Palmer shows his stuff when Olson's was lacking

Phil Jackman

August 02, 1991|By Phil Jackman

It was one of those Orioles telecasts we've been seeing a lot of lately: The other team (Seattle) was just about to break into double figures in scoring and at least one of the voices in the Channel 2 booth was having trouble staying awake.

Suddenly, Jim Palmer took off. The subject of his treatise was Gregg Olson and it was vintage stuff. He spoke of motivation, obligation and resolve, not only in the relief pitcher but in all ballplayers.

"It's a question of how good a player wants to be," said Palmer of the pitcher who, in a tough year, has become lax in his ways. "Everybody has to make changes and adjustments to improve. It's what a good ballplayer becoming a great one is all about."

It's a talk that perhaps the ex-pitcher should have with the current pitcher. At the same time, it served to remind of how good Palmer can be on occasion . . . and how much better he would be at this stage if he had done some radio play-by-play by now and further honed his communication skills.

* Here ABC's 20 hours of coverage of the Pan American Games in Havana hasn't even begun yet (tomorrow, 1-3 p.m.) and Brent Musburger has pulled an "Ugly American" stunt already. Even in good times, times are tough in Fidel Castro's dream of returning Cuba to the fourth century and everybody knows that. Still Brent, a guest, takes his shot.

The host anchor, in a call to his publicity arm, USA Today, railed about '51 Chevys motoring through the streets (they don't make 'em like they used to), the lack of hot water in the hotel, crabgrass in the main stadium infield, food shortages and the failing spirit of the people. Which is all true, of course, but the timing of Musburger's remarks is questionable.

Tomorrow, the net has a U.S. men's basketball game at 1 p.m., then, at 4:30, diving and gymnastics. Sunday is a hodge-podge as are shows Aug. 10-11-17-18 because, although a lot of the competition is of high quality, the Games simply do not have enough events to carry over 16 days.

* Hip-hip-hooray for college football narrowing the goalposts nearly five feet to 18 feet 6. Anything to cut down the plethora of field goals (and attempts) that are trivializing the tenets of the game -- blocking, tackling, running -- is fine. If they're looking for a place for the unused five feet, add it to the three-point circle in hoops.

* One of the great cutaways in network history was turned in by ABC last weekend at the U.S. Seniors Open outside Detroit. Fairly close to the Oakland Hills site is a restaurant called the Red Fox Inn and, to accompanying pictures and music, the announcer told us that this is where labor leader Jimmy Hoffa went to lunch several years ago: "Afterward, he went to the parking lot and was never seen again."

Almost as bad was a station in Los Angeles bringing in an entertainer for a little post-baseball All-Star Game banter in the studio and the guy explaining National League catcher Benito Santiago's 09 jersey number thusly: "He's one of the few players gracious enough to wear his IQ on his jersey."

* A show that should be rerun for wider public consumption is The Learning Channel's "Spirit of Place," which dealt with Massilon, Ohio's, scary obsession with its high school football team. While most of the townfolk yelped about their Tigers being more important than life, one gentleman complained, "We have a beautiful stadium but not a beautiful high school. That bothers me."

Speaking of high school ball, Joe Namath did a sorry job as analyst on the Big 33 game last Saturday, taking unnecessary pot shots at schoolboys, something he rarely does while working a pro game. Neither he nor play-by-play man and fellow Pennsylvanian Jim Cefalo seem to take any time familiarizing themselves with the Maryland players, which made them look a little ridiculous when the Free Staters prevailed.

* It might not be a bad idea if the nets backed off with their microphones at golf tournament tees for a while. That constant screaming, "You da man, Jack [or whomever]" is beyond the point of being annoying.

Meanwhile, ABC's Dave Marr has made a very definite move to leave CBS counterpart Ken Venturi in the commentary basement by himself off his work in the Seniors Open. Speaking of exalted Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino the last day of the tourney, Marr said, "They've really played poorly." Yes, it was apparent to anyone watching, but rarely if ever pointed out by the so-called experts.

The Roger Twibellism of the tourney was when the host hauled out his most dramatic voice and, of Chi-Chi ("The Little Man with the Huge Heart") Rodriguez, said, "This is a man who truly believed, this week, he could win this championship." Imagine.

Hey, CBS, let's dump those pictures wherein, as a guy is stumping the fairway after a shot, you stick a camera in his ear.

* NBC's "SportsWorld" has one of those trashy contests among has-beens, hope-to-bes and never-wases tomorrow (4 p.m.), Joe Theismann beating out several other field generals in the NFL Quarterback Challenge.

* John McLaughlin is one of the tougher interviewers around (CNBC cable), but he didn't lay a glove on baseball commissioner Fay Vincent and NBA commissioner David Stern the other night . . . Too bad Paul Tagliabue (NFL) and John Zeigler (NHL) weren't aboard, they're usually the guys to put their foot in it.

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