Down stretch Pine Bluff will come


Hey, c'mere. I got a hot tip from the track. Keep this under your hat. What? You don't have a hat? Never mind. Here's the tip: Bet the ranch dressing on Pine Bluff in the Preakness. Or is that just bet the ranch?

Anyway, this tip is from a guy who's called the winner for 14 straight Preaknesses. Got that? Pine Bluff in the Preakness. Here, put $2 down for me. Why just $2? I don't have any ranch dressing on me.

OK, enough about salad dressing. The fact is that ABC's Dave Johnson, the network's race caller and analyst, likes Pine Bluff in tomorrow's Preakness (4:30 p.m., channels 13, 7).

"I think Pine Bluff is the Hansel of 1992," Johnson said, referring to last year's Preakness champ. "His Arkansas Derby was excellent. He beat Lil E. Tee. Just like Hansel, he disappointed in the Derby."

Another big disappointment in the Derby was Arazi, but apparently he didn't disappoint Johnson as much as he did some others.

"My feeling is that I didn't like Arazi," Johnson said, "and I said so on the air."

Johnson should have much to say on tomorrow's telecast. In addition to calling the race, he'll interview Larry Littman, Lil E. Tee's original owner, discuss race strategy, present late-breaking news with co-host Al Michaels and analyze the race replay.

But, with all that -- and Johnson is a strength of ABC's coverage -- what does everybody think about when it comes to Dave Johnson?

"Down the stretch they come!"

People say it to him by way of greeting. It's his signature, like Mel Allen's "How about that!"

"I said to Jim McKay [who will be Preakness host tomorrow] -- and this is awful -- I know that phrase will be in my obituary," said Johnson, who seems ambivalent about being reduced to a catch phrase, one he has used for all of his 28 years as a race caller.

Still, Johnson said he is happy that his calls will be remembered.

"What's wonderful is that, 100 years from now, long after I'm gone, someone will press a button, and out will come my voice," Johnson said. "This is somewhat of a legacy."

* Singing a different Tuna: Bill Parcells is being shipped out of NBC's "NFL Live" studio show to team with Don Criqui as an analyst, the network announced this week.

NBC also has decided to replace Bill Walsh with Bob Trumpy as Dick Enberg's partner. As Enberg would say, "Oh, my!" This is NBC's No. 1 NFL announcing team? Trumpy will be the analyst on the Super Bowl? This must be NBC's way of punishing the NFL for not voting the networks a big rebate on the television contract.

Trumpy sees controversy under every official's flag, a conspiracy behind every goal post. (Give him a morning talk show already. "Referees who won't call holding and the women who love them -- on the next 'Trumpy.' ")

Then again, maybe some of Enberg's professionalism will rub off on Trumpy. Sure, and Joe Gibbs will become a stand-up comic.

* Abandon taste, all ye who enter: Television was invented for a reason. "The Howard Stern Show" probably wasn't it. On the program, the boundaries of good taste have been stretched like the elastic on Cecil Fielder's waistband. And, now, Stern is venturing into sports programming. Sort of.

Tomorrow's show (WWOR, 11p.m.; Channel 45, 12:30 a.m.) features a boxing match. But not just any boxing match. The combatants are Geraldo Rivera and Frank Stallone. Apparently, no chairs were thrown, and Rivera didn't consummate an affair with a ring girl at any point during the bout.

If you don't want to know the result, close your eyes, because it will be revealed here.

(Are their eyes closed? Good, you sneak into kitchen and take the Ding Dongs. I'll swipe some CDs. Ewwwwwww, you see this? "Wayne Newton Sings Billy Idol.")

The word is that Stallone, the noted song stylist and brother of the star of "Rhinestone" and "Oscar," pounds Rivera.

You can open your eyes now.

The Stern program also is scheduled to include "oil wrestling" and "topless chicken fighting."

Maybe you'd better close your eyes again.

* Baby, you can drive my car: I had a great Preakness story.

"Boss," I said, "I have a great Preakness story."

He looked skeptical. Or bemused. I always get those two mixed up.

"It's even about TV," I said. "There's this guy, see, who gets on the Preakness telecast every year.

"He's got it timed so that when the horses reach the point closest to Northern Parkway, he drives by. He's been in the background for 20 straight Preaknesses.

"Great story, huh?"

The boss looked intrigued. Or totally uninterested. I always get -- those two mixed up.

Things My Boss Wants To Know: As an analyst on Endeavour's shuttle mission, who would be a better choice than Ferdie "The Flight Doctor" Pacheco? . . . Why can't this column ever have something nice about NBA announcer Jim Durham? (OK, I loved him in that baseball movie with Susan Sarandon.). . . . Is it true that, in honor of Cedric Ceballos' award-winning dunk earlier this season, TNT's Ron Thulin will call a game blindfolded?

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