Miller Time: Good 'til last drop


The TV Repairman:

If fans around the country had any idea Reggie Miller was going to score 25 points in 12 minutes and the Indiana Pacers were going to outscore the New York Knicks 23-3 at the beginning of the fourth quarter Wednesday night, the ratings might have crowded the number run up by the concluding chapter of "The Fugitive." The 93-86 victory was captivating.

* Henceforth and forever more, believe every word ESPN hockey announcer Gary Thorne dispenses. Here's a guy who, back at the beginning of the season 157 months ago, said that the Rangers and Vancouver would be meeting for the Stanley Cup.

"I've thought for a few years that the Canucks weren't playing up to their potential and it was about time they clicked," explains Thorne of the seventh-place finisher out of the Western Conference. "They've been a big, strong and mobile team for quite a while and Pavel Bure figured to become a big star any moment."

He sees the Rangers winning in six games.

* Three cheers for Bobby Unser. After years of dispensing non-opinions and the obvious as a commentator at the Indianapolis 500, the former great driver was forceful and opinionated during the Memorial Day classic, going so far as to assign immediate blame on the numerous fender-benders that marred the race.

Meanwhile, Danny Sullivan, 1985 winner and a rookie behind the mike, appeared so. Best among the voices, though, and a guy who should be winning Emmys for his reporting was Jack Arrute.

* The only thing missing from coverage of Charles Oakley's sprained ankle during the Knicks-Pacers NBA playoff game the other night was a shot of the New York forward waving out a window at the Walter Reed Army Hospital.

* Is that really Derek Harper playing for the Knicks or talk show host Montel Williams picking up a few bucks moonlighting?

* Shudder to think where NBC would be in its coverage if it wasn't for movie director Spike Lee making a nuisance of himself yakking at courtside in the Garden. Who does he think he is, Robin Ficker, accomplished pest at Bullets games?

* Just six more weeks until baseball makes it onto commercial television and fans everywhere can't wait since ballgames are so rare on the telly these days. Only kidding, ladies. Who goes first under the TBN (The Baseball Network) contract, NBC or ABC? Jim Palmer is interested since he has to know when to come in off the golf course to get to work for ABC.

* The what's-wrong-with-tennis business, which has become almost an annual investigation, got started a bit early this year. NBC and USA have given it much lip service during the French Open and the general consensus among commentators is the players are to blame by failing to realize their obligation to promote the sport constantly.

That's only a partial explanation. Sorry to say people have been correct all those years when they said the warped personalities of such bad boys as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase were important to the game's popularity. All the women ever needed was a strong rivalry (Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova) and a solid semifinal (in other words, four top players).

By the way, the men's final from Paris Sunday (9 a.m.) won't be on in Baltimore live as Channel 2 bows to the 21-hour Children's Miracle Network Telethon. Why aren't these things ever held during prime time in midweek? WMAR will run the tape at midnight.

The women's final graces NBC tomorrow (3 p.m.) opposite a pre-World Cup tournament match between the U.S. and Mexico live on Home Team Sports. ESPN begins its exhaustive 41-game slate of Cup games beginning June 17 with Germany and Bolivia meeting in Chicago.

* Considering ABC and the U.S. Open have been partners since the days of Hagen, Jones and Francis Ouimet, maybe they should change the name of the annual mid-June golf tournament now that NBC moves in for the next several years beginning in 1995. No Jack Whitaker giving us a history lesson of the clubhouse at Winged Foot or Arnold Palmer's fade on the back nine at Olympia? Unbelievable. Next thing you know, CBS won't be doing the NFL anymore.

* Turner Network had the top 10 sports telecasts on cable during the month of May, which figures since it was doing yeoman work on the NBA playoffs. And the cable figures to do even a better job next year with Chuck Daly joining its cast.

* If you're a fan of CBS golf commentator Gary McCord, go out of your way to catch him doing play-by-play over a megaphone at the Shoot-Outs, which accompany PGA Tour events weekly. McCord does more to personalize the players in the eyes of spectators than half a dozen print stories and a hundred of those wooden TV interviews.

* With TBS airing a half-hour merchandising show just prior to a NASCAR race last Sunday, can similar ventures be far behind in baseball? Instead of the starting lineups, announcers will render nTC the price list for caps, ball, T-shirts and pitcher Scott Klingenbeck's autograph on the head of a pin.

* The Leslie Nielsen "Bad Golf Made Easy" video put out by ABC Video ($20) is right on the money with regard to many of the game's peculiarities (garb, turtle pace, dead-serious competitors, etc.), but O.J. Simpson isn't in it getting mauled.

* CBS picks up coverage of the Kemper Open at Avenel in Potomac the next two afternoons at 4 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively. . . . HBO's daily coverage of Wimbledon beginning June 20 will run five hours (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), then have an hour wrapup each evening at 7 p.m. . . . Riddick Bowe's return to the ring against Buster Mathis Jr. is on HBO June 11. Remember Buster I, a very-talented fighter but a blimp at 300-plus pounds?

* ESPN kicks off the College World Series today with games at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Don't forget to have earmuffs handy for the aluminum bats. . . . CBS has the NCAA track championships Sunday (2 p.m.), but neither Baltimore nor Washington is picking it up. . . . "The Jimmy Johnson Story" video ($20) hits the stands next week and a spokesman for producer PolyGram says, "It's a video for anyone who needs a little inspiration."

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