Yesterday was "Phil Simms Day" on the television sports circuit: As he was getting a big-time assignment with NBC, his old job as studio analyst at ESPN was being filled by former Green Bay Packers receiver Sterling Sharpe.
Simms, the former New York Giants quarterback who left ESPN in a messy feud last spring, hit the jackpot yesterday, being named to NBC's re-formulated No. 1 team, alongside analyst Paul Maguire and longtime play-by-play man Dick Enberg.
The three will do a practice game in Cleveland on Aug. 6, then debut Aug. 13 for a Green Bay-at-Pittsburgh exhibition.
"When I was first hired by NBC, that [working on the top team] was the furthest thing from my mind," said Simms during a conference call. "The thing that made it all work was the chance to work in the booth. It [the assignment] caught me by surprise, but it was a good surprise."
The elevation of Maguire and Simms means Bob Trumpy, who had been the top football analyst for three years, with two Super Bowls under his belt, will be teamed with Tom Hammond. Marv Albert, who with Maguire had formed NBC's second team, now will be paired with Cris Collinsworth.
One hour earlier, Sharpe, whose neck injury forced a premature, if not official retirement from football, was named to fill Simms' slot as "NFL GameDay" analyst.
Sharpe, who had a frosty relationship with the media in Green Bay, pledged to understand the wishes of reticent players, now that he is on the other side of the microphone.
"I just chose not to do a lot of talking," said Sharpe. "When I walk up to a player and he says he doesn't want to talk, I understand that. I bring that to the table. But there are plenty of players in the National Football League that will talk."
Hail to the victors
A belated tip of the cap is in order to Channel 13 sportscaster John Buren and producer Mike Pupo, who recently captured a Capital Region Emmy award for their work on a Preakness preview special called "Riders Up."
Buren and Pupo were the only Baltimore sportscasters to win in balloting that also included entries from Washington, Norfolk and Richmond. One of the unfortunate casualties was an excellent three-part series from Channel 11's Mark Viviano and photographer Patrick Bourque following new Orioles manager Phil Regan through his managing stint in Caracas, Venezuela, last winter.
The network sports offices in New York are still buzzing over the exchange of insults this week between Fox and NBC over the collapse of The Baseball Network and the presumption that Major League Baseball will award broadcast rights to Fox.
Ebersol was quoted as saying that if baseball picked Fox, after ABC and NBC pulled out of The Baseball Network, the sport would be trading the top two networks for "a pushcart."
That was all Fox Sports President David Hill needed to fire off this retort at Ebersol: "I just see it as Little Dickie thrashing about. He's invested so much of himself in The Baseball Network, he's being puerile."
Ebersol said yesterday he had been misquoted, saying he had used the phrase "pushcart platform."
"I regret the choice of words," he said. "The quote was unfortunate. I'm sorry that a quote about a company then turned into personalities."
Actually, Hill's retort wasn't as stinging as you might think. You see, Ebersol's given name is Duncan Dickie Ebersol, and the NBC honcho said yesterday that he was "thrilled" to have someone refer to him as he had been as a child.
"It brought back a lot of terrific memories," said Ebersol, who called Hill, "a terrific guy," while admitting he had to look up the meaning of puerile, which is juvenile, immature or childish.