With respect to Les Brown and his orchestra, Bill Walton is preparing to take a sentimental journey this weekend when he returns to Notre Dame for the first time in 21 years.
Big deal, you say? Well, on this date in 1974, the Fighting Irish pulled off perhaps the biggest regular-season upset in college basketball history, beating Walton's UCLA team, 71-70, at the Athletic and Convocation Center in South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame's win ended the Bruins' record 88-game winning streak, and the iconoclastic Walton, the red-haired 6-foot-11 center of that squad, says he's looking forward to going back to the scene of the crime Saturday, when he and Don Criqui call the game between the Irish and Xavier for NBC (Channel 11, 4 p.m.)
"I wish I was taking Keith Wilkes, Greg Lee and [former UCLA coach] John Wooden with me," said Walton. "When I was playing, there was no place else like it to play as a visitor. The fans yelling, the band playing that song over and over again was really something. [Former coach] Digger Phelps did a great job of building that program."
The loss didn't seem so great at the time, but with 21 years of distance, Walton now can see how special that game, and similar upsets, can be for the sport in general.
"That's what's beautiful about basketball, that those kinds of games give teams a sense of hope and a chance," said Walton.
"In my mind, the three greatest games in college basketball were the 1957 final between Kansas and North Carolina, where the Tar Heels beat Wilt [Chamberlain], that 1968 regular-season game between Houston and UCLA, where Elvin Hayes knocked off Lew Alcindor, and the Georgetown-Villanova final [in 1985].
"In these three games, there was hope that the big guy could go down and the little guy got the job done. The reality of college basketball is that shorter players can be effective by using their heads and playing intelligently," said Walton.
No rest for the football weary
In case next week's Super Bowl onslaught won't be enough for you, tonight's airing of HBO's "Inside the NFL" (11 p.m.) is right up your alley, with a visit to San Francisco and Andrea Joyce's piece on the impact rookie running back William Floyd has had on the 49ers' success.
In addition, the show will examine what has happened to former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth, who left football for acting. If you have seen any of his movies, you know his best work was the look of pain etched on his face when former Los Angeles Raiders running back Bo Jackson ran over him on the way to a touchdown.
Here's hoping New York's John Starks has a good pair of earplugs and a strong constitution. He will be reminded constantly about his 2-for-19 shooting performance in Game 7 of last year's title series tonight, when the Knicks return to Houston on TBS (8 p.m.). It's the first time the teams have met in Houston since the Rockets won the NBA title.
By the way, that was a nice piece of hustle by TNT to get Craig Sager out to Denver the other night to quiz his former high school teammate, Dan Issel, about Issel's decision to leave the Nuggets in midseason during halftime of the Denver-Phoenix game.
Issel said the Nuggets coaching job "was consuming me. Every waking moment, I was thinking of coaching the Denver Nuggets. It turned me into something I didn't want to become. I couldn't stand to be around me. I knew nobody else could."