NBC has signed Bob Costas to a new contract, so we should get right to it: Let's be among the first to start calling him "the ubiquitous Bob Costas."
Costas' multiyear deal announced yesterday takes him beyond the network's sports division. It goes beyond the NBC entertainment branch. It heads beyond our star system, to seek out new worlds, to boldly go where no man has gone before. . . . Good God, Jim, I'm only a doctor! (Note: "Star Trek" references in two consecutive TV sports columns sets a record for the continental United States.)
Costas will work for sports, entertainment and news. Here's how his assignments break down:
* Host of "NBA Showtime."
* Play-by-play announcer for major-league baseball, including the 1995 World Series.
* Host of 1996 Summer Olympics prime-time telecasts.
* Contributor to the prime-time newsmagazine "Now with Tom Brokaw & Katie Couric."
* Host of prime-time specials on various topics.
"I am very gratified by the confidence NBC has shown in me and its commitment to giving me the avenues to do the best work I possibly can," Costas said in a news release. "NBC made it possible for me to remain in sports while giving me the opportunity to work prominently in other areas as well."
After the network lost baseball to CBS in 1990, there had been talk -- some of it from Costas -- that his future at NBC was dependent on whether the majors returned. He'll finally get to call a World Series, but, until the postseason, the country won't be seeing a lot of Costas on baseball because of the new Baseball Network deal, which calls for 12 regular-season telecasts, split between NBC and ABC. In addition, the games will be regionalized, so we might not get to see Costas unless he's working an Orioles game.
And that's a shame. If memory serves, Costas does his best work on baseball and calls a game as well as anyone in the country.
But if you're a Costas fan, just keep watching NBC. It shouldn't take too long for him to pop up on something.
The soccer pitch
ESPN is carrying the World Cup soccer draw Sunday at 3 p.m. The 1 1/2 -hour, live show from Las Vegas not only includes announcers Bob Ley and Seamus Malin, but it also has the song stylings of Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart and Vanessa Williams and appearances by Tom Selleck and Jim Belushi. What, no
Wayne Newton? . . .
Put on your leather jackets, Baltimore; we're on ESPN2 tonight. The channel is carrying the Spirit-Detroit Rockers National Professional Soccer League game from the Arena at 7. Dave Johnson and Jim Jibarra call the action.
On some nights, one supposes, it's harder to put together a sportscast than on others. Wednesday was such a night for Bruce Cunningham on Channel 45's 10 o'clock news.
He led the report with the Spirit's college draft, which certainly was newsy enough, but soon he was eating up time like a sportscasting Pac-Man -- for you kids, that was a hot video game way before Sonic the Hedgehog could tie his sneakers -- with non-news.
He reminded everyone that the Orioles had signed some free agents and said that Tuesday's addition of reliever Mark Eichhorn could be bad news for pitcher Todd Frohwirth. It took him until Wednesday night to note that? Wasn't that in your Wednesday morning paper? And for those of you who hadn't read about it two days earlier, Cunningham reminded the audience that the Rafael Palmeiro signing wasn't good for David Segui's future with the club. And, hey, how about some Rich Gedman highlights? He signed Tuesday, too.
Then Channel 45 got to Julio Franco's move to the Chicago White Sox and to some high school basketball reports.
There just wasn't much going on, right? Not necessarily. Check out a couple of the 11 o'clock news fellows about 30 minutes later.
Over on Channel 2, Scott Garceau led with Franco, added a few baseball notes, then rolled out NBA highlights, college basketball scores, high school highlights and the ever-popular (or is that never-popular?) Mighty Ducks report. Channel 13's John Buren began with high school basketball, moved to college basketball highlights, horse racing news (Laurel jockey defections, feature race footage and trainer Jeff Lukas' injury), Franco and Riddick Bowe announcing his next fight.
It must be that extra half-hour those late-news guys get.
There's no business . . .
Let's say you're up late and channel surfing. Y'know, it's gnarly, dude, when you're, like, cruising along the remote and, like, your finger slips and you get stuck for more than a nanosecond on the home shopping channel and it's, like, you know, Joan Rivers selling jewelry.
Anyway, you can't help running into sports on television even when you're not looking for it. This week, Arsenio Hall had the 49ers' Jerry Rice and Steve Young on his show, and Charlie Rose interviewed CBS' Terry Bradshaw.
And did you catch Jerry Springer's program on how the change in college basketball's five-second rule has affected the intimate lives of referees? It was touching when an ACC official revealed how he hadn't been "closely guarded" by his wife since the NCAA made the change.
Just kidding, of course. That was on Jenny Jones.
Jay Leno got into the act during his monologue Wednesday. He asked: What's the difference between the Washington Redskins and
the space shuttle Endeavour? Gee, I don't know, Jay, what is it? Endeavour had a touchdown this week.
Let's hear it for Headline News. The Turner Broadcasting service now runs sports score updates across the bottom of the screen at night, replacing the stock market numbers that run during the day. . . . ESPN2 has added the Maryland-North Carolina State women's game on Jan. 22 to its college basketball schedule. The Terps men will appear Jan. 8 against North Carolina, Feb. 12 against Florida State and March 5 against Virginia. Coppin State appears Jan. 30 against Delaware State.
Falling to the occasion
It just got in before the nominations closed, but Nestor Aparicio's sports talk show on WWLG (1360 AM) may have locked up this year's award for Tasteless Radio Moment of the Year, Local Sports Division. On Wednesday's program, Aparicio was discussing the car crash-suicide of Houston Oiler Jeff Alm. In the background was heard a sound-effects tape of screeching tires and crunching metal. Quite a tender moment.