ESPN won't over-cover O. J. trial

ON THE AIR

January 23, 1995|By MILTON KENT

With a minimum of fanfare, ESPN and ESPN2 have decided not to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O. J. Simpson double-murder trial set to begin this week.

Dave Nagle, an ESPN spokesman, said the networks will continue to cover the trial on "SportsCenter" and "SportsNight," their respective sports news programs, but will not televise coverage unless "there's a compelling reason, say if O. J. himself takes the stand."

"It's going to be available in plenty of other locations. We didn't feel we needed to add to that," said Nagle.

Nagle cited "scheduling concerns" for the decision. ESPN2 had planned to go gavel-to-gavel and ESPN had figured to carry more extensive coverage when it appeared the trial would start last fall. But with extensive delays, and the beginning of the college basketball and pro hockey seasons, the trial would likely have eaten into popular programming.

Whatever the reason, ESPN is to be commended for the change. Concerns about the propriety of a sports network covering what is ostensibly a news story have been expressed extensively in this space. While it would be nice if the ESPN networks would completely leave this to news departments, give credit to ESPN for doing the right thing.

Here's to new ventures

Now that he's not the coach of the Washington Bullets anymore, Wes Unseld has some time on his hands. And, to fill it, he's taken on new duties as color man on NBA Radio, the league-sponsored national radio network that will air a slate of Sunday afternoon games through the regular season and playoffs.

"I've got a lot to say, but it's up to the play-by-play man [Joe McConnell] to set the scene," said Unseld, an executive vice president with the Bullets. "I've got to get in and out and be succinct and positive and provide some information. There will be some times that I'll mess up, but that's nothing new."

Unfortunately, the NBA Radio package is not available on any Baltimore radio station. The nearest outlet on which to get the 13-game regular-season schedule is Washington's WTEM (570 AM).

Meanwhile, another local product, former Maryland women's basketball star Christy Winters, will make her debut tonight as a Home Team Sports analyst when she teams with Johnny Holliday for the Florida State-Georgia Tech women's contest at 7 p.m. Winters, also an assistant coach for the George Mason women's team, is the third-leading scorer in Maryland history.

Making their mark

ABC/ESPN's Mark Jones has taken great strides toward becoming a good play-by-play announcer, as exhibited by his solid work on Saturday's Duke-Florida State game for ABC. Jones still lapses occasionally into the kind of jarring street lingo that mars "The NBA Today," the weekly show he hosts on ESPN, but he thankfully kept that to a minimum Saturday.

In fact, ABC should look to pair Jones and analyst Dan Bonner more often, as they were quite interesting. Bonner is vastly underrated, and rarely gets caught saying silly things, which isn't easy for most of the basketball color people out there.

Bonner, who works ACC contests for Raycom/Jefferson Pilot and early-round NCAA tournament games for CBS, consistently makes interesting points that might escape the gaze of the casual fan.

For instance, he chided Duke guard Steve Wojciechowski (Cardinal Gibbons) for swiping at Florida State forward Derrick Carroll after Carroll pulled down a late second-half rebound in the Seminoles' win. Bonner made the astute observation that a steal attempt off a rebound is usually unsuccessful and leads to a foul -- as it did in this case -- unless the rebounder tries to dribble.

Quick questions

It's hard to take those ACC public service ads during conference basketball games seriously when the league continues to allow beer commercials to run. You can't buy beer at league arenas and three-quarters of the players and student spectators can't legally purchase it, so why advertise it? . . . Has anyone else had enough of figure skating? . . . Wouldn't it be nice if Lee Corso could spin off last night's stint on the sidelines at the Hula Bowl into a head coaching job so he could leave the ESPN studios for

good? But then, who would hire him?

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