Colorado shootings stir study of athletes, rest of student body


June 18, 1999|By Milton Kent

In the wake of the April 20 shootings in Littleton, Colo., the nation has been forced to examine the interaction among teen-agerswithin our high schools.

The latest "Outside the Lines" special, airing Monday at 7: 30 p.m., takes a look at the gap between high school athletes and the rest of the student body, one of the many themes in the midst of the Columbine tragedy.

For lead reporter Shelley Smith, the topic is especially poignant, not only since the shootings took place not far from where she grew up, but, also because she is the mother of a 13-year-old daughter who is an athlete.

"All she kept saying was, `Why did they do that?' " said Smith yesterday. "It all came home the next day when I took her to school and there were police cars at the school because of all the copycat stuff that was going on."

Smith and producer Craig Lazerus said the Littleton incident is not the focus of the special, which was not available for advance screening, but served as a dropping-off point to explore a topic that is likely as old as high school itself.

"I think it's gone on forever. It's probably growing as sports is growing in our culture," said Lazerus.

The show appears to be thorough, with more than 200 overall interviews, including on-camera interviews with more than 70 students, teachers, principals, coaches and parents from around the country.

What appears to be missing from the show, according to the producer and reporter is a discussion on the media's role in this topic, and that's unfortunate.

Simply put, an industry that airs Little League World Series games and runs weekly high school football and basketball polls can't simply claim to be a passive observer when the caldron bubbles over. Monday's program is an interesting first step, but only a first step toward understanding why our kids behave the way they do.

Open instruction

NBC's golf coverage is highly thought of among the links set, and the network's announcers like to believe that their acclaim is because of their attention to detail.

That may appeal to the serious golf fan, but in order to keep the larger audience that might tune in for an event like the U.S. Open, the difference is humanizing the participants, which falls to the capable hosting talents of Dick Enberg.

"We do a great job all the time of telling the stories of who these players are," said analyst Gary Koch. Dick Enberg does a great job of that, and I'm sure that's something the casual viewer likes."

NBC (Channel 11) is planning "blow out the budget" coverage of the Open from Pinehurst, N.C., continuing with today's two-hour show at 3 p.m. For the final two rounds, NBC will go with 18-hole coverage, starting at 12: 30 p.m. ESPN goes for four hours today at 11 a.m., with recaps at 5 and 7: 30 p.m. and at 12: 30 a.m.

Just a thought

The coverage of the hiring of two NBA coaches Wednesday tells us all we need to know about the "cult of personality" that infects our culture, even in the sporting realm.

Phil Jackson's hiring with the Lakers, which had been hinted and rumored at for almost a week, got the lead of "SportsCenter" play early Wednesday and got the new coach a substantial interview at the top of NBC's telecast of Game 1 of the title series.

Meanwhile, the Wizards' hiring of Gar Heard, which actually happened later in the day, didn't show up on the early "SportsCenter" until nearly 30 minutes into the show. And NBC's mention of Heard came as a toss-away near the end of halftime. Even then, the note came as a pretext for Hannah Storm to ask Isiah Thomas about his rumored candidacy for the Washington job.

The Wizards may not have the glitz and glamour of the Lakers, but their coaching hire is no less important.

Around the dial

The Women's World Cup soccer tournament begins this weekend from various American sites and ABC and ESPN will begin extensive coverage, starting with a telecast of the opening match between the United States and Denmark tomorrow at 3 p.m. on ABC (Channel 2). At 5: 30, Brazil and Mexico will meet on ESPN. Bob Ley and analyst Wendy Gebauer will have the call of both matches from Giants Stadium. CNN's "Sports Tonight" will preview the tournament at 11 p.m. tonight.

HBO's Wimbledon coverage commences Monday with live and taped presentations each day next week at 9 a.m., with a highlights show at 7 p.m. Baltimore's own Pam Shriver will conduct post-match interviews during the daytime show, and join Mary Carillo for the highlights program each evening.

The hockey and basketball championship series continue this weekend. Game 6 of the Stanley Cup set airs tomorrow night at 8 p.m. on ESPN, with a pre-game show at 7: 30 from Buffalo. Game 2 of the NBA series tips tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC (get a good post-dinner nap) from San Antonio before the scene shifts to New York Sunday for Game 3. The game will start around 7: 30, but the pre-game festivities begin at 7 p.m.

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