Reading Time, Two Minutes: Whenever a network executive says, "The fans are the big winners here," as one from ABC did the other day, you immediately call time and begin groping for your wallet.
Both touting and playing down its latest venture, ABC, in conjunction with the most powerful college football teams and conferences, is running a pay-per-view package this fall.
There will be regional games, anywhere from three to five each Saturday. If what your area is getting over commercial TV doesn't set right, you can order up one of the other games on the menu at a cost of about $10.
The one-year experiment seems to be targeting the 3 million alumni the Big Ten has scattered around the country. The network, though, is figuring there will be only 20,000 to 40,000 signups weekly the first year, a drop in the bucket next to the 6 million who watch the free, over-the-air telecasts.
Ah, yes, but it's what it can lead to down the road. So, while the net and the college athletic directors trumpet the fan is the big winner here, one wonders how this claim will hold up should PPV become a viable force.
* Can't you see the excitement of Eddie Murray's face the other day when he smote his 400th home run in Atlanta for the Mets. "It's a nice round number," he revealed afterward. Murray's next milestone is slipping by Mickey Mantle in RBIs (only 20 to go). Eddie's very first homer was struck off another ex- Oriole, Pat Dobson.
* From the where are they now department: Joe Holland, the not-so-ancient mariner known to every road runner between Washington and New York, sent along the sports pages of the Korea Herald and China News this week. The accompanying note said, "Carrying crude oil up and down the Yellow Sea (as a merchant seaman). Loading up here (China) for return trip to Singapore."
Joe, retired and 70, thought he might like to get back to the job he held during World War II and he's been showing up the young 'uns for two years now.
* Mike Gustafson's lithograph of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, shot Opening Day from about 200 feet up and looking back toward downtown, is on sale. Call 1-800-554-0153 to order. Mike's 1988 shot of the first night game at Wrigley Field has sold more than 150,000 copies.
* I assumed I'd never say this, but from here Mario Lemieux has passed Wayne Gretzky as the all-time top offensive threat in hockey. Which leads me to conclude maybe Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe aren't safe as the best all-around defenseman and winger ever.
* Course superintendent Dean Graves is promising a course in "superior condition" for next week's LPGA Championship at the Bethesda Country Club. Besides not having to counter excessive heat this early in the year, Graves points out "it has a month's less club member wear and tear on it."
* Over the years, rare is it when a rookie wearing a Detroit uniform wasn't immediately touted for Cooperstown by manager Sparky Anderson. On the occasion of Kirk Gibson's apparent retirement, this memory from Gibson's first appearance against the Orioles in spring training.
No sooner had Sparky finished his "reminds you a lot of Mickey Mantle" speech when Kirk hit a rocket over the centerfield fence in Lakeland. Then he drag-bunted and flew across first base before the ball was even touched. It was easy to believe everything the manager said for about a year after that.
* They say the Hall of Fame weekend at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., just keeps getting better and better with all events for this year's celebration June 5-7 sold out. This year's class is just that: Alexis Arguello, Ken Norton, Angelo Dundee et al.
* Everybody takes pop shots at the NHL, but who had the most exciting opening round of the playoffs, the guys on ice or the NBA? Strangely, hockey came across as the finesse game while hoops resembled Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.
* Mark O'Meara, who won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am a couple of weeks ago, is the latest to join the Kemper Open field May 25-31 at Avenel in Potomac.
* The 1,000-mile Tour Du Pont gets under way in Wilmington, Del., tomorrow and, after winding through the region for 10 days, concludes in RFK Stadium in Washington May 17. Greg LeMond says he's in good shape and looking forward to the more mountainous course the event features this year. A race from Hershey, Pa., ends up in Hagerstown on Day 5. The Mall, Rock Creek Park, Capitol Hill, Independence Avenue and RFK are the highlights of the final-day segment.
* The men's ATP tour is beginning to resemble its golf counterpart the PGA Tour with no fewer than seven first-time victors already this year. The latest is Shuzo Matsucka, the first Japanese player to take a title in the Open Era (1968-on).
* Here's one for the figure filberts: One day last week at the Heritage Classic in Houston, Davis Love III, Tommy Armour III and P.H. Horgan III all shot the same score: 3-under (naturally) 69.
* There's a goodie on HBO Saturday, Meldrick Taylor going after Terry Norris' WBC super-welterweight title.
* With quarterback Kerry Collins, who engineered just about all the points for both teams in the annual spring game, and a schedule boasting only two tough games, Penn State may not need one of the so-called major bowls to grab a national championship.
* Martina Navratilova is begging off the upcoming clay-court season, and one thing the inactivity will do is boost her back up into the top three of women's tennis. She had little success in Europe last year and with those results dropping off the computer, she just moved past Gabriela Sabatini. Pam Shriver's currently No. 33.
* As though it's not bad enough the Black-Eyed Susan, the official libation of the Preakness, is among the world's worst mixtures, a 50-gallon drum of the stuff will be mixed up the day before the big race for sale at $5.25 on Preakness Day.