From football to boxing to the Olympics, Lampley shows 0...


September 25, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

From football to boxing to the Olympics, Lampley shows 0) he's a man for all sports

What hasn't Jim Lampley done so far in his broadcasting career?

* Announced he was cutting back on his schedule because he and his wife were trying to have a baby.

* Dressed like Carmen Miranda to deliver the weather.

* Joined Dan Aykroyd to form a new version of the Blues Brothers.

That should be about it.

Since Lampley first came on the scene 18 years ago, reporting from college football's sidelines for ABC, he has spanned the dial to give us the constant variety of sport -- football, boxing, tennis, auto racing, running, the Olympics. And there were also five years as news anchor for the Los Angeles CBS affiliate.

Tomorrow, Lampley will perform what might be a first -- taking off from a big network sports assignment for a cable-television job. Lampley will call the Simon Brown-Terry Norris super welterweight title bout on Home Box Office tomorrow at 10 p.m. In order to work the fight, Lampley will be excused from his role as host of NBC's Notre Dame football pre-game show. (You think works like school? "Dear Mr. Ebersol: Please excuse Jim from football today . . .")

To make up for tomorrow's absence, Lampley will do play-by-play on Sunday's Seattle Seahawks-Miami Dolphins game.

"In order to negotiate and make a deal with NBC, we had to get HBO's permission," Lampley said, explaining that, when he joined NBC, the network understood his continued commitment to HBO.

"HBO came to me to solicit my services back in 1987, after I'd left ABC Sports. They were more aggressive than anyone else in pursuing me."

Lampley became HBO's most prominent sportscaster, but that's little different from having a network presence.

"The biggest difference is frequency of exposure. I was not being seen by a national audience as much," he said, adding that HBO's production standards are high. "You can always be made to look good."

When Lampley returned to network sports, he said, it wasn't just so he'd be in more living rooms.

"The big attraction to me at NBC wasn't the exposure," he said. "It was the chance to do something else. I love the intrinsic challenge of doing the work."

Lampley is good at it, too, particularly when he is in the studio. Good studio hosts have distinctive characteristics. Bob Costas brings a wry tone to the anchor desk. (Or is that rye toast? I get the two confused.) Chris Berman overflows with enthusiasm and broad humor. Greg Gumbel is a calm presence in the eye of a Bradshaw hurricane. Jim Nantz has nice hair.

Lampley projects a cool intelligence. He asks smart questions, doesn't talk down to the viewers and never seems flustered on the air. (And that's not to imply that there's something wrong with his hair.)

For example, this is Lampley's take on the new world order in college football that allows Notre Dame to have its own deal with NBC: "It's NCAA Realpolitik. It's a proper outgrowth of the Reagan-Bush years."

Can you imagine Brent Musburger using "Realpolitik"? Until Lampley said it, I couldn't imagine my using it.

By the way, the word means "policy determined by expediency rather than ethics." Use it in a sentence next time you go out; it will impress your date -- as long as you don't say it with a mouthful of calamari. "Calamari, oh, oh. Calamari, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa."

But I digress. Man, do I digress.

If you stayed up late during the Olympics, you saw Lampley and Hannah Storm make a fine team during NBC's late-night telecasts -- even with that goofy "Club Barcelona" stuff.

"It was something that evolved in our reaction to the set," Lampley said of the Club Barcelona theme. "We decided that we would treat it as a late-night hangout. It fit on that set."

As does Lampley on almost any set.

Now batting for Lampley

Dan Hicks will substitute for Lampley on tomorrow's Notre Dame pre-game show (1 p.m., channels 2, 4). . . . Lampley's partner on the Seahawks-Dolphins telecast (4 p.m., Channel 2) will be Ahmad Rashad. . . . On CBS' baseball pre-game show tomorrow (2:30 p.m., channels 11, 9), Pat O'Brien interviews Barry Bonds and Dave Winfield. . . . CBS' "NFL Today" Sunday (12:30 p.m.) will feature Terry Bradshaw's mock tryout with the Dallas Cowboys. . . . On "Star Trek: The Next Generation" tomorrow (7 p.m., Channel 45), the transporter malfunctions, sending Commander Data over to "F Troop" (2:30 a.m., Nickelodeon), where he is mistaken for Col. Parmenter's cousin on a visit from back East.

Game of the weak

Last week's CBS baseball game of the week (the Orioles-Brewers was one of the offerings) drew a 2.3 rating, tying the all-time low for a network Saturday game (set by CBS on Aug. 1, during the Olympics). Does no one care about the pennant race? No, it's more likely that CBS' sporadic baseball schedule leaves viewers cold. And it's hard to catch baseball fever when you're cold. Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. (Ooh, it felt so good to type that again.)

Not skating across your dial

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