The TV Repairman:
Time was when Christmas Day was for trashing a living room, hitting church, eating too much (naturally) and watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or "A Christmas Carol" with a quick visit tossed in to maintain family harmony.
Then, the Blue-Gray all-star game appeared, an always-dreary struggle between squads notable for their hideous uniforms, followed by a less-than-hardy tradition, an NBA game. But look at the lineup for Saturday now. About the only thing missing is a baseball game, and there's probably some utility infielder over on Home Shopping Network trying to sell a pair of spikes he found in the attic for $200.
Sandwiched around an Oilers-49ers NFL game at 5:30 p.m. is pro hoops at 2:30 (Rockets vs. Suns) and 8:30 (Magic vs. Bulls). After it does Blue-Gray, ABC shows up at the Aloha Bowl bash between Colorado and Fresno State at 3:30. CBS, perhaps mourning the loss of the NFL from its inventory, is dark all day.
Meanwhile, ESPN has tennis at noon, women playing golf against men and grandfathers in the three-tour challenge at 3 p.m. and cliff-diving from Acapulco at 8:30. Now we're really talking holiday tradition.
There's also skiing, World Cup downhill, the good one; a tennis exhibition pitting John McEnroe against Mats Wilander (what is this, 1980?); Olympic-level figure skating (Sonja Henie in the 1924 Games at age 3); and a high school basketball tourney in Washington on HTS.
* As good a story as any as the bowl season gets under way for certain tomorrow with Texas Tech taking on Oklahoma in the once-upon-a-time Sun Bowl (CBS, 2:30 p.m.) is the springing to life of TT just before Halloween. After an opening win, the Red Raiders, who should be nicknamed the Vampires, lost to Nebraska and Texas A&M; by 25, Georgia by 15 and Baylor and N.C. State by two. Then they licked their platter clean (of course, it was the underbelly of the SWC) and finished 6-5.
* Fear not if you missed the award-winning show "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson" the first time around. USA Network is running it next Tuesday from 9-11 p.m. . . . By the way, USA's first "Tuesday Night Fights" card of the new year Jan. 4 has Buddy McGirt (60-3) taking on James Hughes (17-5).
* "NBA Inside Stuff" plumbs the bottom of the barrel Christmas Day, following a couple of millionaire players of the New York Nets on a holiday shopping spree. It recovers nicely, however, tagging along on an off-season visit to Zambia and Kenya by Wes Unseld and Dikembe Mutombo carrying a message of hope.
* Favorite bowl name: The Outback Steakhouse Gator Bowl.
* NHL ratings on ESPN, weak in the first season of a five-year deal last year, are down again, substantially -- like going on 25 percent. Some are blaming it on injuries to star players Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Eric Lindros, etc., but more likely it's the fact there are just too many teams (26) to keep track of and the perception in hockey forever has been that the regular season is totally meaningless.
* Gadzooks, the folks over at Fox are a confident bunch if nothing else. Lucie Salhany, chairman of the network, predicts, "We'll do it better," while discussing plans for taking over for CBS and carrying the NFL's big-market city (NFC) games. "It'll be first class," the Lucie cannon told The New York Times. "We want to make the NFL look better than what we've seen."
* An added feature of the Washington Capitals-New York Rangers game on HTS tonight (7:30) could be the 600th career goal of Mike Gartner. The ex-Cap -- and how did he get away, anyway? -- will join only Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and Bobby Hull at that exalted plateau when the light goes on.
* Pssst, by adding 20 percent to the already astronomical rights fee they were paying the NFL, the networks picked up an additional minute of advertising time during a game telecast. It doesn't total an hour yet, but it's getting close.
* The 49ers and Oilers, Christmas Day combatants on NBC (5:30 p.m.) are already in the playoffs, but there are postseason implications all over the place Sunday when the Lions and Bears (CBS), Bills and Jets (NBC), Saints and Eagles (CBS) and Chiefs and Vikings (ESPN) pop up on the tube.
In fact, all eight teams still maintain varying degrees of hope, which is embarrassing when you stop and consider Philadelphia hasn't been eliminated yet and it's 6-8. Ah, Pete's Parity, ain't it great?
The Redskins at Dallas tryst at 4 p.m. Sunday (CBS) is important to just one of the teams, and we leave you to ponder which.
* In keeping with the develop-a-popular-money-making-idea-and beat-it-to-death-way sports functions: In off (even-numbered) years, the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team will answer a $2 million challenge from an eight-man team of golfers from the Southern Hemisphere. Since European TV has joined ABC and the promoter in the venture, it's assumed the lads from England, Spain, Germany, etc. will answer the challenge when they win the Ryder.
* Regarding the theory that cities scorned by the NFL during expansion derbies (and there are many) might be able to join Canadian Football League interests and come up with a league that CBS might get involved with, some supposedly astute observers have pointed out that there simply aren't enough good players to go around. When's the last time that was a consideration?
* One of the best football-related segments (loosely) on the telly all season was a Discovery Channel bit on the value of the vaunted B-17 during World War II and there was ex-Cowboys coach Tom Landry giving testimony:
"It brought you home with two engines shot off. One time, we couldn't make it back over the English Channel and we had to find a field in France. It wasn't much of a field and we crash-landed and everyone got out and walked away. That was a plane."
* NFL Films/PolyGram Video has four tapes in the stores that are an ideal gift for the man who has sufficient socks, ties and handkerchiefs. They are "A Women's View of Pro Football," "LT," which doesn't stand for Left Tackle, "The Joe Montana Story" and "NFL's 100 Greatest Touchdowns."
This last one must have created quite a task for someone, considering there have been more than 41,000 TDs scored in league history.