By avoiding the usual, ESPN2 effort usually good

November 28, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

Here's a short list of things you saw during ESPN2's Grey Cup telecast last night:

Shots of a domed stadium, a halftime rock concert, cheerleaders and current players pressed into service as analysts.

And here is a list of things you didn't see, or at least not in great supply:

Shots of half-naked men wearing face and body paint, announcers in jackets and ties, the on-screen "chalkboard" and wacky mascots.

For a different brand of football from what most people on this side of the border are used to, ESPN2, a different kind of all-sports network, gave us a different kind of telecast that was mostly good.

Right from the top of the broadcast, when Chris Cuthbert signed on with a shirt and tie but without the blazer that seems so requisite for U.S. sports announcers, you could tell that this would not be your father's telecast.

Cuthbert, on loan from TSN, Canada's version of ESPN, did the 30-minute pre-game show from a mock living room with recliners, chips, dip and drinks. He was joined by guest analysts Todd Wiseman of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Doug Flutie of the Calgary Stampeders.

The relaxed pre-game style was a nice departure from the two-hour "let's-get-you-ready-for-the-Armageddon-to-come" network Super Bowl pre-game shows we've come to know and despise.

Cuthbert seemed slightly frazzled at times during the pre-game and halftime, but was a nice addition.

He was especially good when he doubled as a sideline reporter, where he did something many U.S. sideline guys don't do: report, rather than serve as a second commentator. Still, we could have done without the meaningless sideline interview with Baltimore owner Jim Speros late in the fourth quarter.

And if Wiseman seemed a little out of it, Flutie served notice that he will be a fine commentator whenever he leaves the game, delivering interesting points with panache and flair.

Play-by-play man Gus Johnson was steady, if not spectacular, with a workmanlike game call, though he didn't really pick up the flow of information when the network lost its graphics in the third quarter and he missed the call on Tracy Ham's second-quarter touchdown run.

Johnson's booth partner, Mike Mayock, was forceful and usually on target, for instance, spotting Baltimore receiver Joe Washington getting his hand on the face mask of B.C. safety Barry Wilburn in the fourth quarter.

Mayock was prescient as well, noting that missed scoring opportunities usually come back to haunt a team, one play before Ham fumbled at the B.C. 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

However, the crew stumbled badly by not mentioning the controversial ratio of U.S/Canadian players until a post-game interview with B.C.'s Vic Stevenson.

The telecast was hurt by other technical problems besides the graphics snafu. Early on, Mayock was heard repeatedly calling the production truck for replays.

And ESPN2 was unwise not to originate its game feed, choosing to pick up the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s signal. As a result, U.S. viewers constantly saw replays that didn't match the words of Johnson and Mayock.

But all in all, ESPN2 provided a refreshingly different way to televise a championship game.

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