The TV Repairman:
Hey, it's Masters time again -- USA today (4 and 9 p.m.), CBS tomorrow (3:30 p.m.) and Sunday (4 p.m.) -- and that means just one thing: Pictures of more golf shots than anyone thought humanly possible, given the restrictions of television.
Restrictions mean time given over to commercials, time for features, time for network promotions, time for mindless chit-chat among commentators littered on towers and fairways throughout the course.
"No more than four minutes of commercial time per hour, that's what the Masters insists on," says Frank Chirkinian, who has been producing and directing CBS golf since the days of hickory shafts. "Only two sponsors. No network promotions from Augusta. Down here [Augusta, Ga.], they don't allow local commercial breaks."
That's fine with Chirkinian. Not only because the Masters is a plum in a network's inventory and CBS is a bit shy on high-profile sports properties these days, but because Frank is an old fan of Shakespeare: "And as Willie said, 'The play's the thing.' "
Changes in the telecast from Augusta National since the network took up coverage 40 years ago?
"Sure," continued Chirkinian, "we went from black and white to color in 1966. Clifford Roberts [tourney director then] surprised us by announcing it during the presentation ceremony in 1965 and we didn't even have a color camera at the time."
Its changelessness, that's the beauty of the first of golf's four "majors," and the network wouldn't have it any other way, although others might.
"We don't mention the purse involved," says Chirkinian, "because we really don't know what it is, exactly. Besides, as [Masters originator] Bobby Jones pointed out, 'The money is irrelevant. Long after it is gone, it is the trophy that will be remembered.' " Amen.
While some have taken umbrage with the aristocratic manner in which the folk conduct the event, CBS has no problem with the so-called restrictions. "There has never been a list of do's and don'ts passed out," says telecast host Jim Nantz. "Just use common sense."
The network and Augusta National will be hammered for the latter instructing the former that commentator Gary McCord was to be dropped from the coverage team. McCord, recall, made a couple of comments better suited to "Saturday Night Live" and offense was taken.
Here it is a year later and CBS is still being called upon to defend the position of seemingly coalescing on the matter.
This nonsense will pass sooner or later and analysts will be allowed to discuss the tournament prior to the start of play which, after all, is the way it's supposed to be. Figure that will happen when CBS is celebrating its 50th Masters.
* The Oliver McCall-Larry Holmes scrap for the World Boxing Council heavyweight title on pay-per-view tomorrow (9 p.m.) certainly doesn't want for backup in the event it's a dull stinker. Obviously, Julio Cesar Chavez felt he needed some work so promoter Don King got him Giovanni Parisi to thump on. Parisi (29-1) doesn't figure as a stroll in the park.
The World Boxing Association grabbed its portion of the heavy belt from George Foreman for failing to meet its top contender, Tony Tucker, in a mandatory go, so Tucker and Bruce Seldon will vie for that bauble. Felix Trinidad (25-0) meets Roger Turner (29-2) in a welterweight match. Terry Norris and Luis Santana are staging a rematch of their controversial bout last November that saw Norris disqualified and stripped of a 154-pound title, and some of this will be shown as time permits.
* "The Road to the Derby" (ugh) race on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" tomorrow is the Santa Anita Derby. No doubt the horsey set wasn't too happy to read in TV Guide this week that "Mountain biking is the main event on the program" this week. Oh well, to each his own.
* The NHL hockey game on Fox Network Sunday (3 p.m.) is the N.Y. Rangers taking on the Jersey Devils. The long-held theory that hockey isn't big on the tube because viewers have trouble following the puck was, if true, worsened by Fox in its first telecast last week as it pulled back its main camera for a wide shot of the ice. This made it tough to follow the 200-pound players, much less the puck.
* The much-anticipated "Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream" documentary premieres on TBS next Wednesday with showings at 8:05 p.m. and 10:05 p.m. Mike Tollin, writer-director and executive producer, did yeoman work on the show, particularly the dramatizations of Aaron when he was growing up in rural Alabama.
But the constant barrage of the prejudices, the racism and the dehumanization black players confronted along the way have become boringly repetitious by now. Especially when a great player like "Bad Henry" achieves the heights and is admired by millions and hate mail from a small percentage of idiots is overly stressed.
* United Artists Cable, the Baltimore City carrier, has been catching what-for from the city government lately, but it's probably because the complainers have nothing to compare it to. United does a better than average job, the only drawback being some of the things that show up on the monthly bill.
For instance, basic service, converter, regulation and franchise fees (whatever they are) end up costing $7.87 more than they do on a bill from another cable system in the area. But isn't this a case of big brother sticking its hand in for his share of the take?
* Ratings can say anything you want. While CBS was celebrating the fact an estimated 51 million viewers checked out the NCAA title basketball game last Monday night, the share of the TV audience tuned in at the time registered 30. That matches the share of the lowest-rated championship game in years, Kansas vs. Oklahoma in 1988. See?
* As part of its "Stay in School" program, members of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves helped 4th graders with their math, teaching the kids to add and subtract while they learned how to score a basketball game. Subtract? You can see it on "NBA Inside Stuff" this weekend.
* Strange that even people at CBS referred to Oklahoma State as an "upstart" during the NCAA tournament when the Cowboys made postseason play for the seventh straight year and are a permanent fixture in the top 25 rankings.