Even with the NFL's hype and hoopla, Summerall and Madden, as they did in yesterday's Dallas-San Francisco confrontation, somehow make it worth the time and trouble.
LTC If ever a game had the potential to be bogged down by its advance billing, it was the Cowboys-49ers clash. After all, ESPN began running previews just after Dallas beat the New York Giants last Monday.
Yet, in their usual "We're just two guys watching a football game with you" style, Summerall and Madden rose above the tedium.
"It's a privilege to be here for games like this," said Madden, after the 49ers scored their final touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Actually, John, the privilege was all ours, as Madden, the consummate analyst, spotted trends, identified themes and was generally all over the action all game long.
And Summerall, who has never received the praise he deserves for being an exceptional play-by-play man, trailing only NBC's Dick Enberg on the NFL beat, was at the top of his craft yesterday, with his usual sparse, but informational call.
Here's how good these two are: In the third quarter, when quarterback Steve Young hit Jerry Rice with a 57-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass -- just seconds after Madden said Rice had to get involved in the action and Summerall said the 49ers had been working on deep pass patterns to Rice during the week -- you had to wonder if they hadn't picked up San Francisco's plays.
Let's also send a shout out to producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman, who followed Summerall and Madden to Fox from CBS this year. The guys in the Super Shooter production truck were on top of the pictures and replays and were particularly sharp at capturing the sounds of the game.
One may have lingering doubts about Fox's coverage of football, but you can't doubt the brilliance of Summerall and Madden, perhaps the best sports broadcasting tandem in the history of the medium.
'Ice Wars' scores
CBS' prime-time team ice skating program bounced back nicely in overnight ratings released yesterday.
The "Ice Wars" show got a 12.5 rating and 21 share Saturday night, handily beating its competition from ABC and NBC, according to national ratings from 32 cities.
The numbers were a decent improvement over Wednesday's 10.8/16.
From home office in Bristol
With the college basketball season right on top of us, ESPN's Dick Vitale has spared us the trouble of going through the season by ranking his top 10 teams and players.
Vitale selects Arkansas as No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, Virginia, Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas and Indiana.
Dickie V's first team All-America has Arizona's Damon Stoudamire and Randolph Childress of Wake Forest at guards, Corliss Williamson of Arkansas and Wisconsin's Michael Finley at forwards and North Carolina's Rasheed Wallace at center.
Maryland's Joe Smith is Vitale's second-team center, and Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky and Virginia are Vitale's choices to reach the Final Four in Seattle next spring.
Stan's winter plan
Stan "The Fan" Charles has kicked off his post-baseball schedule for his six-night-per-week talk show on WCBM (680 AM).
Monday night shows will have open topics. The Tuesday shows will focus on the CFL and NFL on alternate weeks with Ken Murray and Vito Stellino of The Sun.
On Wednesday nights, Charles plans a weekly roundtable from a Westminster restaurant with baseball writer John Delcos of the York Daily Record and Tom Keegan and Peter Schmuck of The Sun. Thursday night programs will be devoted to basketball with guest hosts Kurt O'Neil and Mat Schlissel.
For Fridays this winter, Charles will be joined by Amy Thompson, a local bartender, and the Saturday show will feature a variety of hosts.
Overheard from the lips of TBS' Verne Lundquist, who called Thursday's Orlando-New York game, alluding to the dress habits of his partner, Chuck Daly, and Pat Riley, head man of the Knicks:
"Do you know how disheartening it is to walk in the building and know from the get-go that you're going for third at best? I mean, I'm going after [Magic coach] Brian Hill and hoping."
Whose ox is gored?
Columnists from New York and Los Angeles were on the howl late last week when sellouts of home games in their markets prevented them from seeing the Dallas-San Francisco game yesterday.
Of course, this situation has bothered fans all over the country for years, but it becomes an issue of grave importance when fans in the two biggest markets are deprived.
Hey, folks in New York and Los Angeles: Get over it.