CBS takes shot at storytelling on college basketball coverage

Media Watch

December 05, 1997|By Milton Kent

When newly crowned CBS Sports executive producer Terry Ewert took over the reins, he decided a couple of big changes were in order for the network's crown jewel property, college basketball.

One of those changes, scrapping the flat "wheel" format of staggering starting times and moving audiences from the end of one game to the end of another, makes sense. The other, taking time to tell stories about the players doesn't, or at least not at first glance.

After all, these days, the best college players hardly stick around long enough to meet their professors, let alone allow the public to get to know them. Besides that, basketball's usual breakneck pace doesn't appear to allow for announcers to work in stories about the players.

"There's so many things going on in a game that it will be difficult [to fit in stories] and it will have to be wherever it's comfortable to get in," said Ewert. "We understand what our competition is out there. The more people at home get to understand the people, the more they'll feel a part of the coverage. The game will always be the thing, but you'll have the casual and fringe viewer come if they can get to know the participants."

Toward that end, Ewert also plans to have his directors shoot the game with longer lenses and tighter shots to bring the expressions of coaches and players into your homes. And without taking the step of going to a full-time on-screen score and clock, Ewert says CBS will go to a "more aggressive" display of the game situation, with the clock and score appearing on every change of possession.

Jim Nantz and Billy Packer return as CBS' No. 1 announcing team, though Nantz will be in the studio for tomorrow's season premiere, pitting Kentucky against Indiana (Channel 13, 3: 30 p.m.) along with Clark Kellogg. Gus Johnson will call the game with Packer.

By the way, the network yesterday announced that Michele Tafoya will host "At the Half," succeeding Pat O'Brien, who left CBS in September for the syndicated program "Access Hollywood."

Let's play the feud

There's apparently something strange in the water in the San Francisco Bay area, what with Latrell Sprewell trying to apply a WWF chokehold to P.J. Carlesimo and a flare-up in a supposed ongoing battle between ABC's Al Michaels and the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders this week issued a news release accusing Michaels of "scorching" the team during a Nov. 24 "Monday Night Football" telecast. During Denver's 31-3 romp over Oakland, Michaels got in a few zingers at the Raiders' mystique and, when the cameras panned into owner Al Davis' box, the announcer said "He could star in the Howard Hughes story."

In retaliation, albeit a week after the fact, the Raiders said in their release that Michaels "doesn't have an ounce of truthfulness or morality in his body" and he should "confess" about his alleged absence of truthfulness," to which Michaels said in a statement that he wouldn't "dignify this tripe with a response."

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Michaels or his partners, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf would attack the Raiders, who have made a habit of antagonizing the league. The "MNF" booth has long served as an NFL mouthpiece, parroting the corporate line as well as if commissioner Paul Tagliabue spoke the words himself.

But the Raiders' actions are bizarre, to say the least, so much so that team officials had to assure reporters that the release in fact came from the team and wasn't a prank. If ABC retains a football stake after the current rights negotiations are done, it would be difficult to envision a Raiders game on the network.

Enough already

When will the lunkheads in New York, whether it's at the networks or at the NFL office, realize that Baltimoreans are not interested in seeing Redskins games?

Once again, while most of the rest of the country is watching Minnesota-San Francisco on Sunday at 4 p.m., Fox is saddling us with the Washington-Arizona slumberfest. And to compound the headache, we'll have to suffer through the moronic mutterings of Jerry Glanville, easily the worst NFL analyst in the business.

The ratings clearly suggest that any Baltimore area resident who wants to watch the Redskins is already doing so on Channel 5 in Washington, so why make the rest of the area watch a team that has no natural interest in Baltimore?

Around the dial

The latest "Outside the Lines" special from ESPN promises to be the highlight of the weekend. This episode, airing tonight at 7: 30, centers on the ties between street gangs and sports, with a scheduled segment on the 1990 Colorado football team and the allegation that nine starters on that national championship squad were gang members.

Following the "Outside the Lines" special, ESPN will air this year's NASCAR Winston Cup award banquet at 9 p.m.

The college hoop schedule starts to heat up this weekend as the Maryland men meet Kansas Sunday in the opener of the Franklin National Bank Classic on ABC (Channel 2, 1: 30 p.m.) Home Team Sports will join the second game, pitting Penn against George Washington, in progress at 4: 30 p.m. Sunday, and will carry the consolation and championship games Monday, starting at 6 p.m.

On the women's side, if the seedings hold out, the final of the Central Fidelity Classic tournament Sunday (HTS, 6: 30 p.m.) should be a doozy, likely matching second-ranked Old Dominion, last year's national runner-up, against No. 3 Louisiana Tech.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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