Montana will score on TV, too

May 19, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

The TV Repairman:

Usually, a guy hangs 'em up, signs a few autographs and steps directly in front of the television camera to emote and he's, well, found wanting. Jack Buck tells the story of one of his broadcast partners being so bad he was fired at halftime (no, he won't name him). The name of the game is marquee, not matter, understand.

However, off a simple NBC teleconference confirming it has indeed signed Joe Montana as a part-time "NFL Live" studio analyst, the former great quarterback flashed promise.

Admitting just about all athletes are "guarded" in their relations with the media during their playing days, Montana stepped away from his customary smile-and-say-nothing demeanor of the past and spoke with confidence and assurance.

While realizing it will be a learning process, working with host Greg Gumbel and the legion of commentators and reporters NBC runs out, Joe said, "The advantage of being in the studio, as I see it, is you don't have to be 'on' all the time, hunting for things to say for three hours. I wasn't interested in being in the booth [at a game site]."

His immediate assignment is "to find a way to be myself. Players get burned over the years [by the media] and they change. They go on automatic pilot. Later, you want to let yourself go and being with the guys in the studio should relax you and make it easier since you're no longer dealing directly with the media."

Montana talked to his football mentor Bill Walsh, who, he said, "told me it was very difficult to be critical in the booth where he started out." The fact Joe is working just six Sundays during the 17-week NFL season, sitting in Joe Gibbs' chair when he's away racing autos, has convinced him he'll "be able to stay fresh. With the time off, I won't have to say, 'Oh, I said that last week, what do I say now?'

"There's a way of being critical and analytical. With my experience and contacts, I think I'll be able to provide insights about players I think the audience will like. I think I'll be critical and will join in when an issue needs to be addressed."

While Montana made game analysis sound something to be avoided at all cost ("I've heard horror stories"), NBC says another new quarterback hire, Phil Simms, can't wait to over-analyze every play run. No doubt he fell heir to former staffer Todd Christensen's thesaurus.

* Similar to every third Saturday in May since a very long time ago, ABC's cameras will be literally everyplace around Pimlico Race Course tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) for the 120th Preakness Stakes.

One change in the 90-minute format this year: Parris Glendening will be awarding the Woodlawn Vase, "the most expensive trophy in sports," as governor. The previous presenter, W.D. Schaefer, will be there touting Maryland as the greatest place on earth nonetheless.

On this very day in 1973, Secretariat cruised to the fastest Preakness ever, but he wasn't given credit for the record clocking despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Just a tidbit to hold you over until Channel 2 begins its coverage at about 4:30 a.m. tomorrow.

* CBS' golf commentator Ben Wright's words regarding the LPGA Tour are essentially true whether he was misquoted or his words misinterpreted or not. Whether the image of the women's tour is true, false or somewhere in between, sponsors and advertisers have some misgivings as do the networks and, perhaps, the viewing public.

* Veteran sportscaster Bob Wolff, who goes into the media wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, still holds the record of having announced the longest nine-inning game in diamond history: 4:18, second game of National League between the Dodgers and Giants in 1962.

"Despite the time," says the man who was working one of the broadcasts when Bobby Thomson smote "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951, "it was one of the fastest games I ever broadcast. There was immense strategy on almost every play. With all the extra commercial time today, I guess that 1962 record will be surpassed at some point." Amen.

* ESPN is doing a show tonight (7:30) on "Between the Lines" dealing with sports and religion. Jean McCormick, coordinating producer of the shows, says, "We've done shows on race, sex and ego, but I think this is far and away the most personal subject we've tackled."

* This weekend's pay-per-view visit to Fistiana sees Evander Holyfield making his first start since a heart problem in a losing effort against Michael Moorer forced his retirement 13 months ago. Ray Mercer, who, in his own words, "has been down and out more times than I can count," will provide the opposition and neither fighter has the slighest idea what will happen in the event of victory or defeat for them. Such is the state of the heavyweight division these days.

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