CBS makes change for better, switching away from blowouts


If it became necessary at this very moment to name an MVP for the NCAA basketball tournament, undoubtedly it would go to the man at CBS responsible for the game switches to date.

In the past, the network would no sooner ditch a bad game for a good one for fear of upsetting regional viewers than it would pass out free commercial time.

At long last, however, some clear thinker at CBS has come to the rightful conclusion that most of the audience this late in the season can be placed in one category: Fan, not home team fanatic.

With Kentucky streaking along with leads of 20-4 and 41-16 over Wake Forest last night, the network said so long Charlotte, hello St. Louis. In the past, we would have been made to suffer as silently as the Demon Deacons did.

The same held true during the first half of the regional semifinal doubleheader: As soon as a tight ballgame between Indiana and Louisville broke apart slightly in the late going, we were whisked swiftly to the important moments leading to Florida State's overtime victory over Western Kentucky.

In was none too early in this latter case either, because it bordered on nauseum the way announcers James Brown and Bill Raftery were extolling the virtue of Bob Knight's Hoosiers.

Late in the first half, Indy led 43-40, but, unaware of the score, a listener would have guessed it was 83-0. Obviously, it's to one's advantage to get on the good side of "The General." At the very least, "JB" and "Raff" sounded like campus radio station announcers from Bloomington.

* Speaking of objectivity, often it's hard to come by when speaking of local broadcasts. While this is understandable to a degree, at the same time an audience shouldn't be subjected to such a subjective account of the action as happened during the Washington Capitals' 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Channel 20 last night.

Any time the Caps went on the power play, it was "an all-important power play," according to commentator Craig Laughlin. It was a simple man advantage for the Isles and, as everyone knows, the Capitals are terrific penalty killers.

While play-by-play man Jeff Rimer dusted off his whistle and decided to help the referee with the calls, Laughlin wondered aloud, "How did the [fifth-place] Islanders get 17 wins in the Patrick Division?" A better question might have been, "How come the second-place Caps have won only 10 games in the Patrick Division?"

A few choo-choo rah-rahs for the home team are to be expected, but to constantly gripe about calls going against the Caps and to make every Washington player sound like an All-Star constantly grates on the true sports fan.

* The Toughman World Championship is on SET pay-per-view tomorrow (10 p.m.), and among the ruffians entered, Randy "Penitentiary Slim" Brooks sounds like a winner off his background of having just been released from a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter. Wonder how his parole officer feels about the line of work he has decided to pursue. Mr. T, Tommy Morrison and Greg Haugen are former Toughman victors.

* The thing that made Bert Cooper vs. Derrick Williams reasonably interesting on ESPN last night was not the inaction, which Cooper dominated by 99-91, 99-91, 98-92 scores by the judges, but that both showed little enough to be placed near the top of the heap of harmless types Riddick Bowe obviously plans on fighting.

* In the first 15 minutes of the Dinah Shore Invitational, one of the "majors" of women's golf, commentator Judy Rankin analyzed about a half-dozen golf swings. Which is a sure way of getting fans to switch from ESPN to USA to catch the men in the opening round of the Players Championship.

Usually, first- and second-round telecasts are for birdies, long putts, trouble shots and personalities as it's too early for the true competition to take shape. Both these biggies had great sendoffs with popular Nancy Lopez tied for the LPGA lead and PGA tourists like Nick Price and Greg Norman dropping birdie putts all over the landscape.

ABC will pick up the women the next two afternoons at 4:30 and 4, respectively, and NBC has the men at 2 and 2:30.

* The first test of a tennis fan's mettle arrives at 1 p.m. today when the U.S.-Australia challenge is carried on ESPN. A doubles match follows 12 hours later, with the deciding match tomorrow at midnight.

* Channel 2 has the Orioles-Cardinals game tomorrow at 1 p.m. Please, announcers, whoever you may be, let's have a little more life. It's not the dog days of August yet.

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