Madden has the ability to make viewers feel as if they're watching the game with a gregarious, beer-sloshing neighbor rather than some slick expert who talks down to them. "Dan, like John Madden, brings the common man's touch to tM game," O'Neil said. "Of course, he appeals to the avid fan because he knows his football and can communicate ideas in a fresh way. But he also reaches the working man, the guy in the easy chair who can take or leave his NFL football. In an era of declining ratings, that's important. "I received a tape of his (radio) work from the Cotton Bowl game (last January). For two or three days, any time I was in my car driving around New York I popped it in my cassette deck and listened. I was tremendously impressed by Dan's sense of humor. There were times when he laughed on the air. It was infectious. You found yourself smiling while listening to it. "The ones (former athletes) who succeed are good communicators: they have the inherent ability to observe, synthesize a thought and then communicate it. Dan has that and more. He is fun. He is fresh." In his rookie CBS season, Dierdorf probably will work eight to 10 games. (His schedule still is incomplete). It gives him freedom to maintain a regular workload at KMOX. Dierdorf will continue his color-man duties on Big Red games on those Sundays when he doesn't have a network commitment. He will host some Sports Open Line shows, perhaps do more hockey or Mizzou football. "Whatever they have for me to do, I'll do," Dierdorf said. He will keep his hand in the new restaurant He'will spruce up the new home. He will continue to power lunch. He will wear down the batteries of his car phone. At 36, Dierdorf appears destined for national success. One thing Dan Dierdorf will not do, however, is forget KMOX. Or St. Louis. "I have learned a valuable lesson from Jack Buck and Dan Kelly, guys who do national assignments," Dierdorf said. "It's important to keep a base. I am extremely loyal to KMOX. And St. Louis will always be my home." Sometimes. For a man as busy as he, home is where the car phone is. ixw-i td-JLjS .j """ ' "" ' " ' " ':mmmm' : PI t Ej PURCHASE OR LEASE mm MO. 4 Ma. Clonrf bd Ind. To. Uc. I Tab. ToMl of hM 119.152. MOO IMgnfabb Scarify Qfxt 1 In Poymul Ow on Ptthwy. NO GAMES! NO GIMMICKS! 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