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John Walters
July 10, 2000
The big shakeup of 'Monday Night Football' has put Melissa Stark on the prime-time sideline
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July 10, 2000

Abc's New Stalker

The big shakeup of 'Monday Night Football' has put Melissa Stark on the prime-time sideline

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Melissa Stark recently fielded two heady offers in the span of three days. On Monday, June 19, her boyfriend, Michael Lilly, asked her to marry him. Two days later Don Ohlmeyer, the executive producer of ABC's Monday Night Football, phoned and asked, "Are you ready for some football?"

Stark, 26, accepted both proposals. A four-year veteran field reporter at ESPN, Stark's ascendance to the pinnacle of field reporting, working the sidelines for MNF—an assignment she will share with Eric Dickerson—was swift, in large part because she is young, attractive, composed on camera, attractive and obviously intelligent She replaces Lesley Visser, 46, who added energy and sparkle to the telecasts and had terrific rapport with players and coaches. But the same could be said of Lynn Swann, who was unceremoniously dumped in favor of Visser two years earlier. Telegenic Darwinism can be cruel, but that's life in the TV jungle.

Stark's biggest challenge will be to get a word in edgewise. During the 75-minute teleconference call to unveil the new MNF team, hers was the only voice among the on-air talent that was not heard. Al Michaels later promised her that her mute presence was no sign of things to come. "I hope not," she replied good-naturedly, "or this will be a very easy job."

Stark may never be as chummy with the boys in the booth as Visser was, but she has the talent to flourish on this grand stage.