To Sandusky and Buren, nightly sports is all fun ... and almost no games

Phil Jackman

April 12, 1991|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman: Apparently, a couple of the commercial channels in town, the ones with the double digits, have given up all attempts to provide fairly substantive sports reports on the late evening news.

While it's true basic cable stations do a superior job with their comprehensive half-hour reports on at about the same time, to completely brush off the local fan with rock 'n' roll music and a giggle or two is clearly dereliction of duty.

Tuesday night, Channel 11: In lieu of the National League baseball scores and three of four NHL playoff game results, a feature on an octogenarian jumping out of the airplane played. And once again Gerry Sandusky broke up the co-anchors.

Any night, Channel 13: John Buren "doing his thing," which rarely includes results much beyond those of the games he shows highlights from: "Yep, the Birdies will be back at it tomorrow night at the old ball yard."

Thank goodness Scott Garceau knows what the job entails.

* There's golf on television, then there's The Masters. Delightful.

It took a while to figure it out yesterday as USA Network took us to Augusta National for first-round action. Voila! The reasons this annual pilgrimage is something special, even for casual fans of the Royal & Ancient art, is the course is so recognizable after all these years and so are the names atop the leader board.

About the only drawback to yesterday's show, handled capably by the CBS cast of experts readying for network coverage tomorrow (3:30-6 p.m.) and Sunday (4-7 p.m.), was mention of that awful expression "three-peat" to describe Nick Faldo's try for his third straight green jacket.

Maybe I missed it, but it was strange no one mentioned Greg Norman's clubs were stolen in Florida the other day after he showed up with a 78 and is in danger of not making the cut.

For those bored with some of the time-honored names, amateur Phil Mickelson (69) and Jose Maria Olzabal (68) will be getting a lot of attention. USA resumes today at 4 p.m.

* Watch enough baseball on the tube and you have to like what CBS analyst Jim Kaat says about the National League adding a couple of teams: "From a pure baseball standpoint, I'd like to shrink the game, go back to eight or 10 teams [per league]. But we all know that will never happen."

Speaking of the network and the Grand Old Game, it's only necessary to hold your breath eight more days until CBS finally gets around to starting its baseball coverage. April 20 will see the Mets at Montreal as the main game with the Tigers at White Sox as backup.

* Once again, Bud Collins, the only TV tennis announcer with anything to say, has been adjudged the worst by respondents to a Tennis magazine poll. Which might tell you something about people who read tennis mags.

* There are right ways and wrong ways to handle things, right? Opening Day, Vice President Dan Quayle was on hand at Memorial Stadium to toss out the first ball. Channel 2 and WBAL had him in their booths during the early innings and, by about the seventh inning, he was helicoptering back to Washington.

Meanwhile, up in New York, the Mets were in a 2-1 struggle with the Phillies when Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.) horned into the booth for the last two innings. The politician is a pal of the guy who runs the cable outfit carrying Mets games and has done wonderful things for Cablevision on Long Island. What's a little back-scratching among friends?

* The next WWF "Main Event" on NBC is April 27. New to the cast is IRS agent Irwin R. Shyster (formerly known as Mike Rotundo) . . . The "Battle of the Ages" bout between Evander Holyfield and George Foreman next Friday will cost $36 on TVKO . . . Mary Carillo gets a sabbatical from the tennis players next year when CBS uses her as a skiing expert at the Winter Olympics.

* Premium channels on cable are supposed to be ad-free. But what do you call it when Home Box Office runs a half-hour promo show for the upcoming Holyfield-Foreman fight when its parent company, Time-Warner, also owns the company (TVKO) doing the pay-per-view of the bout?

* The latest in the two-year comeback travail of Mark Spitz plays "Wide World of Sports" tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) when the seven-time Olympic gold medal winner swims against freestyler Tom Jager in a 50-meter butterfly challenge (with a $30,000 purse).

As opposed to other comebackers, Spitz has worked for two years in hopes of making the 1992 Olympic swim team and, despite his age (41), he's given an outside chance. Tests show that he's stronger than he was while dominating in Montreal (1972) and his matchless mechanics are intact. They're swimming about two seconds faster in the 100-meter fly these days, however.

* The networks, ABC and USA, aren't getting the ratings they hoped for with the World League of American Football. And what won't help is the fact the New York/New Jersey Knights (0-3) will be on all 10 weeks of the season. Time for someone to put the run-and-shoot out of its misery.

* CBS appears to be blaming all its problems leading to the loss of 400 jobs and drastically reduced production budgets this year on its $1 billion contract with baseball. It insists it made a couple of bucks on pro football and NCAA hoops. Which means the average baseball salary will probably level off as soon as it reaches a million.

* Lakers at Trail Blazers tomorrow (Channel 2, 3 p.m.). It's a biggie as teams struggle for homecourt advantage in the playoffs, which allegedly begin sometime before Mother's Day. Knicks at Celtics Sunday (12:30 p.m.), but WMAR has Orioles vs. Texas at 3, so scout around for Channel 4.

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