Nantz is CBS' link to glory days, as well as its hope for return

Media Watch

April 01, 1996|By Milton Kent

Amid all the tumult, trials and tribulations that have swept over the CBS Sports operation in the past few years, the one rock of consistency has been Jim Nantz.

And when Kentucky and Syracuse battle for the NCAA men's national basketball championship tonight (Channel 13, 9 p.m.), Nantz again will be at the core of what is the network's signature sports event as the symbol of CBS, in much the same fashion that Bob Costas is at NBC, or Al Michaels is at ABC.

"I'm very comfortable with that role or perception. I'm flattered by it," said Nantz during a recent interview at CBS headquarters here. "While a lot of people have left, I'm still here and I'm one of the constants from those days."

"Those days" that Nantz refers to are the halcyon days just a few short years ago, when CBS had a piece of the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, the Masters, the U.S. Open tennis tournament, college basketball and football, all leading to 1990, the so-called "Dream Season," when the Super Bowl, World Series, U.S. Open and NBA and NCAA championships were all aired on the network.

From that package, only the U.S. Open, college basketball and the Masters currently remain, and no one was more personally affected than Nantz, 36, who joined CBS in 1985 at the age of 26 to host the college football studio show, and steadily rose through the ranks to be the lead college football play-by-play man, as well as the No. 2 announcer on NFL telecasts.

The worst time, Nantz said, was the fall of 1994, the first in some 38 years that there was no football on CBS.

"That was very, very hard to take, and a very demoralizing time for me, for all of us," said Nantz. "We had just wrapped up the President's Cup [golf tournament] and I was so accustomed to doing football and that would have been my 10th season. Every week, there's somewhere else to go, moving around the country. And now, there's no place to go."

But Nantz, who took over the lead college basketball role and teamed with Billy Packer when Brent Musburger was bounced six years ago today, says the worst is over for CBS.

The network will get back into college football this fall, with telecasts of the Southeastern and Big East conferences, of which Nantz will be the lead voice.

Two years down the road, CBS will telecast the 1998 Winter Olympics from Nagano, Japan, and Nantz almost certainly will be the host of the network's prime-time telecasts, and he believes CBS, now owned by Westinghouse, will get back into the NFL, in some form.

The best part of it all, for Nantz, is that he will be the foundation upon which the network's sports division rebuilds.

"I am really looking forward to the day when we start to gather these events," said Nantz. "It's so cyclical, this business. I will one day be able to look back and say, 'Yeah, there were some lean years there for CBS, but at least I'm the conduit from the days where we had it all to the days where we're back up. That means a lot to me."

Getting back in the box

Keep it under your hat, but baseball is back.

The hometown nine, the Orioles that is, hit the Camden Yards ballyard this afternoon (Channel 13, 3 p.m.).

Now, while most eyes will be on newcomers Roberto Alomar, B. J. Surhoff, Kent Mercker, David Wells, Roger McDowell and Randy Myers, many ears will be trained on the sounds of new television analyst Mike Flanagan, who replaces the popular John Lowenstein in the booth for Orioles telecasts on channels 13 and 54, and on Home Team Sports.

WBAL (1090 AM), the radio flagship station, will air an entire day of Orioles-oriented programming, until tonight, when it brings the Kentucky-Syracuse game.

Meanwhile, ESPN will have an Opening Day doubleheader, with Cleveland playing host to the New York Yankees at 1 p.m., followed by Boston-Texas at 4 p.m.

Pub Date: 4/01/96

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