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Controversy? Lending aid? How did U.S. miss out on this?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At long last, controversy and the United States is not involved. What will NBC think of next as it plows forward with coverage of these XXVth Games?

Actually, it's an old African trick, runners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Morocco running distance events as teams until it's time for the strongest to stride out for the top spot. Only trouble with Moroccan Hammou Boutayeb's effort to aid countryman Khalid Skah in his battle with Richard Chelimo of Kenya in the 10,000 meters yesterday was he had already been lapped when he decided to get involved.

Skah's victory in a rough and tumble sprint down the stretch was overturned on appeal and he was disqualified last for "receiving aid." This morning, the decision was reversed and Skah was made a winner again.

As for NBC, no one covering the situation explained that the way Boutayeb aided Skah is that he hindered Chelimo from making a breakaway with about a half-mile remaining, the strategy he had to utilize to win.

* If the track and field action lasts long enough, perhaps analyst O.J. Simpson will come up with something other than his constantly telling us that sprinter Gwen Torrence "has good strength because she's run a lot of 400s in training."

* Remember when we used to make fun of ESPN's running volleyball games in the middle of the night a decade ago? That's exactly what NBC is doing with its 12:35-2 p.m. segment nightly. Too bad Australian Rules Football isn't included in the Games, it would provide a good post-midnight contrast.

Speaking of the late show, despite not having much to work with, Hannah Storm and Jim Lampley have done a fine job. Now if they would only give the highly competent Lampley something else to do. Same goes for Dick Enberg, who is being painfully underused save for his playing kneesies with Kathy Couris on the morning show.

* Tell you what marks a great athlete: When Ms. or Mr. Superstar arrives at the point where there is very little left to be said about them. Case in point, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

She's a fabulous person, calm, humble and completely cooperative, no doubt the best female athlete since Babe Didrikson Zaharias. But after years of being in the spotlight, there's seemingly nothing left for her to say or be asked about, and here she'll be around for the next four years until Atlanta '96. Liken the situation to Cal Ripken's being asked about his consecutive games streak.

* I happened to be on hand for the feature match the first day tennis returned to the Olympics in Los Angeles eight years ago and Australian Pat Cash, a star at the time, went into the tank quickly. He explained that he was there to see soccer, track and field, swimming, whatever, not play tennis. Nobody seemed to mind.

Slowly but surely they've got the players to come and extend themselves, although you couldn't prove it by Chris Evert's effort in Seoul four years ago. Now a backward step in Barcelona: Five-set matches for men are ridiculous anywhere but from the quarterfinals on at the Grand Slam events and they're positively unconstitutional on clay in Spain in the middle of the summer.

* Amazingly, it took NBC more than a week to work up a piece on Ernest Hemingway and his love for Spain. It took ABC no more than 15 seconds to review the wild times of the famed author in Cuba when it was in Havana for the Pan American Games last summer.

* "Let's get it done and get the hell out of here," said Charles Barkley after the Dream Team's 122-81 victory over host Spain Sunday. Imagine what the guy is going to be like all this week and until the gold-medal game Saturday afternoon? Maybe they can sedate him.

* Would you like a couple hundred words on the ratings/shares NBC has been putting up the last 10 nights? I didn't think so. Anyway, the Nielsens disclose that close to 18 million homes have been tuning in nightly, which constitutes about one in every three TV sets in use.

The network guaranteed advertisers a rating (15.3) far lower, so they have to be pleased. Perhaps they'll be pleased enough to quickly cut some new commercials, which are long overdue. While on the subject, will someone please pay Randy Travis off and send him on his way. Paula Abdul can stick around.

The way Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, explains the success, it's been the scheduling. Proudly, he said, "We didn't have one minute of boxing in prime time last week. Boxing is not something that will keep women in front of the set."

OK, now that the men know where they stand in the network's scheme of things, can they look forward to NBC loading up on synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics this week to keep women tuned in?

* Just think, if Home Team Sports did things telecasting Orioles games the way NBC has far too often in Barcelona, it wouldn't bother showing the opposing team bat. Hmmm, think of all the extra commercial time this would make available.

* The good academians out at Morgan State must be thrilled no end to hear network broadcasters speak of alumnus and bronze-medal hurdler Jack Pierce and his job of cleaning out slot machines at an Atlantic City casino on the 2-6 a.m. shift.

* Psst, John Tesh has moved over to water polo. Let's see if the "Entertainment Tonight" co-host can make this activity sound like as much of a passion play as he did the gymnastics.

* Great shot at the end of Macho Camacho's fourth-round TKO of Eddie Van Kirk on Showtime the other night had referee Joe Cortez checking on Van Kirk and Eddie saying, "He fouled me, you know." The ref answered, "Yes, I know." But nothing was done about two Camacho haymakers landed well after the bell because, after all, he was the name guy in the bout.

See, the Olympics isn't the only place where things get messed up in the manly art of self-defense.

* After watching Jamaican Merlene Ottey do wondrous things in the sprints right up to the final in Olympic and world championship meets, even casual viewers have figured out that what she obviously needs is a hypnotist to program her to think she's running just another heat.

* Michael Jordan on the golf course, Scottie Pippen out for an afternoon stroll and, last night, Clyde Drexler at the tennis courts. What makes this constant tribute to the Dream Team even more ridiculous is the two-time defending gold medalist women's team's efforts are still being restricted to 30-second reports.

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