If Gore is serious about pollution, he can start cleanup with college football on TV

Phil Jackman

October 05, 1992|By Phil Jackman

The vice presidential debate goes Oct. 25, which is none too soon as far as I'm concerned. Tell you why.

Al Gore.

Naw, the Democrat has virtually no chance to outshine Dan Quayle . . . not that it matters anyway. Maybe the only job more innocuous than the vice presidency is coaching first base.

The present veep will say something reasonably logical or perhaps even worthwhile and everyone will say, "See, he's learning the job." Conversely, his gaffes will be met with, "Look at those rosy red cheeks, isn't he cute?"

Gore, on the other hand, stands for something, which qualifies as a rarity in politics these days. The senator from Tennessee is a nut on the environment and, hopefully, the moderator will toss him a fat pitch regarding air pollution, the kind sports fans are subjected to when perched in front of the telly.

Saturday, college football day, was a prime example of what dangerous levels the contamination can climb to if networks and their announcers are left unchecked.

While schedules revealed Stanford would be visiting Notre Dame for a game, NBC was having none of it. This was the return of Bill Walsh, former pro and college analyst for the network now coaching the lads from Palo Alto. Forget the Fighting Irish, the opponent was Lou Holtz, sideline perambulator.

Walsh was beautiful. Leaving the field trailing at halftime, Bill, who coined his own nickname, "Genius," told us, "We're severely outmanned, but blah-blah-blah."

In other words, football fans, you watch me and my team and with my superior coaching and strategy there's a good chance we'll pull this thing out against those mastodons. Walsh was right and he won, 33-16, with a smattering of help from people named Glyn Milburn and Steve Stenstrum.

Afterward, with the Stanford players enjoying one of the very special moments in the fabled grid tradition of "The Farm," one of the first things their shrinking violet coach said was, "This is as big a win as I have ever had in my career."

NBC didn't let it go at that. Yesterday, at halftime of the early pro game, the net reviewed the game on "NFL Live." They praised Walsh for having an end sweep in his playbook. One of the studio experts swooned endlessly about a play-action pass back to the weak side. Magnificent.

While the whole picture was corrupted by the network, the guys handling the play-by-play microphones, Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth, weren't doing much better. Collinsworth was a heckuva player in high school, college and the NFL, but his years of experience and subsequent job as analyst obviously never prompted him to learn the rules of the game.

On one play, Stanford was guilty of a forward lateral and Cris was positively stupefied when the ball was called dead and a penalty was marched off. "Why isn't it regarded as a fumble?" he kept asking. After Hammond answered correctly about four times, the ex-player was only partially satisfied.

Hammond's sin, as has been his wont consistently, was to suggest that Rick Mirer is some sort of dum-dum for returning to school and not fleeing to the NFL money after his junior year. "The national championship is gone. The Heisman Trophy is gone," he said, not once even hinting that playing quarterback for Notre Dame and finishing off four years of scholarship for a degree is sufficient reward in itself.

Immediately before the Bill Walsh this-is-your-life show, second-ranked Miami and No. 3 Florida State did battle in the Orange Bowl on ABC. A couple of wise old heads, Keith Jackson and Bob Griese, were handling the announcing. Amazingly, there was a forward lateral play at the climactic moment of that game, too.

A Florida State kick returner caught a punt over his shoulder on his own 1-yard line and momentum took him into the end zone. He started to run left and attempted to shovel a pass out to a teammate. Following the usual stampede for the ball, it bounced back into the end zone where it was covered by Miami. An official shot his hands up indicating touchdown.

"No, no, no," said Jackson. "That's wrong, it's a safety," said Griese. Which was the case.

Wait a minute. Didn't Collinsworth go to Florida State? That explains his subsequent gaffe. Seminoles and ex-Seminoles don't know the rules.

Also part of the afternoon watch was CBS being party to Milwaukee manager Phil Garner's getting one of those shaving cream pies smashed into his face while being interviewed (please contain your laughter) and the entourage of fighter Jesse James Leija firing six-shooters into the air as it moved through the crowd toward the ring for an NBC boxing match. Jesse James, six-shooters, get it?

It certainly doesn't figure to be a priority of Al Gore if he and running mate Bill Clinton are successful next month, but he should be reminded how badly the air is being polluted, not only by industrial waste and auto emissions but by the so-called broadcast experts.

Newspapers, remember, are recyclable.

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