To honor tradition, we give thanks for air ball and the give-and-go And don't forget the cure for ESPN


November 27, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

Without tradition, Tevye the milkman warned us, we'd be like a fiddler on the roof. And what a place to be -- you'd probably have to end up adjusting the antenna.

Tradition is nothing to sneeze at. Unless, of course, the tradition calls for sneezing. Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, many of us perpetuated tradition. We ate turkey. We watched football. We NTC dressed up like Ricky Ricardo and sang "Babaloo." (You don't do that at your house?)

Today, I'm here to maintain tradition -- the Thanksgiving sports column. The sportswriter executes a give-and-go: He gives an easy column and goes home early.

Sure, I could have made lots of phone calls, did some digging, engaged in research, taken the time to form well-conceived arguments -- but what does that do for tradition? As Tevye might have said, it does bubkes. (Sort of rhymes with But kus. As in: What has Marge Schott done for baseball's image? Bubkes.)

A day late and a drumstick short, then, here are some things from the sports broadcasting world to give thanks for:

* That Clearasil generally takes care of ESPN in your face.

* That the Pod People who took over Tim McCarver's body during the Winter Olympics left before the baseball season.

* That we've found the solution to global warming: ultra-cool Pat O'Brien and Jim Lampley.

* That ESPN's anchoring roster goes deeper than even Earl Weaver's "deep depth." From Chris Berman to Bob Ley to Keith Olbermann to Robin Roberts to Charley Steiner to Dan Patrick -- and that's still not everyone -- the cable network always gets quality starts.

* That NBC's Olympics TripleCast ended up flatter than a piece of Silly Putty on William Perry's favorite chair. You didn't buy it, and nobody you knew bought it. OK, I bought it, but you don't know me.

Cheers to consumers who struck a blow against pay-per-view.

* That somebody reminded NBC about Gayle Gardner's still being employed at the network.

* That Sean McDonough lost his goofy hat somewhere between Albertville and the World Series.

* That Baltimore has to share Jon Miller with the rest of the country only once a week.

* That there's just one Dick Vitale, no matter how hard Bill Raftery tries.

* That Al Michaels, Bob Costas and Marv Albert are behind microphones.

* That Gary Bender and Joe Theismann get only half an NFL season apiece.

* That Home Team Sports keeps trying to persuade Baltimore-area cable systems to add the channel as part of basic service.

* That Pat Summerall is as restrained as John Madden is unfettered.

* That the consultants haven't gotten their hands on Keith Mills and homogenized him.

* That, on Baltimore radio, three goes into one -- three daily sports talk shows and one major sports team.

* That we're allowed to audit Professor Hubie Brown's Pro Basketball 101 on TNT's College of the Air.

* That no one has produced "The Dream Team: The Mini-Series." (Let's hope I didn't speak too soon.)

* That this column appears only once a week.

End zoned

Once upon a time, a sportswriter filed a story in which the news of the day didn't have an apparent source. An editor wondered where the reporter had gotten his information.

"Where's the attribution?" the editor asked.

"What do you mean 'attribution'?" the reporter asked.

The editor said: "As in, 'The sky is falling, Chicken Little said.' " Or he said something like that.

At ESPN, though, it seems that no one ever asks ESPN's Fred Edelstein about attribution.

Edelstein's NFL gossip from "The End Zone" blows across the screen like a draft in your living room. You wonder where it's coming from. You might find a window opened a crack, but good luck in finding any sources for Edelstein's reports.

He doesn't bother telling us. Not even "a club official." Or "a club official who wishes to remain anonymous so he always wears a mask." Or "a club official who wishes to remain anonymous so he always wears a mask, disguises his voice, sprays disinfectant on the phone, constantly washes his hands, watches 'Ice Station Zebra' 20 times a day and never cuts his nails."

It's not that viewers need to know the name of every person who whispers in Edelstein's ear, but it'd be nice to have a clue about where information emanates to help evaluate the worth of a report. This reminds me of another story:

Once upon a time, a sportswriter wrote about a possible trade, attributing his report to "a source close to the team." A colleague asked him who the source close to the team was. The sportswriter replied, "Me."

Things my boss wants to know

Before televised football, what did people do to ignore annoying relatives on Thanksgiving? . . . If Marshall Faulk can't play Saturday, will ESPN pre-empt the Miami-San Diego State game for "Best of The Fishin' Hole"? . . . Is it true that several decency-in-television groups are asking that consumers boycott

corporations advertising during the Skins Game?

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