Tafoya's work in emergency was breakthrough for women

Media Watch

March 25, 1996|By Milton Kent

Saturday afternoon started out harmlessly enough for CBS' Michele Tafoya, who showed up at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, planning to patrol the sidelines for the network's coverage of the Midwest Region championship game of the NCAA tournament.

By afternoon's end, Tafoya had been handed a brief but memorable ticket to the big time, play-by-play on an NCAA men's basketball tournament game.

"It was a blur. You're just thrown into it. There was something exhilarating and fun about it, but it was quick," said Tafoya yesterday before catching a flight to New York for next weekend's Final Four.

Tafoya, 31, in her second year with CBS, was forced into emergency service as game caller when Sean McDonough fell ill with a bout of stomach flu, and had to leave the announcers' table late in the first half.

Tafoya, who lives in the Minneapolis area, said she and other CBS personnel had noticed that McDonough looked pale earlier in the day, and joked that it was a good thing that she was around, since she has done play-by-play before on radio and on television.

As the Kentucky-Wake Forest game wore on, Tafoya said she noticed, through her earpiece, that McDonough's call was sparse, with big gaps, but she ignored it until producer Bob Mansbach ordered her to the play-by-play table to spell McDonough.

"I had no idea what could have happened," said Tafoya. "I couldn't imagine why he had to stop, but when I got there, he looked pretty pale. I was pretty thoroughly shocked."

Though she had sat in on production meetings in advance of the regional games, Tafoya said it took a while to get her play-by-play bearings since she hadn't prepared for that task, and because McDonough's notes were barely , the No. 2 executive at CBS Sports, thanking her for her hustle.

Tafoya, the first woman to do play-by-play at a men's tournament game, was understandably cautious in speaking about the dearth of opportunities for women to do play-by-play, saying she was "thankful for the opportunity."

The fact of the matter, however, is that what happened Saturday should have taken place long ago, and the chances for women to call games -- even women's sporting events -- are few and far between.

Even ESPN, which patted itself on the back for its women's tournament coverage, had just one woman, Beth Mowins, doing play-by-play last , since, as the commercial says, basketball is basketball, athletes are athletes, and announcers are announcers.

Prepping for the finals

CBS airs an interesting special tonight, "College Basketball's Road to Glory," (Channel 13, 8 p.m.), with a look at the four most memorable men's championship games since 1982, when the network took over tournament coverage, as voted on by a panel of sportswriters.

The viewing public will get its say on the matter through an interactive component, as CBS invites interested parties to vote by accessing the network's web site at http: //www.cbs.com. The results of the fan voting will be revealed next Sunday when the show is repeated.

ESPN airs a quartet of women's NCAA tournament regional final games tonight, starting at 5 p.m. with the East championship, preceded by a tape of the Division II women's title game at 3 p.m.

Pub Date: 3/25/96

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