Sports plate is standard fare on Channel 45


It's not exactly a wide world of sports on Channel 45's new 10 p.m. newscast.

If you are a devotee of the All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar School of Sports Reports (not associated with Columbia Broadcasting System. . .) who answers the question, "What do you want?" with "more," then Channel 45 isn't giving you much beyond that of the three network affiliates in town.

With a one-hour newscast, sports might be expected to get more than the five minutes allotted to Max Morgan and Bruce Cunningham. Washington's Channel 5, for example, another independent station with a one-hour newscast at 10 p.m., gives its sports segment maybe seven or eight minutes.

And it's not as if Channel 45 would be sacrificing much to give more time to sports. There is enough built-in repetition and chit-chat to find the minutes.

Time or, actually, timing is another problem. Though sports is the last segment, allowing for night events to finish, that extra half-hour between Channel 45's and channels 2, 11 and 13's sports reports can make a large difference. To say that major-league baseball games often move at a snail's pace might be insulting to snails, so 45 gets left with too many partial scores -- even on the Baltimore Orioles.

"One of the tough things for them is [games often are] either hanging in the balance or just over," Channel 2 sports anchor Scott Garceau said.

If you're going to watch a late-night sportscast and not get the scores, you might as well wait for the next morning's paper (now there's an idea).

As for what the sports fan gets on Channel 45, it's pretty standard stuff -- scores, highlights. There are usually also feature stories, which are nice enough, but let's not forget the news. On the debut broadcast, for instance, Morgan barely squeezed in Buck Rodgers' firing as Montreal Expos manager before throwing it back to the news anchors.

"If you're sticking around for a late newscast, you want scores and highlights," Channel 13's John Buren said. "I was surprised it wasn't more scores-and-highlights-oriented."

Maybe the Play of the Day should be dumped, too. One of the things that makes plays of the day worthwhile on CNN or ESPN is their timeliness. That has been lacking on Channel 45. A day-old Michael Jordan dunk or Sergei Bubka pole vault doesn't cut it.

And, speaking of Bubka, having a news anchor chuckling over his name not only shows ignorance of a well-known, world-class athlete, but also is in bad taste. Besides, is Sergei Bubka an inherently funnier name than, say, Jeff Barnd? (Hey, Jeff, ya wanna buy a vowel, or what?)

Morgan delivers the sports in professional fashion, in one of those great broadcasting voices that I wish I could rent once in a while. My only quibble with his style is a tendency to lapse into cliche. I heard "brain trust" and "got on his horse" (as in running) on the first night alone.

Channel 11's Gerry Sandusky said: "They had everything in it I figured they'd have. I was kind of happy to see they didn't get more time. It kind of put them in the same boat as the rest of us."

Morgan seems pleased with the way the boat is sailing.

"So far, so good," he said this week. "We're starting to feel a little more comfortable with what we do. We still want to do some things on down the line."

As for whether there will be more time to do those things during the newscast, Morgan said: "If there's certain nights when it warrants it, we can get more time."

He said the features, usually done by sports director Cunningham, will help set Channel 45's sportscast apart. "That allows us to do something that other stations don't get to do," Morgan said.

And the origin of some features might come from outside the studio.

"The feedback has been very positive [from viewers]," Morgan said. "We're getting a lot of people calling us with story ideas.

* The Orioles had Turn Back the Clock Day, and WCBM (680 AM) having what might be called "Turn Back the Dial." Bennie The Fan and Joe Croghan, last heard on Baltimore radio in 1961, will be hosts of a two-hour sports talk show at noon on Sundays. . . . Starting Monday, CNN's "Sports Tonight" will start a half-hour earlier, at 11 p.m. . . . Home Team Sports will carry the NHL draft tomorrow at noon. . . . Black Entertainment Television's weekly sports talk show, "Budweiser Sports Report" (tomorrow, 2 p.m.), is scheduled to have Denver Nuggets general manager Bernie Bickerstaff, Georgetown coach John Thompson, CNN's Fred Hickman and ESPN's Robin Roberts as guests to discuss the NBA draft.

* Those who played in the recent Hoop It Up tournament in Baltimore may want to check out "CBS Sports Sunday" (channels 11, 9, 4 p.m.), which features the final of the Coca-Cola/Reebok Coup de Hoop three-on-three basketball competition. . . . Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., before CBS' Pittsburgh Pirates-Los Angeles Dodgers game at 3, Hank Aaron will be interviewed on "Baseball '91." . . . This week marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Don Dunphy's career as the voice of boxing -- the Joe Louis-Billy Conn heavyweight title fight.

* Bob Ley, whose words on the air are normally so well-thought-out, could have used a good editor on a "SportsCenter" recently. In speaking about an 18-inning game between the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, Ley made reference to women wondering why their husbands or sons weren't back from the game. Is there a law in Missouri prohibiting females from attending baseball games? Would Ley have said the same thing if his co-anchor that night had been Robin Roberts? You know, there even might be some women who watch ESPN. . . . Speaking of ESPN, the network's Chris Berman recently was in Dallas filming his part as a sportscaster -- what a stretch -- in the movie "Necessary Roughness," about a female place-kicker on a Texas college football team. . . . &L; Whenever the subject on Ron Smith's WBAL Radio talk show strays from the normal topic -- how the city/state/country/world is going to hell in a handbasket -- to sports, the host displays enthusiasm, wit and knowledge. Smith has sat in as sports talk show host on occasion, but WBAL might want to consider him as part of its substitution rotation whenever Jeff Rimer isn't on.

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