Albert going back on air Sportscaster returns as voice of Knicks, anchor with MSG

July 16, 1998|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

Can a formerly revered, then ridiculed, sportscaster's career be salvaged? We're about to find out soon as Marv Albert returns to the airwaves.

Albert, who resigned last September from New York's Madison Square Garden Network after pleading guilty to a charge of misdemeanor sexual assault, will rejoin MSG as the radio voice of the New York Knicks on half their games as well as anchor of a cable sports news show.

Albert, who also was fired as the voice of the NBA on NBC, returns to work Sept. 14 in his hometown after undergoing therapy at MSG's request.

"I think we're going to get tremendous support. I think people are going to rally around him. How long do we have to hold some people out and punish them? It's not our right. He's ready to come back," David Checketts, president of MSG, said at a news conference yesterday.

As you'll no doubt recall, Albert, the voice of the Knicks and the New York Rangers for more than a generation, was accused of throwing a former girlfriend on a bed in a Virginia hotel room in February 1997, biting her and forcing her to perform oral sex.

Albert initially vehemently denied the charges, but pleaded guilty to a lesser offense after a second woman stepped forward in court to make a similar accusation against him.

After he was sentenced to a year's probation, Albert hit the talk show circuit to say he had taken the plea to spare his family further embarrassment. He alleged then that the victim made her accusations out of jealousy that he was about to marry another woman.

Yesterday, Albert showed a considerable amount of contrition for what the scandal had done to his family and his reputation.

"What I did was wrong," Albert said. "I hurt many people, including my fiancee, my family, my friends and my employers. For that, I am sorry."

Albert's ability to rehabilitate his tattered reputation in his hometown, among people who grew up revering him, will be the first test as to whether he could return to the network stage.

"I think that my personality has certainly changed after going through the entire situation," Albert said. "It will take a little while for me to get back to my normal personality, but I think that will come in time, and I think I will be taken seriously in time."

At present, from this vantage point, it's difficult to imagine Albert ever donning a network blazer again, but stranger things have happened in television.

Stay tuned.

New name, new game

ABC made it official yesterday: The "Monday Night Football" pre-game and halftime shows will originate from Baltimore's new ESPN Zone restaurant, starting this fall.

The 20-minute pre-game show will be called (hang on to your seats) "Monday Night Blast," and will be, according to a network publicity release, "a unique blend of sports and entertainment bringing the essential dramatic pre-game moments to viewers through the technology available at the ESPN Zone." Kind of takes your breath away, doesn't it?

Hitting the big time

The American Basketball League, the self-proclaimed but barely noticed best women's pro basketball league, took a step toward a higher profile when it reached a two-year deal with CBS to air a portion of its championship series on the network.

The league, which runs a poor second to the WNBA for media attention, will buy time from and pay production costs to CBS in exchange for the airing of two games of its five-game title series in 1999 and 2000. CBS will carry Games 1 and 3 on April 18 and 24, respectively.

"It makes us a real player in television and television is where it's at," said Gary Cavalli, the ABL's CEO and co-founder.

Cavalli said the league will announce a new regular season and playoff television package next week, but he has made similar pronouncements before. While the ABL, seen over its first two seasons on BET and some Fox Sports Net affiliates, markets itself as the premier women's basketball professional league, its future is iffy until it can secure a permanent television contract. That will be difficult to do as long as it continues to schedule in the fall and winter, when the sports docket is filled to near brimming.

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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