All eyes are fixed on South Bend, until Hurricanes have their say


The TV Repairman:

If you're the type of fan who likes to ease into a big game, Maryland taking on N.C. State at noon (Channels 13, 7), Michigan-Minnesota on ESPN and Florida-South Carolina on HTS 12:30 should get you ready for the Notre Dame-Florida State headliner at 1:30 on NBC tomorrow.

Taking just a bit of the sheen off this latest Game of the Century, although a very little bit, is the fact the winner probably moves on to a Fiesta Bowl meeting New Year's Day against Miami. Yes, Virginia, there is no ultimate game in any sport, as Duane Thomas so ably pointed out at a Super Bowl eons ago: "If this is the ultimate game, how come they're playing it again next year?"

Miami, recall, lost to Florida State early enough in the season so that it still has a shot at the national championship. The Hurricanes are ranked No. 3 in all polls (except the Gallup) and will move up a notch, no matter what happens in South Bend.

OK, haul the Game of the Millennium banner out of storage.

VTC While Irish coach Lou Holtz groans the build-up for the big game "has been no fun for me," Bobby Bowden, coach of the Seminoles, is just the opposite: "I can't describe my excitement." If, as they say, a team reflects the demeanor of its coach, a stressed-out Holtz could work in FSU's favor.

* New York City Marathon coverage on ABC Sunday morning begins at 10:30 with the starter's cannon going off at 10:47, about 10 seconds after some eager beaver jumps the gun, messing things up.

Don't expect any big-time, wise-guy foolishness from legendary early-morning radio talk master Don Imus as he contributes "periodic impressions" to the parade. Imus is such a devout runner that since lung surgery he has taken a daily romp on a treadmill with a tape of an Olympic marathon on a huge-screen TV right in front of him. "I can really get into the rhythm of running," he explains.

One of the on-course reporters will be Lynn Swann, taking part in his first marathon.

There are a half-dozen runners who have run sub four-minute miles entered, so the early pace should be something if they follow their instincts. Actor William Baldwin is ready to go, too, no doubt trying to distance himself from the movie "Slither."

* Chances are even martial arts movie fans didn't mind missing an evening of people being kicked in the face when HBO substituted the Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield fight for a movie last night. Traditionally, heavyweights fight about a minute per round, but not these guys: They were going 3:10 per round. In fact, a lot of the best action was after the bell.

The invasion by the "Screaming Eagle" notwithstanding, the feature of the show was Holyfield's trainer, Emanuel Steward, tackling his man after the 12th and final round as the rivals continued to hammer away. In the fight game, the word rematch usually leaves a nasty taste, because 90 percent of repeat bouts are entirely unnecessary. Not with Holyfield and Bowe. A third fight is a must, just as the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier "Thrilla in Manila" was mandatory.

HBO replays the Pier 6 brawl, won by Holyfield via majority decision, tonight at midnight and tomorrow (6:30-8 p.m.).

* The World Series video, tape not film, will be ready for consumption Monday at $20. Besides the behind-the-scenes stuff added to what viewers saw in coverage by CBS, the 66-minute tape will include recaps of the league championship series. Canadian actor Len Cariou is the narrator, eh?

Fully as good a deal, if not better considering the price ($15), is the season-ending "Catch the Fever: Baseball's Hottest Stars," also new to the shelves.

* Just a couple of games into the season and here's a vote for Charlie Slowes and Dave Dupree being a fine listen doing Washington Bullets games on Channel 20 and WTEM.

* One of the rewards of the "3-on-3 Hoops" championship on NBC tomorrow (5 p.m.) is the victor gets to play against a pick-up team of former NBA players. Yes, the amateurs should be sufficiently winded from their competition to make the pros look good.

* Immediate reaction upon hearing NBC hint strongly that unless the NFL reduced its revenue demands it could drop the pros: What is the network going to do, have its team (Notre Dame) play its game on Sunday?

* Does the ever-watchful eye of television miss anything, no matter how insignificant? The other night, to end the "Dateline" show on NBC, they had tape of a kid punting the ball into a stiff wind during a high school game in Texas. The ball came back to him, he caught it and ran for a first down. This was worth getting on national TV?

* NBC football analyst Todd Christiansen doesn't sugar-coat his remarks. In reply to Doug Williams' claim that he didn't fall heir to rich endorsement contracts when he was the Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Washington Redskins because he's black, the former tight end told TV Guide, "Williams and Mark Rypien [who is white] failed to cash in on a Super Bowl win for one reason: They're ugly. That's not unkind. It's the truth."

* Even though Maryland realized a handsome advance in the number of folks going to home games in College Park, the situation would have been a lot better with a Baltimore Memorial Stadium crowd of 60,000 in the picture. Florida State and the Terps on 33rd Street last Saturday would have done 25,000 more than showed up at Byrd Stadium, and perhaps appearances here would have a local station looking more kindly toward signing up for the ACC package put out by Jefferson-Pilot.

* Alumni news: Gayle Gardner, ex-Channel 13, is jumping ship (and $450,000) at NBC to join the Television Food Network, debuting Nov. 23.

* Strangely, Marv Albert, in the area to do a New York Knicks-Bullets game for Big Apple cable the other night, didn't correct Warner Wolf when the Channel 9 sportscaster referred to Albert's son Kenny, HTS play-by-play man on the Capitals, as his younger brother." Come on, Marv, ditch the Dorian Gray act.

* World Cup golf on HTS today (1 p.m.) and on NBC Sunday (1 is two-man team total score competition with Davis Love and Fred Couples the U.S. reps. Don't get confused if you catch Love at the Merrill Lynch Shootout Sunday at 4 p.m. on ABC. This is one of those taped jobs from two weeks ago. . . . At the Virginia Slims Championships in New York next week, Pam Shriver picks up some work as a commentator on cable coverage of the early matches.

* Add favorite bumper stickers (sighted on Rossville Boulevard): "Tell The NFL To Stick The Ball."

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