The TV Repairman:
ESPN is providing an excellent early-season test tomorrow for hoop nuts who pride themselves in their ability to sit brain-dead for hours watching dunks and dragging of pivot feet and listening to the algebraic meanderings of the likes of Dick Vitale.
Starting at 12:30 p.m., two games from the famed Kuppenheimer Classic start the marathon: Louisville vs. Georgia Tech and UCLA vs. Georgia. Then it's on to Cincinnati at Indiana, Iowa State at Michigan and Ohio State at West Virginia. Wait, there's more! Texas vs. Utah will usher in Sunday.
This glut also will serve to ready cable viewers for four opening-round games from the Maui Classic on Monday: Memphis State vs. Chaminade at 2 p.m., Oklahoma vs. BYU at 4, Duke vs. DePaul at 9:30 and LSU vs. Stanford at midnight.
Hack your way through all this and you're apt to know what Vitale is talking about the next time he takes off on one of his seizures.
* Much of what Mike Ditka says is lost in obscenities and tobacco juice. But what the Bears coach said about NBC's coverage of last week's Chicago-Pittsburgh game is dead on. Mike complained that the net had cameras on him incessantly, waiting for an explosion. It came and went out over the airwaves, but when the coach approached the player and cleared the air, the cameras were nowhere in sight.
* Staples of "Monday Night Football": Dan Dierdorf saying, "Now that's a well-designed play," describing a fairly sloppy flea-flicker, hardly an oddity in games these days . . . and Frank Gifford's oh-so-subtle reference to a guy having a good year: "He's working on [a trip to] Honolulu [site of the Pro Bowl]." Puts them in good with the coaches, players and wives.
* Be patient, boys and girls, just three months and two days until ESPN will be sending along a baseball game from Florida: Red Sox vs. Yankees at Fort Lauderdale, 1 p.m. That's assuming the gates of the baseball camps aren't locked, of course.
* John "Ace Hardware" Madden, usually not the wishy-washy type, says "there is a place for the instant replay" in pro football, but hedges by adding as long as it doesn't wreak havoc on the flow of the game. John must not wear a watch to work. It's still taking three hours to complete a 60-minute game and the last two minutes of both halfs run anywhere from 10 minutes to infinity.
* Please, local sportscasters (and you know who you are), pronounce the name of Sylvain Cote of the Washington Capitals CO-TAY. He's French Canadian.
* USA Network did a nice job on its final "Tuesday Night Fights" telecast of the year, alias Vinny Pazienza's comeback from a broken neck. They went heavy on Paz, but Al Albert did sneak in this information about loser Luis Santana: "He has long since become an 'opponent,' losing his last three fights and not having been in the ring for a year."
* Obviously, ESPN is unaware of the fact that sports awards shows on the tube are pre-destined losers. It's planning a 150-minute gala in March at Madison Square Garden to celebrate various sports feats of 1992 in 33 categories. Please, try to contain yourself.
* The charge of the first commissioner of hockey, Gary Bettman, is to increase the NHL's visibility at least threefold. With ESPN carrying an average rating of 1.0 for its weekly series to date, the ex-NBA man would appear to have an Everest to climb, especially with ABC talking about doing five games over the course of about seven months.
* A spokesman for CBS said, "The success of the SEC championship game [between Alabama and Florida] proves that major conference title game is a national attraction, not just a regional attraction." On the other hand, it could have meant an extremely cold and windy day in the Northeast and Midwest with nothing else but repetitious college hoops on the tube.
* Each week, publicists from the NFL joyously proclaim how fans are rushing out to the stadiums producing record throngs, blah blah blah. Almost weekly, the no-shows exceed 60,000 and, last Sunday alone, more than 125,000 failed to post (43,500 nixed the zTC Jets at home). Oh, well, maybe the TV is picking them up.
* ABC says it still doesn't have accurate ratings figures for its college football pay-per-view experiment this fall. Something about not being able to borrow use of a microscope.
* No sooner will keno be part of our everyday lives when new Simulcast Racing Network president Bob Wussler, formerly of Turner Broadcasting, will have live races all over cable TV and home viewers will be wagering using credit cards. So much for television not being a source for good, right?
* According to The New York Post, Cris Collinsworth is done as the colorman on telecasts of Notre Dame games on NBC because (a) he's too critical of the Irish, or (b) he's tired of working with the folks under the Golden Dome. Shucks, he was good, too.
* I haven't figured out where I stand yet on the Washington Bullets' announcing team of Jim Karvellas and Phil Chenier on Channel 20. Both have voices that can lull you to sleep after awhile if the sorry team hasn't put you there first. One thing about Karvellas: He still has that knack of telling you where he stands on an official's call. "And they called a block of CJ," said Jim, disbelief in his voice, as Charles Jones nearly decapitated Terry Porter.
el,.3l * Bobby Hurley of Duke --es frenziedly downcourt, screws up a three-on-one break causing a four-point swing. Not word one of a critical nature from CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery. It's OK, fellas, you can include some bad with all that good.
* Of course Denise Biellmann was the best female skater at the DuraSoft World Professional Figure Skating Championships at the Capital Centre last Saturday. But as she said afterward, "I didn't expect to win." Same as in the amateurs, the best doesn't always win. See if you don't agree when the show comes on NBC sometime in February.