Bowling's King of Hill match is a fitting stepladder...

BOWLING

March 12, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

Bowling's King of Hill match is a fitting stepladder crown

The Pro Bowlers Association Tour is making its yearly Maryland stop this week, and if that isn't cause for celebration, I don't know what is. In fact, we're doubly blessed, for the Fair Lanes Open brings with it pro bowling's new King of the Hill format.

It's enough to make a guy want to sing (with apologies to the late Roger Miller):

Every week we get to see,

Pro bowling on ABC.

Year after year the same,

You even know those guys by name.

But now some bowler wins and then,

He has to go and bowl again.

A brave new world, if you will,

It's King of the Hill.

Yes, folks, for only $11.95 for LP or cassette, but only through this TV offer, you get this and other hits as sung by the beloved Boxcar Willie . . .

Bad imitations of country music aside, ABC will be at Fair Lanes Woodlawn to carry the Fair Lanes Open tomorrow (3 p.m., Channel 13), telecasting the stepladder finals and King of the Hill match, which pits this week's champ against last week's King of the Hill winner.

ABC's voice of bowling, Chris Schenkel, who has been calling the matches since approximately the Fillmore Administration, said he wasn't exactly sold on the King of the Hill concept when it began this year.

"Originally, I'm one of these conservative guys who resist change," Schenkel said Wednesday. "But, after the first few weeks and the hype it has given the tour, I'm starting to like it, and I think the players are beginning to like it.

"It changes the complexion of the winner. Here he is, coming off a high, and he's got another match. And the King of the Hill has been hanging around [watching, not competing]."

As for the ones whose opinions ultimately count the most -- no, not the McLaughlin Group -- Schenkel said: "I haven't heard one negative from viewers."

Then there's another pretty important group weighing in with an endorsement: This week, the King of the Hill match has picked up a sponsor, Kellogg's. (What, you were expecting Larry King? Bernard King? Betsy King? Sky King? The King Family? The King of Pop, Michael Jackson?)

"Ron Williams [who had an early run as King of the Hill] wasn't very well-known," Schenkel said, "and he told me it's fantastic. He comes on, and everybody knows him."

To quote Mel Brooks, it's good to be the king.

Late night with Chris

Chris Berman made his annual guest appearance on ESPN's "SportsCenter" this week, but seemed to be trying too hard to make up for lost time. A little enthusiasm is OK, but he spent much of the programs yelling his way through highlights like Robert Plant trying to be heard over Jimmy Page's guitar (I'll take Led Zeppelin references for $100, Alex). And then Berman would rattle on, barely leaving room for partner Keith Olbermann on some segments.

Bracket's world

Join Fang Mitchell and his Coppin State basketball team in watching the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on CBS (channels 11, 9). Coppin and the rest of the 64-team field are announced.

This is just a guess, but I bet analyst Billy Packer will tell us what a good job chairman Tom Butters and his selection committee have done.

It's a mad, mad, mad world

The best finish to a conference tournament so far was Tuesday night's Rider-Wagner game, with Rider's Darrick Suber hitting a leaning 12-footer at the buzzer for the win. As exciting as the game was, though, it was annoying to hear analyst Ed Murphy talking about Suber and Wagner's Bobby Hopson in terms of big schools "missing the boat" on two fine players.

Sure, either player might have preferred to go to North Carolina, but let's not knock such fine institutions as Rider and Wagner, which are capable of producing graduates who go on to rewarding careers such as writing sports TV columns.

Abridged version

Did ESPN's telecast of Coppin State's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title victory seem a little quick to you? No, you didn't doze off during the early morning. In order to fit the MEAC into a 1 1/2 -hour programming hole at 12:30 a.m. Monday, ESPN cut out about 12 1/2 minutes of running (not game clock) time during the first half.

Things my boss wants to know

Why don't any of the Orioles announcers talk about the ads around the club's spring-training field as Al Lang signs? . . . In this afternoon's ESPN boxing match between Alfred Cole and Uriah Grant, could the latter get knocked out and end up in a Uriah heap? . . . Will Ice-T be part of ESPN's Lipton tennis tournament coverage?

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