ESPN Magazine has more than meets the eye

Media Watch

March 17, 1998|By Milton Kent

Even before John Papanek declares in his editor's note that it's "not your father's sports magazine," there are not-so-subtle hints that ESPN Magazine isn't intended for the Baby Boomer set.

The ads on six of the first eight pages of the magazine are Generation X-friendly, with shots of androgynous-looking youth, being, well, androgynous-looking youth.

And the magazine's heavy emphasis on photos, not to mention the cover shot of four young stars -- Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez, Kordell Stewart and Eric Lindros -- basically says that older readers needn't bother picking up a copy.

But, while youth may be wasted on the young, ESPN Magazine's content isn't a waste. To the contrary, if the debut issue is an accurate harbinger, the magazine will be an interesting addition to the sports publishing landscape.

Of particular note in the current issue is a brilliant profile of former boxer Tommy Morrison, written by Tom Friend. Morrison, who disclosed that he had contracted HIV two years ago, makes for a fascinating subject, declaring that HIV does not lead to AIDS and that the world will come to an end in two years. Friend paints a sympathetic but skeptical portrait of Morrison.

The Morrison article is actually asymptomatic of ESPN Magazine, in that it is a fairly long piece. Most of the 184 pages are taken up by pictures and ads -- way too many ads -- and some of the graphics, though visually arresting, are confusing and tough on the eyes.

xTC Still, on the whole, ESPN Magazine is off to a promising start.

Along for the ride

Among those you'll see in upcoming ESPN promos for its NASCAR coverage is Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina.

As a part of the "Ride-Along Program," Mussina will join driver Rusty Wallace, who teases the hurler with the time-tested taunt, "We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher."

The spots, which were filmed at tracks in Charlotte, N.C., and Concord, N.C., also feature drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin and Kyle Petty with celebrity passengers Keyshawn Johnson of the New York Jets, former NASCAR driver Richard Petty and Joan Embry of the San Diego Zoo.

Don't ask.

Smooth sailing, so far

OK, let's be honest. CBS certainly has been lucky that many of the first- and second-round NCAA men's tournament games came down to the wire, which always makes for compelling television.

But the network, through the first weekend, presented wonderful pictures and terrific words, most of the time. In the past, CBS had sought to keep viewers updated on other games by throwing four contests on the screen at once, which was infuriating to many viewers.

Instead, for this tournament, the network has gone to just one game at a time surrounded by a border with the score of the game viewers have been watching, a much wiser choice.

For some reason, the ratings have stayed even with last year. The 1998 average of 5.6/13 through the first four days is identical to the ratings at the same point last year.

Of particular note as analysts have been Greg Kelser, Bill Raftery and Jon Sundvold, who each did yeoman's work at breaking down play, while being entertaining.

CBS' best tournament move, however, might have been putting Greg Gumbel to work as studio anchor nearly immediately after he left NBC. Gumbel's calming presence allowed Jim Nantz, who has been in New York the past couple of years during the first two nights of the tournament, to get out and get a feel for the games. Clark Kellogg, meanwhile, has emerged as a star in the studio as an analyst alongside Gumbel.

Here are the announcer pairings for this weekend's regional semifinals and finals: Raftery and Sean McDonough will man the East, while Gus Johnson and Sundvold will do the West games; Jim Nantz and Billy Packer will call games from the South Regional, and Tim Brando and Al McGuire will be in the Midwest.

Channels 13 and 9, meanwhile, will telecast the Michigan State-North Carolina game Thursday night at 7: 39, before showing Maryland vs. Arizona, which is scheduled to begin at about 10: 25.

Pub Date: 3/17/98

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