ESPN's losses eventually will cost viewers

Phil Jackman

October 05, 1990|By Phil Jackman

The TV repairman:

CONSIDERING THE money it has been laying out lately to get into big-time sports live, and its resulting losses ($40 million on baseball this season), is there any doubt the inevitable is at hand and ESPN will be a pay service soon?

* An innovation Home Team Sports introduced during the playoffs last year, an itsy-bitsy camera mounted on the booths of the goal judges, will be part of its regular-season coverage of the Washington Capitals beginning with tonight's opener against Mario Lemieux-less Pittsburgh.

* How come they can play a spine-tingling ballgame of major importance and be done by 10:01 on an early October night when games in the middle of the summer often drag on to near 11 p.m.?

* Any doubts about who conducts the best sports interview and gets the most out of a hostile and rambling witness like New England Patriots owner Victor Kiam were dispelled in Bob Costas' favor during the Great Lisa Olson Saga coverage last weekend.

* Poor Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright, not to mention Dick Young. They must have done cartwheels in the graves upon being informed the National League playoffs go into recess this weekend due to college and pro football games on CBS.

* For a guy who was only average back in April, Ray Knight can match any of them when it comes to discussing the innards of baseball on ESPN. He was especially good the other evening during a White Sox-Red Sox game explaining how with the defense set for Wade Boggs to go the other way it was sheer idiocy for pitcher Melido Perez to throw a changeup. Later, while partner Gary Thorne gushed about injured Dewey Evans fighting back the pain to steal second base, Ray noted, "Now this is a hit and run . . ."

* Another guy who is a definite breath of fresh air from the usual ex-jocks cluttering up the pro football booths is former Raiders tight end Todd Christiansen. "There's that ridiculous football macho showing itself," said Todd as some lummox got his team a 15-yard penalty with an unnecessary forearm shot on the 1-yard line.

* After watching Pat O'Brien la-de-da his way through a segment on what football players do on their days off, it's apparent one of the producers at CBS is sabotaging the guy's career. A bunch of big guys screaming just as a teammate is in the midst of his golf backswing. What dynamite stuff.

* It will be interesting to see what the Buster Douglas-Evander Holyfield heavyweight title bout Oct. 25 does in the pay-per-view market considering a USA Network poll a few months back revealed that just 15 percent of the respondents favored such a pairing over Douglas-Mike Tyson (40 percent) and Tyson-George Foreman (45 percent).

* Hey, watch what you say to Stan Stovall. He won the Mr. Delmarva Physique title in the masters division last weekend and, still, Channel 2 insists he wear shirt and tie on newscasts. Marty Bass was entered but couldn't find the place.

* It's a joy to listen to blustery Bob Trumpy of NBC paint himself into a corner, then end up with paint all over his shoes as he silently slinks out of the room. Denver was dominating the game. Buffalo had no chance. He said it maybe 137 times. Then the Bills started scoring touchdowns, two, three at a time. "The Broncos will go on a silent count and there will be no problem," he decreed. John Elway fumbles. Buffalo recovers inside the 5-yard line, scores and wins. All in a day's work for Trump.

* One of the problems with the speed-up rules instituted by the NFL is sometimes they actually work. Case in point: the Giants-Cowboys game that was over in 2:27. Back to the CBS studio we went and the screwups reminded of those live afternoon shows in the late '40s. There was a quick shot of a game in Green Bay with James Brown saying, "The Packers have been erratic all day." Uh-uh, JB, CBS has been erratic all day. As some Packer plunged into the line we had Tim Ryan singing the praises of Ray Perkins and the "confidence" he has in his young team just as Tampa Bay was opting for a field goal on second down.

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