Here's new station to tune in on TV/radio sports dial

ON THE AIR

August 15, 1994|By MILTON KENT

Welcome to what could either be called a bold new chapter in Baltimore sports journalism, or, as ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann remarked on the first day of ESPN2, "the end of my career."

For the months, and hopefully, years to come, this newspaper will explore the world of sports on television and radio, and occasionally magazines and books, every weekday in this space, through the eyes and ears of the dashing fellow whose face adorns this column.

(Let's pause for a station break while the laughter subsides. . . . Thank you.)

Right now, there are likely two burning questions riding in your gut, or three, if you put too much hot sauce on your breakfast burrito.

The first is why is The Sun doing this, and the second is what qualifies me to do it.

(The third question -- why you put hot sauce on a breakfast burrito? -- can only be answered by you.)

As for why we're doing this, the answer is twofold, but simple.

For most people, our introduction to sports comes not through attending games in person, but watching them on television, and getting the results on the nightly news.

In fact, since many more people watch sporting events on television than could ever cram into arenas and stadiums, the sports viewer probably is more important than the spectator, since he and/or she will patronize the commercial sponsors.

Which brings us to the second reason for our focus: the money.

Sports on TV is big business. For example, during the next four years, Fox, NBC, ABC, ESPN and TNT will pay the NFL $4.385 billion for the rights to telecast its games, which means each of the league's 28 clubs this year will receive $39.1 million, and explains why, among other things, television dictates starting times of games.

Meanwhile, radio, while not possessing the financial clout of TV, carries, for many, a more significant emotional and sentimental heft.

For adults young and old, the memory of Chuck Thompson, Bill O'Donnell or Jon Miller calling Orioles World Series games is as fresh now as it was in your youth.

If you're, say, 50 or older, the soothing sounds of Ernie HarwellRuss Hodges, Red Barber and Mel Allen were childhood friends who stayed with you long after your pal Stinky went home to eat dinner with his folks.

And who can deny that the men who man today's radio talk shows here have a real impact and effect on the mind-set of those who play the games and those who watch them?

With any luck, this column will be about the best and worst the television/radio industry have to offer and how those offerings are presented, who presents them, and what it all means.

As for my qualifications, I spent two years as sports director at my college radio station, and called a number of basketball and JTC football games. I've done a few television talk shows and sat in a few control rooms, watching the flow of energy as producers and directors were barking out orders and getting the broadcasts on the air.

Most people in the sports communications industry are intelligent, thoughtful and hard-working, and there is no intent in this space to ride herd over them or to question their commitment to their task, which, like mine, is to serve you.

My most important qualification for this post is that I love sports (most of them anyway) and I usually enjoy listening to, watching and reading about them. My goal is to help make what comes out of your televisions, radios, books and magazines make better sense.

Finally, who left this crate of Cheez-Its, when I ordered Doritos?

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