Talk's cheap, taunting cheaper for ESPN2's Rome

RADIO-TV

April 08, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

If you hadn't heard of Jim Rome and ESPN2 before, chances are you have now.

And, despite the hand-wringing out of Bristol, Conn., in the wake of the Rome-Jim Everett confrontation Wednesday night, ESPN headquarters can't be that upset about the fallout from the incident on the "Talk2" interview show.

The scene of new Saints quarterback Everett shoving over a table, then knocking Rome to the floor, played all over the country Wednesday night and yesterday. It was the first look most of the nation has had of either Rome or ESPN2. The network, launched in October, is in 13.7 million homes, compared with ESPN's 62.9 million. The United States has 94.2 million households with television.

"We are not proud of what happened," John Walsh, ESPN executive editor, said in a news conference yesterday. "We regret what occurred. Jim went a little bit too far with his questions."

It wasn't a matter of questions, actually. It was a matter of name-calling.

"Talk2" host Rome had taken to calling Everett -- with the Los Angeles Rams until signing with New Orleans this off-season -- "Chris Everett," something that started on Rome's Los Angeles radio talk show. Rome called Everett "Chris" three times, was dared by Everett to say it again, then said it a fourth time, sparking Everett's physical response. Rome wasn't hurt in the in

cident.

"It was not with malice," Rome said. "It was verbal jousting. It was in good fun."

Rome certainly seemed to be having fun. Just before being knocked to the floor, he had a "gotcha" grin on his face.

On Everett's way out of the studio, according to Rome, he told a "Talk2" producer: "I'm sorry. I just snapped."

Rome was apologetic during yesterday's 40-minute-plus news conference. However, Rome kept mentioning that Everett was told before the program that Rome likely would call him "Chris." Despite his apologies, Rome apparently believed this mitigated his actions.

It doesn't. This was grade school stuff. Want to start a fight in the schoolyard? Call one of the boys a girl's name. Naaah-naaah.

Coining nicknames and speaking in jargon are part of Rome's shtick. That -- as well as Rome's smug approach -- overshadows any substance in the interviews.

But Rome said he doesn't plan to change his approach.

"I am what I am," he said, quoting Popeye.

"I'm going to keep doing what got me here," he said, quoting every football and basketball coach you've ever heard. "I'd rather my work stand on its own merit."

That it will. Let everyone judge Rome as an interviewer who thinks it's appropriate to taunt an NFL quarterback by invoking the name of one of tennis' greatest players. Coming soon to a TV near you: Jim Rome calls Alex Fernandez "Mary Joe" and Dennis Martinez "Conchita."

Rome wouldn't explain yesterday why he's called Everett "Chris." He did say, however, that "Talk2" is trying to book Everett again.

Rome and ESPN officials say this wasn't a publicity stunt. Hey, Romey, you're Mr. Cynical. If you were on the other side, would you believe it?

From classless to classy

As they used to say on "Monty Python," now for something completely different: Pat Summerall.

This weekend's Masters marks his last CBS assignment before joining Fox's NFL contingent in the fall.

Summerall, whose low-key style suits golf in general and the Masters in particular to a, uh, tee, will end his Augusta announcing streak at 27. His first assignment, he said, remains among the most vivid: 1968's scorecard gaffe by Roberto de Vicenzo that cost him the tournament.

"I hate to leave CBS after this long a time. The only people to sign my checks have been the New York Giants and CBS," Summerall said in a news conference yesterday, quickly amending that list to include the Chicago Cardinals, his other NFL team. "It's a relationship I cherish."

CBS' Masters producer, Frank Chirkinian, said he wasn't thrilled to have Summerall on the telecast initially. "I was shocked they sent me a football player to do golf," Chirkinian said. "I very much resented it."

That resentment long ago disappeared, and Summerall went on to become nearly as much of a Masters staple as Amen Corner.

The Jon and Fred Show

On Wednesday's Orioles radio broadcast on WBAL (1090 AM), Jon Miller stayed quite involved in the call even when Fred Manfra took over the play-by-play. Let's hope this practice continues.

Manfra, in his second season, has maintained his improved announcing from the end of 1993. He's providing a descriptive call, much like Miller. When Manfra is doing his innings, Miller supplements the play-by-play with sharp analysis.

However, Manfra's weakness -- getting behind the play -- surfaced Wednesday. When a Royals strikeout turned into a passed ball and then a rundown between third and home, Manfra stammered to catch up to what was happening.

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