Don't paint CBS pro football analyst Randy Cross as one of those guys who follows the line of least resistance. After doing a couple of Atlanta games this fall, the former 49ers center says the Falcons are going to beat the Redskins tomorrow.
Cross says the 11-point underdogs have "the best combination of talent and emotion going in the playoffs." Which recalls what former Southern Cal and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay once said: "They say emotion wins football games. My wife Corky's emotional as they come and she can't play the game worth a damn."
"All the Falcons have to do is stop Washington on first down, because [Mark] Rypien hasn't been too successful when faced with second- or third-and-long," says Cross. The Skins won during the regular season, 56-17, and, because of Atlanta's ridiculous game plan of all-out blitzes on every play, it wasn't that close.
Of course, Cross can be free and loose with his predictions since he's home on the Left Coast while Verne Lundquist and Dan Fouts are assigned to the 12:30 p.m. game at RFK.
The rest of the playoffs has Houston at Denver tomorrow (4 p.m.), then, Sunday, Kansas City at Buffalo at 12:30 p.m. and Dallas at Detroit (4).
* It's become a very popular pastime to take shots at the networks for the glut of bowl games jammed into the last few days of the old year and New Year's Day. So now we head into the alternative season: Three or four college basketball games every day on cable and syndication, then a dozen games on Saturday. Hurry, March Madness.
* Lots of nominees for this week's air pollution award. For instance, how about Dan "Earache" Dierdorf, at the conclusion of the Notre Dame-Florida Sugar Bowl, rhapsodizing ". . . and these are schools that graduate their players." The always-on-probation Gators, Dan?
* Perhaps tired of conceding a whole sport to cable, ABC is getting back into the boxing business with shows Feb. 8, 15 and 22 on "Wide World of Sports." It's latched unto some names, too, middleweight champ James Toney topping the first show, ex-Olympian Michael Carbajal the second. All told, there will be six cards (May 30, June 27 and Aug. 15), which nearly equals the combined network effort of seven in 1991: ABC 4, CBS 3, NBC zip.
Meanwhile, a TVKO show next Friday has Darrin Van Horn trading bombs with Iran Barkley and Laurel's Andrew Maynard meeting Frank Tate in a battle of former Olympic gold medalists.
* Tonight's "Inside Edition" (Channel 2, 12:35 a.m.) has Superstar Billy Graham leveling the World Wrestling Federation as "an empire built on steroids." Fortunately, all the little Hulkamaniacs will be in bed, because Graham reveals he has personal knowledge of Hulk Hogan imbibing as he injected the gunk into him.
* Channel 45 is doing Loyola-Princeton hoops tomorrow (2 p.m.). Chances are the score will be similar to the Redskins-Falcons tally. Late afternoon on ESPN (4) has the Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler fight from 1987.
* How can the networks have guys who obviously had trouble analyzing their teams -- deposed coaches Sam Wyche and John Robinson, for example -- sitting in studios analyzing a couple of other teams in the playoffs? Easy, they show up and babble "Coachspeak."
* One of the great voices in sports broadcast history, David Perry, passed on at year's end. He narrated all those marvelous Olympic documentaries and the "16 Days of Glory" series produced by his brother Bud Greenspan and Cappy Productions. Bud used to like to say of Dave, "I auditioned him in our bedroom about 50 years ago."
* One of the more prominent disservices in the sports communications business is the networks sending their pro football shills out during the bowl season to "educate" the masses on the Saturday game.
About all Dan Dierdorf found interesting about 10-1, fourth-ranked Florida is "it certainly has done its part in stocking the NFL." Paul Maguire (NBC) can't wisecrack for more than 30 seconds without his pro bias showing. Same goes for Brent Musburger, who approached downright obscenity by waxing poetic about the WLAF.
* So, OK, the Jack Buck-Tim McCarver pairing in the baseball booth didn't work out to CBS' liking. But letting Buck go home to St. Louis and keeping Dick Stockton as the backup game play-by-play guy?
Still trying to figure out what executive producer Ted Shaker meant when, upon naming Sean McDonough, 29, to replace Buck, 67, he said, "We're looking to the future. Age isn't part of that."
Maybe, before its lose-big contract is up in two years, someone at CBS will recognize that announcers have little to do with fans tuning in; it all comes down to the schedule of games presented, when and how many.