Out-of-control radio-TV columnist recalls an out-of-control year

RADIO-TV

December 25, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

It was a year that was out of control. It was Prince on the Super Bowl pre-game show. It was "Scorch" promos during the Winter Olympics. It was Mel Kiper's hair.

And the year was still out of control. It was a camera on top of a warehouse. It was a live, sandpaper-swallowing act in the middle of a baseball game. It was a diver going splat in Barcelona. It was volleyball players shaving their heads. It was bald, diving volleyball players going splat in Barcelona and you paid $125 to watch it.

I think you hear me knocking. And I think I'm coming in. And I'm bringing a year in sports broadcasting with me, but I'm leaving this Denis Leary bit behind, OK?

January

* Channel 2 drops Jim Palmer from its Orioles telecasts, citing financial considerations. The station uses the money to purchase syndication rights to "My Mother the Car."

* Prince provides music for the Super Bowl pre-game program on CBS. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs vetoes quarterback Mark Rypien's plans for a Prince tribute during the game -- Rypien wanted butt-revealing cutouts put into the offensive linemen's pants.

February

* Several major-league baseball players pop up on "The Simpsons" in cartoon form. Players union executive Don Fehr, in cartoon form as Stimpy of "Ren and Stimpy," negotiates a big residual deal for the players. "Happy, happy, joy, joy," Fehr is quoted as saying.

* CBS launches an Alberto Tomba miniseries, disguised as the Albertville Olympics. Tomba wins medals, woos women. But he can't get anywhere with the woman of his dreams, Katarina Witt, who's always off skating with a can of soda.

* CBS decides to pre-empt daytime soap operas for the U.S.-Unified Team hockey game. American goalie Ray LeBlanc lets in some easy goals, then asks to be taken out because he just can't stop worrying about Jill on "The Young and the Restless."

March

* A team of local sportswriters defeats a team of radio and TV sportscasters in a sports trivia contest when WBAL Radio's Jeff Rimer fails to answer a question with the response whispered to him by WBAL-TV's Vince Bagli. This is believed to be the first time that Rimer

has not repeated something whispered to him.

* CBS adds Al McGuire to its NCAA basketball tournament coverage. During a first-round game, McGuire wonders aloud why UCLA isn't getting the ball into Bill Walton more.

April

* On Opening Day at Camden Yards, Channel 2 news anchor Sally Thorner gives her first indication that she'll be leaving the station, walking off with three extra Orioles jackets after the telecast.

* Home Team Sports installs a remote camera atop the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards. Several Orioles fans, unhappy with their seats, offer to trade spots with the camera.

* NFL draft expert Mel Kiper works ESPN's draft program for free, donating his fee to charity. Kiper announces he has become independently wealthy after winning a lawsuit charging copyright infringement against the producers of "Saturday Night Fever," who stole his hair and placed it on John Travolta in the movie.

May

* An Orioles telecast pre-empts NBA playoffs coverage on NBC. Channel 2 officials say complaints reflect the new, lazy viewer, one who'd rather keep track of a big, orange ball than that little, white one that WMAR keeps losing.

* WTEM, Washington's all-sports radio station, debuts. The first caller on the air tries to order a large pizza, half pepperoni, but gets drawn into a half-hour discussion of whether the Redskins blew it by not signing Andre the Giant back in the 1970s.

June

* ABC and ESPN pay $11 million for rights to the World Cup soccer tournament coming to the United States in 1994, but try to back out of the deal when they learn that the fee is for carrying the games, not for keeping them off the networks.

* During an ESPN Sunday night game against the Orioles, the Yankees' Tim Leary puts something in his mouth when umpires head to the mound to check on scuffed baseballs. It turns out that Leary just is polishing up on his off-season ventriloquist act by seeing if he could argue balls and strikes with sandpaper in his mouth.

July

* During his Wimbledon semifinal, John McEnroe complains that Bud Collins' pants are too loud. The NBC announcer tries to get his pants to start whispering, but that doesn't work, even after Collins tells the pants they'll get belted.

* New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs files a false-advertising complaint against NBC for its Olympics TripleCast promotions. The network is forced to admit that it really won't be sending Willard Scott to your home if you fail to purchase TripleCast.

August

* NBC's Olympic volleyball commentators, Chris Marlowe and Paul Sunderland, fail to inform network superiors that they are using their air time to audition for roles in "Encino Man II." NBC apparently believes all that California dude talk is endemic to volleyball.

* After their farewell kiss on the air, morning Olympic hosts Dick Enberg and Katie Couric are hounded by paparazzi when they enter Jim Lampley's Club Barcelona.

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