Masters of overkill converge on Augusta


Ah, the Masters. What can be said that hasn't been said 56 times already? And so reverently by CBS for the past 38 years?

With two-hour shows yesterday and today (4-6 p.m.), plus taped replays last night and tonight (9-11 p.m.) on USA, not to mention the print media deluge, even the uninterested, the casual and persons manning the space station should be at frenzied pitch the next two afternoons when CBS drops in on Augusta National at 3:30 and 4 p.m., respectively.

Short of Michael Jackson's silver sequin glove, is there any other piece of wearing apparel in the world more famous than the Masters' famed green jacket?

The usual cast of voices will whisk us over the 80 most meticulously manicured acres on the planet and, no, Jack Whitaker, who once described tournament Masters fans as a "mob," still hasn't been forgiven by the folks at Augusta to the extent he is allowed within the boundaries of the state of Georgia.

With Jim Nantz, Ben Wright, Pat Summerall, Ken Venturi, Gary McCord, Verne Lundquist, Tom Weiskopf, Peter Kostis and Bobby Clampett filling us in on things, the question is if there's enough space left over for the 28 cameras the Eye will utilize to cover the last nine holes alone.

But that's the beauty of the Masters: the pomp, the ceremony, the overkill. "The continuity," adds Frank Chirkinian, producer and director of the telecast since hickory shafts. "Continuity provides people with a certain comfort level. We don't change things."

"Familiarity doesn't breed contempt, it breeds comfort," says Wright, who has been known to test the veracity of his statement.

In any case, no matter what has happened on the golf tours to date, and it has been considerable, the golf season officially starts this weekend when some poor guy heads into "Amen Corner" a couple of strokes under par and exits 3 over.

* After watching huge chunks of two baseball games games Monday, a couple Tuesday, including a near no-hitter, three Wednesday and another yesterday, I'm ready for the postseason. Does anyone know the playoff dates?

CBS, the official network carrier of baseball, practices another week before getting its feet wet April 17. Meanwhile, a full slate of Orioles (channels 2, 20), Mets (WWOR), Braves (TBS), Cubs (WGN) and lots of teams (ESPN) should keep even the most demented diamond fan satisfied until then.

* John McLaughlin was at his blustery, garrulous best, jumping in in the middle of what he considered long-winded answers and firing back what he considered to-the-heart-of-the-matter questions. Still, clearly, it was no contest.

Appearing on the CNBC show Wednesday night, George Steinbrenner blew the political pundit away, mainly because McLaughlin was lacking in sports knowledge and was unable to come up with any good follow-up questions. Besides spouting the politically correct answers, The Boss teed off on the soft pitches being lobbed his way and made baseball management look good, no easy feat these days.

That's especially true after the Frontline show "The Trouble With Baseball" Tuesday. This was one of those labor-management wrangles in which Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the White Sox, came across as a smug, tyrannical despot and his employee, 45-year-old catcher Carlton Fisk, countered as a whiny, never-satisfied ingrate. It seemed to be very true to life.

* Note to the sports folks at Channel 11: No, Ernie Accorsi, newly named special adviser to the Maryland Stadium Authority on football matters, didn't play for the Orioles, Skipjacks, Spirit or the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team, either. A mid-week reporter and weekend anchor wanted to know what position the short, cigar-chomping Accorsi played for the old Colts during a news conference yesterday. Ernie should have said "co-general manager," a position he covets with any NFL franchise that might find its way here.

* The Florida Marlins-Los Angeles Dodgers Opening Day matchup garnered only a 1.4 rating on ESPN, a surprise. Hey, NTC we're talking L.A. here. . . . Speaking of Florida baseball, Tampa-St. Pete certainly took losing out in the franchise derby to Miami seriously. The local ABC affiliate in the Bay Area II does not show highlights of Marlin games.

* Dick Vitale, who doesn't appear to have a visibility (or decibility) problem, told USA Today he's talking to Hammer about appearing on a music video with the rapper. You've met your match, M.C. . . . Dickee Babee also has a computerized home video game about to hit the shelves.

* Horse racing all over the place tomorrow as the First Saturday in May draws near. What happens then, class? ABC sends along the Blue Grass Stakes on Wide World of Sports at 4:30 p.m., and ESPN will cover the Oaklawn Handicap at 6.

* If you're looking for NBA draft selections you don't know about, check out the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational college all-star game on ESPN tomorrow (3 p.m.).

* Off a pair of PGA Tour victories and the fact he raised his all-time leading money winnings past $8 million, Tom Kite took the Hickok Athlete of the Month Award. Which once again raises the time-honored question: In your heart of hearts, do you think golfers are truly athletes?

* The team representing the U.S. in the upcoming World Championships will come out of a box-off in Phoenix being sent )) along by TNT tomorrow (5 p.m.). . . . A soccer match between the national teams of the U.S. and Germany will be shown on ABC June 13 with the network tossing advertising logos on the screen during play instead of just breaking away for commercials (and probably missing a goal or two). It's the first live soccer game on network since 1986.

* Don Sutton, baseball analyst on the tube, asks, "Why do we sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' when we're already there?"

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