All you need is love, Berman on '60s trip

Media Watch

May 20, 1999|By Milton Kent

The accepted wise-guy response for the guy who missed either the memo that the Beatles broke up or the one declaring tie-dyed shirts and Afro hairstyles out of style is, "Hey, pal, the '60s are that way."

For a couple of hours tomorrow, during ESPN's "SportsCenter of the Decade, 1960s" (7: 30 p.m.), Chris Berman is taking that long, strange trip back to the days of free love, Peter, Paul and Mary, and the days when pitchers in both leagues actually had to swing a bat.

"We had a growing of the country, figuratively and literally, and sports was a part of it," Berman said yesterday. "This is one of the most fun projects we've done in the 20 years that I've been here."

As with previous programs, which examined the big stories of the first 50 years of the century and of the 1950s themselves, tomorrow's show -- with co-host Charley Steiner -- examines the major sporting events of the '60s and places them under historical and cultural microscopes, as a part of ESPN's "SportsCentury" project.

Every important moment of the decade -- from the success of African-American athletes at the Rome Olympics of 1960 to the Jets' upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969 -- gets the once-over during the show, and a few receive even closer scrutiny.

"I'd be hard-pressed to find 10 years that were as important. The last time I checked, it was a pretty exciting time," said Berman, a history major at Brown.

The show promises to be something of a hoot, what with Berman, who didn't cut his hair for two months just for the occasion, and Steiner changing wardrobes three times to match the garb of the times, not to mention a visit from "Easy Rider" star Dennis Hopper and a specially '60s-crafted "SportsCenter" theme.

But the program's feel isn't so light that the significance of the time doesn't come through.

"I'd like to think that particularly the basketball players of this era would watch the show," Berman said. "It pains me to think that some of them have no idea who Oscar Robertson was and that they don't have a sense of how great that time was. I'd like to think that maybe that will happen [through the show]."

The baseball network

Berman waxed both nostalgically and pragmatically about the war between Major League Baseball and ESPN over the latter's decision to reroute three September Sunday night games to ESPN2, while airing football on the mothership, ESPN.

Berman, who anchors the football studio show and "Baseball Tonight" on Sundays, as well as calling selected Wednesday night baseball games, said he'd be "disappointed" if baseball gets its wish and yanks the remaining three years of regular-season coverage from ESPN to another cable outlet.

At the same time, Berman fears that baseball, in the afterglow of the 1998 season, an artistic and financial success for many clubs, is overestimating its value.

"I'm afraid baseball might think that after last year, that they're totally back. But there are a lot of 8- or 9- or 10-year-olds who don't love baseball like we did," Berman said.

"They [baseball officials] have to continue to present baseball as something fun for the young. ESPN does that better than anyone else. You can go to Fox or wherever for more money, but I don't think the game is well-served on another network."

Hang-up on pit row

Don't look for extensive or home-generated coverage of next weekend's Indianapolis 500 in Sports Illustrated next week.

That's because the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has denied a credential to SI's lead racing writer, Ed Hinton, because of a recent story, headline and photo of a crash at an Indy Racing League event in Concord, N.C., that claimed the lives of three spectators and injured eight others.

The Indianapolis Star-News reported that the speedway objected to a color picture that ran in the magazine, showing a body covered in a sheet in the grandstand, with the accompanying headline "Fatal Attractions."

Sports Illustrated apologized for the placement of the photo next to a full-page ad for a motor oil company. The ad, which featured a crew of five looking under a hood, ran with the caption "You're born. You die. In between, you work on cars. We should all be so lucky."

Speedway officials reportedly were upset that SI apologized to the company, but not to the families of the deceased or the fans.

While the credential of Hinton, who wrote the story with five other reporters, has been revoked, the speedway said SI was welcome to send someone else, an offer the magazine declined. Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune announced it wouldn't cover the race in protest of Hinton's ban.

Throwing flames

A certain noted baseball columnist from a major metropolitan daily newspaper down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway has described this newspaper's reporting of the job status of Orioles manager Ray Miller as a "take no prisoners call for primitive justice that's usually reserved for war criminals," adding, "The villagers on the trail of Frankenstein with their torches have nothing on the Sun's sportswriters."

So much for the unwritten code against attacking other newspapers, eh? One can only wonder if, while this paper is carrying torches, whether that writer is, perhaps, carrying water for Miller and the Orioles' front office.

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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