In control room for Arena, CBS very much in control

ON THE AIR

March 17, 1995|By MILTON KENT

With 13.1 seconds left in overtime of yesterday's first-round NCAA tournament game between St. Louis and Minnesota, the CBS control room is whipped into a state of organized frenzy.

In the front row of the booth, Bob Fishman, CBS' college basketball director, and Bob Dekas, the producer, each are flailing their hands, while barking orders to any and everyone who will listen.

For the first time all day, there are potentially dramatic moments coming from the bank of monitors in this cold, darkened room in a tractor-trailer wedged under the bowels of the Baltimore Arena. And Fishman and Dekas, who each have Emmys for their basketball work, want to make sure all bases are covered.

"All right, listen up. I want camera four on [Minnesota coach Clem] Haskins, three on his wife [Yevette], one on the Minnesota players, five on the Saint Louis bench, and two and six on play-by-play!" yells Fishman.

"The whole audience is on us," says Dekas, as a near afterthought, as regions of the country that have been watching other first-round games have now been routed into Baltimore's feed.

To their left is technical director Jeff Ringel, who punches the buttons to bring up the shots that Fishman commands, while fending off falling cardboard from an air conditioning vent that works too well.

On the next row is associate director Jim Rikhoff, whose headset is wired both into the technical and support staffs in and around the giant trailer and into CBS' New York headquarters where a mystery woman named "Miriam" feeds him commercial cues and orders for promos.

Next to Rikhoff is Mark Ashbrooks, an Arlington, Va., teacher who has taken the day off to free-lance his services to answer phones and keep in contact with New York.

And on the back row is Bill Naeder, the technical manager, who is responsible for the technicians. Naeder has officially retired from CBS but has been pressed into service this weekend.

Naeder will have his hands full, too, as the over-the-air signal, which carries the scores from other regions, is so blurry that game announcer Dick Stockton mistakenly says that the Connecticut-Tennessee-Chattanooga game is still in progress when it is finished.

The first game and a half from Baltimore are ugly, with regional top seed Wake Forest routing 16th-seeded North Carolina A&T in the first and the Golden Gophers going without a field goal for the first 10 minutes of the second.

With Manhattan upsetting Oklahoma in Memphis and Arizona losing to Miami (Ohio) in Dayton, the network's decision to send three-quarters of its best team -- Dekas, Fishman and analyst Billy Packer -- seems questionable, but Minnesota's second-half comeback offers the telecast team some hope.

Minnesota, which trailed by 19, has forced overtime but now trails by three with the above-mentioned 13.1 seconds left. The Golden Gophers get four tries at a three-pointer that will bring a second overtime, but none falls.

Meanwhile, in the CBS truck, magic is being made. The isolation camera, one of six manned cameras, has caught Yevette Haskins as she contorts her body to will in two desperation shots from Townsend Orr, a third attempt from Voshon Lenard and a final heave from Orr that rims off at the buzzer. Yevette Haskins finally collapses as the horn sounds, and the camera has captured it all.

However, the camera on the upper deck of the Arena has a wonderful shot of Clem Haskins, who has moved down the Minnesota bench, just behind the basket. The camera follows his eyes as he watches four shots go up and miss.

Haskins never changes expressions as each shot rises and fails, and when the buzzer goes off and his season ends, the coach simply starts walking. The moment is painful to watch, but you dare not turn away.

"The whole country is watching. Take it back, Y," yells Dekas, ordering the videotape machine operator to rewind the tape to where Haskins first watched the ball. "Show the play first. That was a great game. A classic game."

Said Ringel: "That's why we're in Baltimore. It's a great game."

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