With a men's figure skating competition seemingly devoid of a single big name, the one man who stands out is CBS commentator Scott Hamilton.
Hamilton brings gold-medal credentials to the job (he won in Sarajevo in 1984), but that's not the only thing hanging around his neck. There's the matter of a Button that could make things a little tight.
ABC's Dick Button basically invented television figure skating commentary, but Hamilton said he won't let comparisons intimidate him.
"I realize I'm [nearly] the first guy other than Dick Button to do the Olympics," Hamilton said in a news conference this week, "and I have my own style.
"I just wanted to find my own way. I didn't want to fit into anyone's shoes."
If Hamilton has a fault -- especially next to Button -- it's that he's reluctant to criticize the skaters. Perhaps he still feels too close to them.
"I know how much work goes into these routines," Hamilton said. "If they keep trying, there's really no need to be critical. If somebody was going through the motions, I'd be critical."
With the help of CBS' producers, Hamilton last night provided an informative segment on the different kinds of jumps. And he showed real passion during several of the original-program performances. He was happy for Viktor Petrenko and Todd Eldredge, disappointed for Christopher Bowman, annoyed at the judges' low marks for Eldredge.
Memo to Katarina Witt: You're supposed to be a figure skating expert. When somebody asks you a question, how about a straight answer?
Dancing a Jiggs: For some events, CBS is throwing crumbs to TNT, the Winter Olympics' cable outlet. But when it comes to hockey, TNT is getting practically an entire loaf. On Wednesday, TNT carried the Czechoslovakia-Unified Team game, and, yesterday, the network had the United States' big win over Finland.
Between the CBS team of Mike Emrick and John Davidson and TNT's Jiggs McDonald and Bill Clement, hockey clearly has the deepest announcing crew of these Games. McDonald is one of hockey's most distinctive voices, and Clement is acknowledged as perhaps the sport's top analyst.
On CBS' prime-time telecasts, you might get chunks of hockey, but TNT has entire games during its 1-6 p.m. weekday shows.
Looking ahead: U.S. hockey coach Dave Peterson is said to have new, user-friendly approach to the media. Judge for yourself during CBS' morning show (7-9), which will feature an interview with Peterson. . . . Bonnie Blair's family will be profiled in another morning segment. Who knows, maybe the Blairs could be spun off into a sitcom. That would be more promising than this "Scorch" thing CBS keeps promoting.
On the way to seeing Blair compete for another gold medal in the 1,000-meter speed skating during tonight's CBS prime-time program (8-11), the network has scheduled a preview of another potential golden speed skater, Dan Jansen. . . . Eddie "The
Eagle" Edwards is not in Albertville, but CBS still plans a piece on the English ski jumper who was the comic relief of Calgary's Games in 1984. . . . The Mike Wallace report on East German doping of athletes, promised for two nights, is being promised once more. . . . Prime-time co-host Tim McCarver is scheduled for a segment on "the zone," the state of mind that an athlete enters during, shall we say, Olympian performances. Given McCarver's showing so far, maybe he should work on his man-to-man rather than the zone.
Ratings game: Wednesday's prime-time overnight rating measuring the top 25 markets) were about seven points lower than Tuesday's for CBS. The network drew a 16.7 rating and 26 share Wednesday, compared with NBC's 13.1/21 and ABC's 9.1/14. A rating measures the percentage of all television households watching a program. A share measures the percentage among homes where television is in use. (I'm getting so that I can type those two sentences with my eyes closed.)
After five nights, CBS is averaging 19.1/21, 3 percent higher than ABC's first five nights during the 1988 Calgary Games. CBS has promised advertisers a ratings average of at least 17.0.