A Labor Day without TV baseball isn't holiday

Phil Jackman

August 30, 1991|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

dTC Time was when Labor Day meant baseball, the motion picture "Picnic" and the Yankees dipping into the National League for a Johnny Mize, an Enos Slaughter or some other war horse to assure themselves another pennant.

L So take a gander at the network TV menu the next three days:

CBS, the exclusive but infrequent carrier of the Grand Old Game, has U.S. Open tennis tomorrow (noon) and Monday (12:30 p.m.) and about seven hours of pro football Sunday (1 p.m.)

ABC checks in with college football (Miami vs. Arkansas) tomorrow (12:30), golf tomorrow (4 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.) and Monday night football (Giants vs. 49ers at 9).

NBC finishes up at the World Championships of track and field tomorrow (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) before sending along the Bills vs. Dolphins (4 p.m. Sunday).

What hath Madison Avenue and the keepers of the diamond flame wrought?

If it wasn't for the fact the Neilsen ratings estimate that only 52 percent of the viewing audience last week was tuned to the not-so-Big 3, there might be cause for alarm.

The fact remains, however, that despite the excellent job cable does, basic and premium channels still appear on a bit less than two-thirds of the country's television sets. And that's a lot of folks to send off into September without their end-of-summer fix of baseball.

Fortunately, tradition dies hard, except when major-league owners and the non-broadcast people becoming more prevalent running the networks sit down to negotiate contracts.

* Besides Brent Musburger attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear (Arkansas) as we're "looking live" at the bodacious woofing of Miami, the rest of the grid fare tomorrow has Mississippi-Tulane on TBS (3:30 p.m.) and an ESPN doubleheader, East Carolina-Illinois (4) and Pitt-West Virginia (7:30).

Hey, it's only August and some teams like to make sure the kinks are out first before taking on someone their own size.

* If six hours of watching people assault the tennis ball at Flushing Meadow, other people assault the language and advertising people insult everyone's intelligence isn't enough for you tomorrow, USA picks up the baton at 7:30 p.m.

With the network away pandering to the NFL Sunday, the cable network will be back with tennis at noon and one can only wonder if the talent and technicians are getting proper rest while bivouacing under the overpass delivering the masses to the National Tennis Center from the subway station hard by sumptuous Shea Stadium.

The reason CBS is ducking out on tennis coverage Sunday is, contrary to prior years, it is stuck with two NFL games, Eagles and Packers at 1, Vikings and Bears at 4. Back on "The NFL Today" setting the whole thing up are the balding ex-football player, the guy with the Afro, the woman with all the latest fashions and the fellow who always looks bored.

Speaking of pre-game shows and in case you hadn't noticed, CNN has joined what often turns out to be a trip to tedium with intermediate stops at boredom and monotony with Buddy Ryan imparting his innermost thoughts.

As one critic put it, the ex-Philadelphia coach is a "disaster," lacking a sense of humor and an acceptable demeanor while delivering unnecessarily tough and gratuitous swipes. Such being the case, Ryan has signed on to be one of the stars on "Sunday Sports America," a national sports call-in show on radio.

* Viewing Tip: Save yourself a lot of time and aggravation and tape the midnight-plus World Track and Field Championships on NBC tonight for later perusal and commercial-zapping. The net did a fine job Tuesday night -- if Katerina Witt is a 10, Katrin Krabbe is a 12 -- but stretching a half-dozen events over two hours led to endless commercial breaks, which translates into about a thousand in-house promos for Channel 2. Fact is, if WMAR spent 10 percent of the time it wastes grinding out those unctuous "Friends you can turn to" ads working, it would have a news operation Edward R. Murrow could be proud of.

* If you caught the ESPN show "Outside the Lines: The Life and Times of Howard Cosell" last night, no doubt the expression beauty is only skin deep took on new meaning. Predictably, the bile exploded forth from Howie as he, in effect, took credit for the careers of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, the success of ABC's "Monday Night Football" and several other things while bemoaning the fact he did not run for the U.S. Senate. ("I would have been elected.") It's the same agenda Cosell has been peddling for years with one change: presidents and heads of state haven't been calling for advice as much lately.

* NFL Films celebrates its 25th year of producing the captivating "This is the NFL" (Sunday noon, Ch. 2) with montages of famous and infamous opening day plays and the sights and sounds of training camp. Thinking back over the last 480 shows, which produced six Emmys, honcho Steve Sabol says, "We've come a long way from producing shows in a Philadelphia basement with leaky pipes dripping water on our heads."

* The "Sports Illustrated Pro Football Preview Special," featuring scouting reports from SI writers, will run on ABC from 8-9 p.m. on Labor Day, leading into the game between the 49ers and the Giants.

* Someone should inform USA Network's co-host for U.S. Open tennis coverage Diana Nyad that when a person with a high-pitched voice speaks rapidly, it causes excruciating pain throughout the head but mainly behind the eyes of listeners -- especially at 11 o'clock in the morning. And she's better than the other co, Bruce Beck.

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