Pimlico Special gets overrun by business as usual TELEVISION SPORTS


The TV Repairman:

Three cheers for trainer Wayne Lukas zapping the race track and television for taking a race that can certainly stand on its own, the Pimlico Special, and losing it in the middle of ABC's Preakness telecast tomorrow (4:30-6 p.m.).

But, as we all know, what Lukas terms "criminal" and "probably one of the top two worst decisions ever made in racing" actually translates to "a business decision" in this day and age.

Proof of this is forthcoming from Pimlico president Joe De Francis, who revealed, "They [ABC] pay us for the rights to the Preakness and wanted the 'Special' on the telecast." And what if the net had requested Charlsie Cantey be miked and placed atop Sea Hero, Joe, would you have complied?

An hour before the network picks up the baton, ESPN will be out of Old Hilltop with a couple of live races and a touch of analysis.

Tomorrow being another Triple Crown race day, the women golfers must be on a competing network, right? Yes, CBS will be sending along the LPGA McDonald's Classic from Wilmington, Del., at 4:30 (time approximate) after showing a baseball game (surprise!): Dodgers vs. 'Stros at 1 p.m.

* With League Championship Series television ratings plummeting and the World Series in serious retreat also (down 20 percent from a few years ago), baseball had to do something to spice up interest and keep the cash flowing from TV. But its "Joint Venture" with NBC and ABC works against everyone and hasn't a chance of being approved by any astute owner. Oh-oh.

Still, NBC's Dick Ebersol continues the fight, stating that "baseball's only alternative [to regionalizing playoff games being played simultaneously] would have been putting a significant part of postseason play on cable."

An alternative he maybe forgot to mention is that with two networks involved, they could go head-to-head or stick with staggered starts so that all games would be on nationally. The networks go against each other in pro football, college hoops and several other things but, like baseball, TV feels comfortable in a monopolistic situation. Who doesn't?

Baseball is on record as saying that no matter what happens, ABC and NBC will be its carriers for the next six years. But CBS cast a monkey wrench the size of the Washington Monument into the works yesterday by telling the owners it would guarantee all postseason games would be on nationally and it would continue the $265 million rights fee for two more seasons.

This thing is three times better than any of the division races and should be a mini-series with Hubie Brown as narrator. If anyone knows the way of least resistance to pay-per-view, please get in touch with the owners.

* The hockey game on ESPN tonight (7:30) has the Pittsburgh Penguins trying to hold off the New York Islanders in Game 7 of their Patrick Division title tiff. And to think, millions will consider the New York Knicks vs. the Charlotte Hornets (TNT, 8 p.m.) or baseball (all other cable channels, 7:30 on) as an alternative. Amazing.

Speaking of which, as entertaining as the pictures of the live races at the Kentucky Derby have been over the years, the isolated camera replays of the likes of Ferdinand, Gato del Sol and Sea Hero winding their way through the pack to the victory circle are probably more memorable.

ABC would be doing itself and hockey a favor if it hung an isolated on Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky for a period or two, thus letting the hoi polloi in on the absolute brilliance of these guys.

* The thing Marv Albert hopes viewers come away with from his first Celebrity Sports Special, a takeoff on Barbara Walters talking with the cognoscenti, is that subjects Mike Ditka, Charles Barkley and Rob Dibble "are good guys." The trio is being billed as "The Bad Boys of Sports" in this first of four shows popping up at noon Sunday on Channel 2.

"When you come right down to it," said NBC play-by-play mainstay Albert, "very few athletes are effective when interviewed after a game because of the time constraints. Sitting down in a home setting should get them relaxed and allow for their personalities to come through.

"Barkley, for instance, is a quote machine. He not only has opinions on everything, they're interesting opinions. I asked Ditka, a guy who is so disciplined and so involved in everything he does how he could suddenly lose control, like he does, and he answers, 'I was wrong. I try not to do it, but it's my personality and sometimes I'm sorry for it.' "

Hopefully, the bad-boy reputations of Barkley, Ditka and Dibble won't be damaged too greatly by Albert's probing.

* Larry Holmes has another appointment on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights" next week, and one thing you have to admit about the former heavyweight champion: as outlandish as some of his claims are at the start, his constant hammering away on a point sooner or later seems to make it come true.

We laughed when Larry said, "Nobody wants to fight me" a year ago, but now the claim appears to be valid. "Why fight me?" he asks. "These guys, [Alex] Stewart, [Michael] Moorer and all the rest, what have they got to gain? I can beat all of them and, they know if they make a mistake, they'll end up getting knocked out."

Insisting he's not in it for the money but a shot at a championship, Holmes says the "so-called" champs Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis have offered him only "chump change" indirectly, "knowing I won't go for it because it's an embarrassment and wouldn't even cover my expenses."

Tuesday, Holmes goes against New Bedford-renowned Paul Poirier in his favorite fistic haunt of Casino Magic, Bay St. Louis, Miss. Poirier started out in 1973, winning 16 straight as a middleweight. He didn't fight for 15 years (being captured by martians perhaps) before resurfacing as a heavyweight in 1990. He's 31-2 but can't punch (only seven KOs).

* Bad news for all you Larry King fans out there: because the Bowe-Jesse Ferguson bout at RFK Stadium May 22 is on HBO, old Lar' of CNN won't be able to serve as the ring announcer. Warm up, Michael Buffer.

* Good line from NBA public relations director Brian McIntyre after listening to Bill Walton render a 17-minute acceptance speech at his Basketball Hall of Fame induction: "Bill, your acceptance speech was longer than your career." Walton missed three complete seasons and averaged about 40 games per season over 13 years.

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