Byrd continues comfortable move down the line as NFL analyst

RADIO-TV

August 27, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

Dennis Byrd has provided the sports world with an inspiring story.

The former New York Jets defensive lineman was carted off the field last year with what appeared to be a paralyzing spine injury. But, with seemingly nothing more than faith and determination, Byrd has recovered to the point where he not only is walking, but also has taken his first few, halting, jogging steps.

Hey, that's great, babe, but what have you done for us lately?

It's unlikely anyone would put it that crassly, but such is the new world that Byrd has entered. He's in television now, joining CBS as an NFL analyst, paired with James Brown.

Throughout his ordeal, Byrd has displayed a comfortable manner with the media. This obviously caught CBS' attention, and, when Byrd continued his speedy recovery -- poof -- instant sportscaster.

In a recent news conference, Byrd recalled how the subject of television came up after it was clear -- despite his medical progress -- he wouldn't be playing football again.

"I was asked what I would like to do," Byrd said, "and one of my answers was, 'I'd like to do something in communications or broadcasting.' "

Byrd, whose first game will be the Lions at Patriots on Sept. 12, hadn't done any broadcasting work until he signed on with CBS.

"I certainly have the ability to have this job," he said. "I bring impressions of how the game is played today."

Those impressions shouldn't be colored by a scary deja vu if someone is removed from the field on a stretcher during a game Byrd is working, he said. He has seen the frightening replays of his head-down collision with a teammate.

"It's not something I'm worried about or have a phobia about," Byrdsaid.

Brown said he won't steer Byrd into a particular kind of analyst's role.

"The one thing I don't want to do is make him feel he has to fit a certain box as analyst," Brown said.

But Byrd does have to fit a box -- that screen on which his games aretelevised. If he doesn't, Byrd will be gone, inspiring story or not.

Somehow, though, you've got to think he could handle it.

No hard feelings

Jim Karvellas couldn't be reached last week, when Channel 20 announced that its Bullets games will be simulcast with Charlie Slowes' radio play-by-play, but Karvellas said later he's not upset about being bounced from the WDCA telecasts.

Karvellas had returned from doing Knicks play-by-play for what turned out to be a one-season stand in his old job with the Bullets.

"I know they [Channel 20 officials] had a tough sell last year," Karvellas said. "The Bullets weren't winning. They told me, 'Jimmy, we just can't afford you.' "

But Karvellas' Celebrity Golf Association idea has taken off. Surely you've seen it -- pro athletes proving that not only are they richer and in better shape than you, but also that they can golf better.

Karvellas is planning to put together a syndicated interview show with the contacts he has made through golf.

"It's been 31 years of play-by-play, and I've loved it," Karvellas said. "There's no acrimony at all. It's just fine."

Live, from New York

If you love tennis, or just good theater, you might want to stay home from work for the next two weeks. (Or if you don't like tennis or theater and just hate your job, you might want to stay home for the next two weeks.)

On Monday, the U.S. Open begins from New York's National Tennis Center in the evocatively named Flushing Meadow.

Over the years, this site has produced plenty of memories. Jimmy Connors' improbable run of victories at, what was it, age 59? The breakout success of Pete Sampras at, what was it, age 12? And a personal favorite: my brother slowing us down as we tried to cover ground during the New York World's Fair when he was at, what was it, age 5?

In any case, USA Network provides exhaustive coverage of the events at Flushing Meadow (though the network wasn't around to catch my brother's act). USA's basic weekday schedule is 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Late-night fans may recall seeing USA hang around long matches up to 11:30, when it had to give way to CBS. This year, CBS is rolling out David Letterman starting Monday, so its tennis update segment has been pushed back to 12:30 a.m. USA therefore expects to be able to stay up even later if necessary.

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