Ex-shortstop G. Gumbel has covered field

Media Watch

August 27, 1998|By Milton Kent

NEW YORK -- We've all seen clips from a news conference at which the newly announced coach at Eastern Technical University solemnly declares that his new post is the only one he's ever wanted and, in taking the job, he is living out a dream.

It's all a crock, of course, and Greg Gumbel, to his credit, isn't one to wallow in the crock's contents.

Gumbel, CBS' lead NFL play-by-play announcer, won't pretend that he's stumbled into the dream job of his childhood. Growing up, as he did, in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, Gumbel's plan was to play shortstop for the White Sox.

"I wanted to be the guy who replaced Luis Aparicio. I wanted to be one of those guys in a long list of White Sox shortstops. But things change," said Gumbel.

In fact, Gumbel, who will call tonight's Dallas-Jacksonville preseason game (Channel 9, 8 o'clock) with analyst Phil Simms, went through three other jobs before getting into broadcasting as the weekend sports anchor at Chicago's NBC affiliate.

His career path took him to ESPN, the Madison Square Garden Network and CBS -- where he was the last host of the "NFL Today" pre-game show before the network lost its NFL rights in 1994 -- and to NBC before he came back to CBS earlier this year.

"At various times during my broadcasting career, my priorities changed," said Gumbel during a recent interview. "I was perfectly happy to be where I was until somebody came along and said, 'You can do this' or 'You can do that.' "

Among the goals Gumbel didn't set out to achieve was becoming the first African-American to be hired as the lead play-by-play announcer on a network's coverage of one of the big four team sports.

It's an accomplishment that doesn't send Gumbel reeling as much as it does other blacks.

"Is it important to other people? I have no doubt. Is it important to me? Somewhat," said Gumbel, whose younger brother, Bryant, was the first African-American to be host of a network sports studio show, NBC's "Grandstand," in the 1970s.

"I don't believe it necessarily implies an accomplishment on the part of an African-American person as it implies an accomplishment by a person. I have always tended to believe that it doesn't matter what color you are. If you can't do the job, they'll find someone else."

Time-warped hair

Don't know what the Ravens are paying color analyst Brian Baldinger, but he deserves a boost for his trenchant analysis of sideline reporter Stan White's hair.

White, whose curly mop brought to mind the looks of a young Professor Irwin Corey, was doing a report at halftime of Monday night's game when Baldinger started drawing on the telestrator around White's head, then wrote in on the side, "Nice hair."

Of course, there is something to be said for those still have enough hair to make a mop.

'Blast' blueprints

As you know, "Monday Night Blast," the newly minted pre-game show for ABC's "Monday Night Football," will originate from Baltimore's new ESPN Zone, and the network unveiled some of its plans for the 20-minute program yesterday.

Chris Berman will be host of the pre-game and halftime proceedings from the screening-room area inside the restaurant, using the giant 16-foot-by-9-foot screen as a "window" on the game. The halftime show will include a new feature in which Berman will present the top 10 highlights of the previous week, drawn from a mix of football and other sports, as well as containing a pop-culture element.

"We couldn't duplicate a more sports-friendly environment than the ESPN Zone," said Bill Bonnell, who will produce the pre-game show. "We feel as though the ESPN Zone was built for the Monday night pre-game and halftime shows."

Meanwhile, Frank Gifford, who trades the booth for the pre-game show, will introduce a weekly "mini-movie," which will look inside the lives of players, from a booth just off from the main screening room. The feature will be shot on 35-millimeter film, rather than on videotape, and will be produced each week by NFL Films.

Wrapping it up

The WNBA's sophomore season, though a success at the turnstiles, was a bit of a disappointment in the ratings column, as all three of the league's carriers -- NBC, Lifetime and ESPN -- experienced a double-digit percentage dropoff from last year.

The league's best-of-three championship series will commence tonight as the reigning champion Houston Comets travel to Phoenix to meet the Mercury. ESPN and Lifetime will each telecast tonight's game at 8, with ESPN airing a 30-minute pre-game show at 7: 30.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last week:

Event ........... Day ... Ch. .. R/S

Ravens-Phi. ..... Mon. .. 13 ... 16.5/26

O's-Devil Rays .. Thu. .. 13 ... 14.6/24

Orioles-Indians.. Fri. .. 13 ... 13.8/25

Orioles-Indians.. Sun. .. 13 ... 8.6/20

Orioles-Indians.. Sat. .. 45 ... 8.1/21

Golf ............ Sun. .. 13 ... 5.2/11

Gymnastics ...... Sat. .. 11 ... 4.8/9

Gymnastics ...... Sun. .. 11 ... 4.4/7

Dolphins-49ers .. Sun. .. 45 ... 4.0/8

Pack-Broncos .... Mon. ... 2 ... 3.4/5

R-Rating. S-Share

Pub Date: 8/27/98

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