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Having gymnasts, NBC here brings to mind ringer from the past


With all these wonderful gymnasts in town, it reminds me of a little story.

Back in ninth grade, we were going through our few weeks of gymnastics in phys. ed. class. Forward rolls, backward rolls I could deal with. But then there were the rings.

OK, I could jump up and grab them. After that, nothing. So my gym teacher, Mr. McNutt, was going to help me flip around. Why it was so important to flip around has been lost in the intervening years, but what happened has not.

While Mr. McNutt was trying to help, I did flip around, kicking my feet -- and nailing poor Mr. McNutt in the face.

The story has a happy ending, though. A few weeks later, Mr. McNutt cut me from the freshman baseball team before I got to swing a bat.

I never did learn to do any tricks on the rings -- nor did I learn any with the bat, for that matter -- but, like a lot of people, I marvel at the efforts of world-class gymnasts. NBC (channels 2, 4) will put the best American competitors on display tomorrow (2 p.m.) and Sunday (4 p.m.) with coverage of the Olympic trials from the Baltimore Arena.

Covering the event for NBC are John Tesh, Tim Daggett, Elfi Schlegel and Beth Ruyak. Daggett, an ex-U.S. Olympian, and Schlegel, a former world-class gymnast from Canada, certainly can relate to the experience of the trials.

"If you fall this weekend, it can virtually take away your chances of making the team," Schlegel said. "I'm talking about a bent knee."

Schlegel, who was a member of the Canadian national team during 1976-85, said gymnastics is progressing exponentially.

"The sport changes every year," she said. "You have to sit back and wonder where it will go."

But there apparently is little reason to wonder about world champion Kim Zmeskal.

"She really has the upper hand in every competition," Schlegel said, citing Zmeskal's mental toughness.

Schlegel said it's important NBC go beyond flip-by-flip coverage.

"We do get into stories like [Betty Okino's injury.] You don't want to sit there and just talk about the gymnastics," she said.

And when the talk is strictly gymnastics, Schlegel said, she doesn't want to be didactic.

"I don't want to come across that you have to like this gymnast because I like this gymnast," she said. "No, you judge for yourself."


Flips and jabs: Along with today's gymnastics coverage, NBC will present boxing trials from Worcester, Mass. . . . Gayle Gardner has a feature on former top gymnast Kristie Phillips during today's program.


Where was Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts?: There might be some folks in these United States who don't appreciate what a truly great country we live in. Sometimes, I wish those ingrates just could sit down with me and listen to the radio. In the stirring words of the great philosopher Yakov Smirnoff, "What a country!"

Tuesday night on "Sports Exchange" on WCBM (680 AM), Stan "The Fan" Charles' guests were Boog Powell and Boogie Weinglass. Stan the Fan? No, Stan the Genius. What an inspired pairing.

Of course, Weinglass -- clothing-store magnate, potential NFL franchise owner and wearer of the most

famous ponytail this side of Steven Seagal -- can't set foot in town without Charles at his side, but every Don Quixote needs a Sancho Panza.

Anyway, there followed a fascinating discussion on the etymology of the nicknames given to the B-boys and a discourse on the respective pronunciations. Is it booooooog, bug, boooo-geee, bug-eee, or what? For a transcript, send $9.95 and a self-addressed envelope to Merkle Press.

On Wednesday, another great moment on radio: Dan Patrick, live from his shower. James Brown of all-sports, all-static WTEM (570 AM) called the ESPN sportscaster, who was at home. Patrick conducted the interview while stepping from the shower -- he did put on a towel -- and tending to his 7-month-old son.

Patrick needed to rinse off more, though. He was pretty slippery in avoiding the question of whether he was leaving ESPN for New York's WCBS.


The Davis Channel: Another Boog and Boogie doubleheader has been lined up for Sunday by Tom Davis. On "Sports Beat" at 11:30 p.m. on Channel 45, Davis, also of Home Team Sports and WTEM, interviews Weinglass. At noon on Channel 13, Davis' "Boog and the Birds" -- based, of course, upon the Hitchcock classic -- will feature regular Powell and former teammate Moe Drabowsky. To warm up, there is "Notes and Quotes with John Oates" at 11 a.m. on Channel 45, featuring the Orioles manager, pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and Boston Red Sox coach Don Zimmer. Sutcliffe and Zimmer reminisce about their days with the Chicago Cubs. Davis is working on several other deals so that he can been seen 24 hours a day. He next will join Cher, her mom and her hairdresser to promote personal-care products. . . . In his never-ending effort to explore all sides of the Cal Ripken contract situation (and my never-ending effort to take a mildly amusing joke and run it into the ground), WBAL Radio's Jeff Ri

mer will have Axl Rose, Harry Connick Jr. and Placido Domingo as guests next week. In addition to three-part harmony on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the guests will place Ripken's contract in a larger economic context.


What about mascara under the eyes?: Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein had this exchange during Wednesday night's Orioles game on HTS: Proctor (after a ballgirl fielded a foul grounder): "Another ballplayer wearing an earring." Lowenstein: "But it's when you start wearing lipstick that you have problems with your teammates." . . . ESPN has added a "SportsCenter" anchor, Linda Cohn from Seattle's KIRO. She will begin next month, working the 2:30 a.m. show. As off-hours workers know, this is called the lobster shift, because most shift workers take their meal breaks to dine on lobster Newburg, lobster tails or lobster Thermidor (except down on the docks, where it's lobster stevedore). . . . In case you're ever confused when you hear "Rock and Roll Part II" played during a televised game, here are the words: "Hey. . . . Hey. . . . Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey." Glad to be of help.


Very jock-ular: The boss invited me to The Baltimore Sun Athletes of the Year luncheon this week. I was quite thrilled.

"And we want you up at the head table," he said.

What an honor, I thought.

The day arrived. The luncheon was marvelous -- the food delicious, the program entertaining, the athletes strapping, the parents beaming.

But I was sitting at the head table with no apparent function. Well, I thought, I guess it's just because I'm a famous and talented columnist.

Finally, at the end of the luncheon, I was called to the center of the dais to stand next to the master of ceremonies.

"One last thought for our athletes," the M.C. said. "This is Ray Frager. Take a good look. Don't let this happen to you."

Things My Boss Wants To Know: Is it true that NBC once considered Bela Karolyi to take over the Merlin Olsen role on "Father Murphy"? . . . OK, so the NFL doesn't like the World League's Helmet Cam, but how about putting a Mustache Cam on Mike Ditka? . . . Now that The Washington Post Sports Talk set has a nifty new counter, why doesn't host George Solomon ever ask if we want fries with our order?

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