The TV Repairman:
Not only has the World Cup been an artistic success to date as once again we see the power of the upset to captivate, ABC, ESPN and the folks who run the show (FIFA) are positively giddy about this country's apparent surge of interest.
While the U.S. team's tie with Switzerland gave ABC a substantial ratings victory over U.S. Open golf despite an 11:30 a.m. start last Saturday, busy ESPN, going with three games some days, has been going into 1.25 million homes consistently and not included in that number is the bars, restaurants and halls that have set up the big screens for neighborhood ethnics.
The main meaning of the cable's ratings for soccer beating its established baseball programming is it proves the American public is at least giving the booters a peek. And what fan, after watching the U.S.'s 2-1 victory over Colombia Wednesday night, isn't going to hustle back and check out the game against Romania on the network Sunday?
The main disappointment of the U.S.-Colombia game (picky-picky) was the fact that Carlos Valderrama, soccer's answer to Dennis Rodman with his constantly-changing and strange hairdos, didn't change his look at halftime.
Today's games on ESPN include Mexico vs. Ireland at 12:25 p.m., Brazil vs. Cameroon at 3:55 p.m. and Sweden vs. Russia at 7:25 p.m., all possessing strong appeal. Channel 13 is passing on tomorrow's ABC coverage of Belgium-Netherlands at 12:30 p.m. and Senior Golf, but will pick up Argentina-Nigeria at 4 p.m. in progress (Orioles at Toronto at 1:30 p.m.) WJZ also will be a half-hour late at the U.S.-Romania game Sunday (4 p.m.) as it sticks with one of those infomercials, according to TV Guide. Do you believe it?
What soccer could use right now in this country is perspective. It should be enjoyed for the moment and let the future take care of itself. After an earlier momentous 1-0 victory over kingpin England in 1950, American coach Bill Jeffrey said, "This is all that is needed to make the game go in the States." His forecast was faulty, but who cares? Obviously not Channel 13.
* Yes indeed, folks, Wimbledon hasn't been forgotten during the soccer-winter(?) sports playoff crush, etc. NBC shows up with a 2 p.m. show tomorrow and 3 p.m. Sunday after HBO spent the week scurrying for filler during the inevitable rain delays in England. The net will have three-hour shows beginning at 10 a.m. next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and women's semifinal action Thursday at 1 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. HBO has afternoon telecasts next week.
* All boxing fans have a favorite announcer and the guy for this corner is Al Albert doing "Tuesday Night Fights" on USA. As Tom Glesby and Al Davis battled on in a co-feature the other night, Al said, "I see a fight developing here" as the guys mixed it up in Round 8. By the ninth, Glesby was pummeling his man on the ropes and the ref stopped it.
Perhaps even more embarrassing that Marylander Sharmba Mitchell suffered his second straight knockout loss to a guy, Stevie Johnston, in only his 12th fight, was Mitchell's fight against "Bazooka" Limon some time back. Former champion Limon, for some reason, decided his attack should include reaching over and pulling down Sharmba's trunks. It was a national TV first.
There's as much boxing on the tube this weekend as we usually expect during the Olympics' 300-plus bout schedule. After heavyweights Jeremy Williams and Bert Cooper get done hammering away on ESPN tonight (9:30), the Roberto Duran-Vinny Pazienza shouting match dominates tomorrow (pay per view) and Eye on Sports on CBS Sunday (2 p.m.) has unbeaten featherweight champ Kevin Kelly taking on Georgie Navarro as part of a fistic-horse racing twin bill from Atlantic City. In the seven-furlong Caesars International Handicap is Calipha, winner of the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico the day before the Preakness.
* Ken Burns' "Baseball," in production for 3 1/2 years, will be on PBS Sept. 18-22 and Sept. 25-28. Reviewers, who have seen excerpts, are already raving, raising it up toward the level of Burns' epic "Civil War" effort of a few years ago. Narrators run the gamut from Paul Newman to Stephen King to Jody Powell.
* The numbers have changed a tad over the last few days, but the stat of the week has to be the 109-7 edge the team that scores first has over the opposition in World Cup competition the last few decades. That's similar to the advantage run up by NBA home teams in Game 7's.
The NBA finale, Houston putting the New York Knicks out of their misery Wednesday night, drew a lousy audience for a few reasons: The awful, sloppy, far too physical play, the 1950-type scores (Americans want goals, guys) and the fact ratings had to be compared with the Michael Jordan numbers of the past few years. Pro hoop fans take heart, there's at least a 95 percent chance "Air" is back next year.
By the way, the NBA achieved a record that can be tied but never broken: Its season and postseason stretched over all four seasons.
"The Fugitive II," O. J. Simpson touring the Los Angeles freeways, is blamed for the Rockets and Knicks getting a terrible 7.8 rating in Game 5 (Friday), but NBC got a surprisingly low number of calls complaining. Suspense prevails.
* Andres Cantor's "goooooooaaaaallll" call on Spanish-speaking Univision isn't the only time the broadcaster goes ape. He's excited during throw-ins, hyper when the ball enters the offensive zone and a candidate for a straitjacket when the ball enters the box. Dick Vitale is Pat Summerall next to this guy.
* Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the International Olympic Committee. . . . with about a dozen of the original board members still on hand and serving, or at least it seems like 1894 thinking still permeates the august body.
* TNT has a tape of the national track and field championships tomorrow (5 p.m.). . . . Ah, the rustle of leaves and invigorating 50-degree afternoons: ESPN has 50 college football games on tap this fall starting with Arizona at Georgia Tech Sept. 1, a Thursday. . . . The Toughman Competition on Showtime tonight (10:05) was contested in May, but chances are you not only remember the results but never knew them in the first place. . . . ESPN kicks off 23 days of Tour de France coverage July 2. Another event the United States is knocked for not being fanatical about.