Games should go on, but TV may pull plug

Phil Jackman

January 18, 1991|By Phil Jackman

The TV repairman: No one has yet come up with a good reason why sports events or just about anything else should be canceled or postponed because of the Persian Gulf (undeclared) war. Therefore, the people calling the shots for pro or amateur sports shouldn't be regarded as insensitive clods and subversives for carrying on.

Van Gordon Sauter, former head of CBS News and Sports, told The National yesterday, "Networks have a moral responsibility to advise the nation on any consequential actions in the outside world that would affect our society, and that includes breaking into sports events."

No one would disagree with this, of course. But when he adds, "We're not talking about business here," and you check out hour after hour of mostly inconsequential talk on the networks with breaks for commercials every few minutes, you wonder just how magnanimous the nets are being, given their lust for ratings and money.

With its Super Bowl telecast already sold out at $1.5 million per minute, it wouldn't surprise if ABC tried to slip Saddam Hussein a pile of dough to yank stakes from Kuwait.

* There's a surprisingly full and diverse sports menu tonight on the tube, networks and cable willing:

NHL All-Star Friday on Home Team Sports (7:30) will have the "all-timers" game and the skill competition. Then, at 8 on NBC (Ch. 2), it's the World Professional Figure Skating Championships, an event held last month at the Capital Centre. At 9:30 on ESPN, the Sunkist Invitational track meet goes for two hours.

Olympic champion Brian Boitano performs especially well in the figure skating and his efforts should be applauded as well as admired by viewers. Boitano, in the last two years, has been instrumental in the increased popularity of the shows to the point where they're making it to prime time.

"After the Olympics I didn't want to be in these pro competitions because they weren't serious enough," he explains. "People get bored with the same old stuff on TV. Now, with the skaters and the networks pushing it as a competition, not as an ice show, you can see interest has picked up."

* If there was any justice in the world, come the AFC title game in Buffalo Sunday (if it's still on), Paul Maguire would have an on-site speaking part. The usually unstructured NBC & 2/3 commentator was far and away the best listen during the quarterfinal games last weekend.

Repeatedly, he substituted worthwhile analysis for the customary cliches, such as when he bellowed, "Miami better get a fifth defensive back in there or start blitzing Jim Kelly or it's all over."

And as Miami back after Miami back got caught in his own backfield, Maguire said, "The Dolphins have to quicken their plays and get the back to the hole faster. The offensive linemen can't hold the blocks long enough under the present setup."

Nothing overly cerebral, understand, just good, solid listening.

Unfortunately, NBC will have a couple of ex-football players working the sidelines for Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh, meaning the only information we'll get out of them is that it's cold in Buffalo in January. Eureka! CBS will go with its proven tandem of Pat Summerall and John Madden at the 49ers-Giants NFC showdown and, after a game back in harness, Summerall should be back to his usual low-key self. Last week, he stepped out of character and babbled.

* Blast fans unite and, if you're not going to the game against Tacoma at the Arena tomorrow (3 p.m.), get everybody in the neighborhood to tune in the game on Channel 45. Play-by-play man Art Sinclair says everyone in color man Dino Mangione's family plans on watching, which assures a fairly large audience.

* NBC has the NHL All-Star Game from Chicago on at 1 p.m. tomorrow, but Channel 2 isn't picking it up because of its ACC package (N.C. State vs. Wake Forest at 2).

* If Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder goes through with his threatened lawsuit against CBS regarding his firing due to insensitive remarks, he doesn't appear to stand much chance since the network wasn't of a mind to renew his contract when he was let go. Actually, CBS had been looking to dump him for a year before the ax fell.

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