Viewers may disagree when Curt Gowdy Jr. says, "I never think of the hour-plus leading up to the Kentucky Derby as 'fill' time," but the coordinating producer of ABC's annual tribute to the equinos thoroughbredium makes a good case for spreading (as in fertilizer) "the two most exciting minutes in sport" over an hour and a half.
"The Derby is like going in and doing one Red Sox game a year. You'd be compelled to tell the story of every player on the roster to properly prepare the audience," says the man who grew up in the Boston area listening to his dad detail the trials and tribulations of the woebegone "Sawks" of the late '50s and early '60s.
"Every year is a fresh new challenge; new horses, new trainers, new owners. It's great fun introducing them," said Gowdy.
"Actually, you can't overlook anyone, even if the field goes to the limit of 20 horses," added Jim McKay, who will be back in his customary role as host on the infield at Churchill Downs beginning at 4:30 p.m. "We've got to be prepared to talk about all of them, because there's a chance anyone can win."
But 'The Big Horse' is Arazi and, if you pay close attention, chances are you'll know more about the horse from France, his owners, trainer, jockey and exercise boy than you do about first degree of kindred relatives.
Then there's the rap star Hammer and his steed Dance Floor and the colt with the classiest of bloodlines, A.P. Indy, son of Seattle Slew and grandson of Secretariat, who also don't figure to be strangers when the gates fly open shortly after 5:30.
* Lacrosse, as it's known in Roland Park, "The Lawn" in Charlottesville or at old Homewood, may never be the same. Would you believe Dick Vitale showing up at a game, grabbing a mike and making with a "He's the 3-D man: The drive, the draw and dish the rock [ball]."
Dickie, bay-bee, showed up at Notre Dame last weekend to visit daughter Terri, ambled over to a lax game pitting the Irish and Ohio State and was coaxed into serving as the public address announcer. Reaction to his work was mixed.
C7 A participant in a nearby softball game, hearing Vi
tale over the loudspeaker, said, "Hey, that guy does a pretty good imitation of Vitale." Another listener, unaware of what was going on, classified Vitale's work as "a poor imitation of the guy who does college hoops on ESPN."
N.D. won, 12-6, a lad named Sullivan was the star and Vitale screeched, "Sully will be a BMOC [big man on campus] tonight. Forget Rick Mirer."
* During an update on the America's Cup sailing, ABC's overnight news show "World News Now" played the theme from "Gilligan's Island" in the background. That's Emmy material.
* The Washington Capitals are conducting a season ticket-holder survey and, among other things, patrons are asked to rate the performances of TV and radio broadcasters Jeff Rimer, Ron Weber, Craig Laughlin, Shawn Simpson and Al Koken. Rimer hasn't slept in a week. The survey also asks: Would you be interested in a package of NHL games on a pay-per-view channel?
* With the networks and cable dividing up Sports Emmys on such an even basis -- CBS won six by buying the biggest events, everyone else won either four or five -- it makes you wonder why they even go through with this charade.
* You have to love agent Art Kaminsky's reasoning as to why CNN should allow sportscaster Hannah Storm to take flight to NBC: "After all, this is America." Which obviously means Art does not believe in the sanctity of contracts and that CNN has no right to expect a return on its investment after it took the time and trouble to develop Storm. Figures.
A5 * It says something when a dog show on CBS gets a
rating (2.7) that compares very favorably with the network's baseball game offering the day before (2.9). What that is isn't very clear, however, because dogs are often the only creatures in the room when the telly is blaring on weekend afternoons.
Judging from the ratings the net is getting with its baseball package, the game you'll be missing starting at 1 p.m. tomorrow is either Mets at Braves or Rangers at White Sox.
* Had your iron(y) today? Instant replay being used to correctly award the Detroit Red Wings a series-tying victory against Minnesota in the NHL playoffs the other night should prove the value of the aid for all time. . . and here it is just a couple of months after the NFL got rid of it.
* No wonder women's golf does a slow burn every time it thinks about the treatment it gets from the networks. CBS is doing the LPGA Centel Classic tomorrow opposite the Kentucky Derby at 4:30 p.m. Also raging at the time is the second game of an NBA doubleheader on NBC.
* The World League (that's football, suh) has Barcelona (Spain) at Birmingham tomorrow at 8 p.m. on USA Network, then London at the Meadowlands /Sunday at 1 p.m. on ABC. Or is it the other way around?
* Suggestion for getting back at a disagreeable neighbor Sunday. Turn on the Grand Prix of Spain at 7:50 a.m. on ESPN, push the volume all the way up and open the window facing toward his house..
* 'Tis rumored the reason the wrassling talk show on WITH Sunday nights bit the dust is the phone company made incoming calls from Glen Burnie long distance. . . . .Add wrassling: To clear up any misunderstandings, the new WLW is the old NWA, and it says it probably won't be coming back to the Baltimore Arena in a big hurry (no explanation given). . . . WBAL will carry NBC Radio reports from the Olympics this summer. . . . Sunday, CBS has a retrospective feature on the great Secretariat during its "Sunday Morning" show. . . . TNT is carrying the AT&T Challenge at noon the next two days. This is a valid 32-man tennis tournament, not that silly tiebreaker thing they used to do.