According to several highly placed sources in a position to overhear recounted conversations among top-ranking officials who quickly glanced at blurred copies of faxed memos lying crumpled in wastebaskets before they were emptied by a janitor who requested anonymity with Russian dressing on the side, there reportedly would seem to be an apparent trend on NFL pre-game shows. From all indications, that is.
Let's check the headlines:
* USA Today: We're hearing less NFL inside info in USA
* Variety: No wish to fish for grid dish
* New York Post: TV cuts off NFL gossip's tongues
* The New York Times: Professional football telecasts shift away from innuendo; reaction mixed; Gorbachev, Yeltsin too occupied with internal strife to take action
* National Enquirer: Elvis, Michael Landon, Natalie Wood i heavenly love triangle
Elvis aside, you get the idea. With the exception of NBC, network pre-game programming largely is shutting down the rumor mill (which conveniently is located around the corner from the trading block).
CBS' "NFL Today" has dropped its "Eye" segment ("Shut Eye," scream those headlines), ESPN's "NFL GameDay" has reduced the role of Fred Edelstein, as TNT's "Stadium Show" has done with Larry King.
NBC's "NFL Live," meanwhile, is sticking with the man who started the "inside information" trend five years ago, Will McDonough.
As trends go, let's be happy this one went. Viewers haven't been well-served by this "reporting."
At CBS, it seemed the "Eye" took the most-speculative, least-substantiated items from pro football writers for a -- to use antiquated newspaper terminology -- cut-and-paste job. CBS didn't have an "Eye" yesterday, the joke went. Somebody forgot to buy the Sunday papers.
ESPN's Edelstein struggled so mightily for "scoops" (another antiquated newspaper term?) on his weekly segments that you almost had to feel sorry for him as he sat there, looking like a guy suffering through a Joe Friday interrogation. Just the facts? Hardly.
Seemingly repeating every whisper from NFL gossips, Edelstei employed the splat technique -- keep throwing mud against the wall, and something will stick. There's no arguing that logic, I suppose, but who wants to be a stick-in-the-mud with a dirty wall?
ESPN has dropped Edelstein as a regular on "GameDay" (Sunday, noon-1 p.m.), though he's on "SportsCenter" Monday nights and
may use him occasionally on Sunday pre-game shows.
TNT's half-hour "Stadium Show" (Sundays, 7:30 p.m.), 30 minutes shorter this year, also won't regularly feature King, who loves to drop rumors nearly as much as dropping names. Still, TNT won't rule out King's popping up now and then. Look for the first pop Sunday night, with TNT's season opener on King's turf in Washington.
Still standing is McDonough on "NFL Live." The Boston Globe's McDonough, a sportswriter for 30 years, was at CBS during 1986-89 before jumping to NBC last year.
"There wasn't as much gossip and rumors as people might be led to believe," NBC Sports spokesman Ed Markey said. "The linchpin is Will. . . . We don't look at it as gossip or rumor; it's news and information."
McDonough, though the best of a sorry lot, does trade in rumor, however. Unnamed sources abound, and that "news and information" shouldn't be taken as gospel -- even if you do hear it on Sunday.
"NFL Live" (channels 2, 4 Sundays, 12:30 p.m.) will have an altered lineup for Week 1. Marv Albert will sit in as host, as regular anchor Bob Costas is in Tokyo for track's World Championships. "NFL Live" analyst O.J. Simpson, also in Japan, will be missing as well. Joining the "NFL Live" lineup is former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells, who will leave the studio to work as a game analyst while Paul Maguire recovers from a heart attack. . . . "The NFL Today" (channels 11, 9, Sundays, 12:30 p.m.) hasn't changed its announcers. The only difference is that Pat O'Brien, sometimes in, sometimes out of the studio, will be on that Club MTV set every week with Greg Gumbel, Lesley Visser and Terry Bradshaw.
ESPN isn't replacing the late Pete Axthelm on "GameDay" -- a wise move, for any new face would be a replacement in name only. However,studio regulars Chris Berman and Tom Jackson (with Joe Theismann for the season's first eight weeks) will get outside reports from two sportswriters -- Greg Garber of The Hartford Courant and Chris Mortensen of The Sporting News. . . . CNN's Fred Hickman again is host of TNT's "Stadium Show," joined by Kevin Kiley and Pat Haden. This season, TNT will post Craig Sager at the big game of the afternoon for a live report (he'll be at the Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Bills game Sunday).
We're in the midst of a tennis junkie's two-week nirvana, wall-to-wall coverage of the U.S. Open on USA Network and CBS. USA tosses the first ball at 11 a.m., takes a break at about 4 p.m., then returns at 7:30 p.m. for up to four more hours.
USA's coverage has one major problem -- Mary Carillo. Wait a minute, you say, she's on CBS. Ah ha, Sherlock, that's precisely the problem.
Carillo not only is tennis' best analyst, but she also ranks among the best analysts in any televised sport. USA's crew can't hold serve in comparison.
Tracy Austin and Vitas Gerulaitis have their moments, but that's about it. And Leif Shiras can't even trade on his name. USA's studio hosts, with the exception of Bill Macatee, show such little personality that they make CBS' Tim Ryan look like Robin Williams.