Bowling fans can't convert network split


The TV Repairman:

What a strange move by ABC last week, rolling out one of its old standbys, the Pro Bowlers Association Tour, and casually feeding it into the Ollie North Memorial Shredder. A little background music, please.

For what seems like a century, the network has informed anyone who would listen of the virtue, the longevity and the good old down-to-earth Americanism inherent in this annual series . . . and host Chris Schenkel, boy, they don't come much better than ol' Chris.

So last Saturday -- the date of the PBA series finale, the Firestone Tournament of Champions -- a delay is necessitated by a bomb scare at the lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio. So some quick schedule-shifting is in order. No sweat. "Wide World of Sports" is to follow, and one of its segments is taped gymnastics action from last year.

There was time for live coverage of the bowlers right up to the final frames, when the plug got pulled. About 10 minutes, just a portion of the time allotted for the taped gymnastics bit, would have been required to see bowling through to its conclusion. Instead, the net did a series of 30-second cut-ins, and that was supposed to satisfy the keggling krowd.

* In case you're wondering why there's suddenly a big rush of boxing shows on pay-per-view, check out these numbers: George Foreman vs. Evander Holyfield grossed $55 million; Holyfield vs. Buster Douglas did $38 million; Mike Tyson vs. Razor Ruddock did $30 million. It's another Comstock Lode, obviously.

Next up on PPV is Virgil Hill (30-0) vs. Tommy Hearns (49-3) June 3, and this one's scheduled for 3 1/2 hours. The supporting bouts -- championships in the featherweight and light-flyweight divisions -- don't figure to turn on Easterners, who historically go for the big guys, but the promotion is spending $2.5 million on network TV advertising, so the show will fly. Probably big.

PPV is now available in 17 million homes with projections of 22 million by 1995 and 45 million by 2000.

* ESPN, after doing same-day coverage of the Kentucky Oaks today (6 p.m.), comes on at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow with three live races and lots of yakking leading up to ABC's Kentucky Derby pTC show at 4:30. Question sweeping the land is, will analyst Charlsie Cantey succeed in picking all 16 horses in the field before they get to post?

May 4, tomorrow's date, has been the day of several thrills at Churchill Downs. In 1957, jockey Bill Shoemaker misjudged the finish line and stood up on Gallant Man, allowing Iron Liege to sneak home . . . In 1968, Dancer's Image was disqualified for saying yes to drugs and Forward Pass, which was not tested, was declared the victor.

* Thank goodness, Frank Robinson doesn't have a thin skin and the hard-hitting, informative, light, bright and breezy "Robinson Report" will continue as a pre-Oriole game staple on WBAL. This deserves mention because Mets manager Bud Harrelson just dumped his pre-game show (and $30,000) on WFAN in New York because the show's host asked tough questions.

Speaking of air pollution, it's time for the mute button when . . . following a 10-1 shellacking, your fearless interviewer peers into the eyes of the losing manager and asks (?), "You have to be pretty happy about the two bunt singles so-and-so laid down."

* The Houston Rockets showed great class dumping their regular season cable carrier and going to pay-per-view for NBA playoff home games. Retribution came when the team was swept by the Lakers, meaning the Rockets played just one game at the Summit.

* Yes indeed, buckaroos, Johnny Buren will be comin' at ya with five more years of non-sports on Channel 13 . . . Dino Mangione will be handling Maryland Bays broadcasts on WCBM-AM again, beginning with tomorrow's season opener against the Penn-Jersey Spirits beginning at 7:20 p.m. . . . HTS is doing all Stanley Cup conference final games live with the Bruins vs. Penguins and Oilers vs. North Stars going on alternate nights at 7:30 and 8 p.m., respectively.

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