Easy now, the best comes last Keith Jackson set for a sweet Sugar


Tina Turner's words resonate through the years, speaking to us in a challenging purr. "We never, ever do nothing nice and easy," she said, though this was no revelation to anyone who'd ever seen her perform in spiked heels that made her tall enough to be an NBA power forward.

Today's question, then, is: Are you up to Tina's challenge? Are you going to do it nice and easy, skipping the day's first seven college football bowl games until the national championship begins in the USF&G; Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m.?

Or are you going to do it nice and rough, and park yourself in front of the television starting at 11 a.m., determined to work the remote control with the deftness of an Old West gunslinger, keeping tabs on every game?

Before you decide, ponder this: What do you think Tina would do?

Tina aside -- sorry about that, but what's love got to do with it? -- ABC is the lucky network this year, for the matchup between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Alabama has landed in its lap.

And viewers are nearly as lucky, because that means the voice of college football, Keith Jackson, will be calling the game.

Jackson wasn't there to help Grantland Rice write his ode to Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, but it seems as if he's been around college football nearly that long. So Jackson should be as good as anyone to assess the Sugar Bowl.

"They match up very well," Jackson said in a news conference this week. "The defenses put them on the front porch, and eventually someone will come in the door."

When the Bowl Coalition was organized, this was the kind of matchup that was supposed to result. But Jackson said the coalition people shouldn't spend too much time patting each other on the backs.

"I think this ballgame happens, coalition or no coalition," Jackson said, noting that Alabama, as Southeastern Conference champ, would have headed to the Sugar Bowl in any case. "I think the coalition broke down rather quickly with the Cotton Bowl."

The Cotton's picking Notre Dame as an opponent for Southwest Conference winner Texas A&M; failed to match the unbeaten Aggies with higher-ranked Florida State and give both schools an outside shot at No. 1.

Some see as it as more than coincidence that the Cotton Bowl is being carried by NBC, home of Notre Dame football. Not to deny conspiracy theories -- from Dallas, of all places, home of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building, the grassy knoll and Ross Perot -- but the Cotton, like nearly any other bowl, finds it hard to pass up Notre Dame and its huge following, regardless of the network coverage.

Meanwhile, mention a national playoff in college football to Jackson, and he says don't hold your breath.

"The Big Ten and Pac-10 can't even spell playoff when they're getting $6 million each from the Rose Bowl," he said.

And this year's situation, in which the Sugar Bowl overshadows all of the other bowl games, helps make the point of those who say a national playoff would diminish the postseason participation of all but a few teams.

"There can only be one [title game]," Jackson said. "In a way, this is what the coaches have argued against a playoff."

Playoff or no playoff, the old-time feeling of a bowl game has changed, he said.

"Twenty-five years ago, it was a festival, and the host city made it that way," Jackson said. "Now, there is so much money involved, there is so much opinion levied on it, that if you don't sell out, it's terrible."

Pay as you go

ABC Sports executive producer Jack O'Hara said ABC's college football ratings this year were even with 1991's.

"I think, with the proliferation of games, to end the season even is a success," O'Hara said.

O'Hara also said the network hasn't decided whether it will continue to offer regional games on pay-per-view. This year's initial venture into the market was seen as an experiment, O'Hara said.

"All of the returns are not in . . . but it was a moderate success," O'Hara said. "Pay-per-view may become a bigger part of our business. We only made a couple of bucks off it, but that wasn't our aim."

Though ABC is waiting for more information, O'Hara said about 14,000 customers were purchasing games each weekend by the end of the season. You'd have to add a couple of zeros to that number to get over one national ratings point, but ABC didn't need huge pay-per-view audiences. The network already was telecasting these games anyway, so making them available to other viewers cost relatively little.

I only brought this up so I could tell you that ratings measure the percentage of all television households watching a program. And -- what the heck -- shares measure the percentage among homes where the television is in use.

Feeling bowled

WBAL Radio (1090 AM) is broadcasting the Cotton, Fiesta and Sugar bowls today. . . . Hurry, go turn on the TV, ESPN has an hour-long bowls preview show at 10 a.m. today, with Tim Brando, Craig James and Lee "I'm trying so hard to be the Dick Vitale of football" Corso. . . . NBC has positioned Jim Lampley in studio for bowl updates, and he's certain to have rosters in case the network has to take another Japanese-TV feed if there's a power problem at the Orange Bowl again this year.

What a great country

Why do people the world over want to come to America? ESPN provides yet another example on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.: the Miniature Golf Association of America national championship from Jacksonville, Fla. The four finalists will be miked, but the early word is that ESPN failed to provide a telestrator to diagram those tricky shots through the windmill, past the Dutch village and along the top of the dam. Drive for show, but putt for dough, baby. . . . Up is down, down is up. The world has gone mad. The other night on Stan "The Fan" Charles' talk show, Sun sportswriter Peter Schmuck was filling in as host, joined by Washington Post sportswriter Mark Maske. Schmuck announced he was planning to bring in another guest on the phone, real

radio talk host Phil Wood. Two sportswriters on radio were doing a phone interview with a radio guy. What would Marshall McLuhan say? Or Marshall Dillon, for that matter?

Things my boss wants to know

Is it true that ABC plans to have commentator Bob Griese sing a medley of the late Bob Marley's songs if Marley's son, Rohan Marley of Miami, makes a great play during the Sugar Bowl? . . . Is it grounds for divorce if your spouse decided to wake you this morning after New Year's Eve revelry by turning on "Getting Fit with Denise Austin" at 6:30 a.m.? . . . How many people signed a collision insurance waiver before tuning in Thrifty Car Rental Bowl Week on ESPN?

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad