Broadcasting booths and sidelines are littered with former athletes who jump into sportscasting with little understanding, much less feel, for how the profession works or how to make their work stand out from the rest of the field.
O.J. Brigance, a rush end/linebacker with the Baltimore CFL club, was determined to learn the business from the ground floor, so he signed on with Stan "The Fan" Charles to do hourly sports updates on Charles' Monday night "Baltimore Sports Exchange" shows on WWLG (1360 AM) and WASA (1330 AM).
"I was flabbergasted to get that phone message," said Charles. "I mean, here's a professional athlete that wasn't expecting to get paid for doing this and wasn't looking to use his celebrity status. He's a guy who honestly wanted to learn how to do something."
Brigance, who studied business at Rice, said friends and teammates suggested that he would be a natural in sportscasting.
During the winter, he approached Charles, who typically hires younger broadcasters and interns to do his updates, which air at the half-hour, and so far the experience has been pleasant.
If nothing else, the job has helped Brigance understand the media's pressures and how those pressures can lead to dumb post-game questions.
"Nobody wants to hear after a 30-point loss, 'How do you feel?' " said Brigance. "But I now see how difficult it is to come up with fresh questions. And it's not all reporters. There are some media personalities who go that extra mile to find that different way to ask the tough question."
With one rather notable exception, ABC's coverage of Saturday's Kentucky Derby was quite good, with all the proper reverence, as well as some solid analysis.
In particular, veteran racing reporter Charlsie Cantey was especially sharp at asking the right questions and providing good pre-race keys to watch for.
However, Lesley Visser was awful, from that frilly hat she wore -- which may have made her a hit in bluegrass fashion circles, but lowered her on-air credibility -- to a questionable off-hand comment that Gary Lewis, the trainer of Jumron and a former pharmacist, could give Charles Dunn, the horse's owner, "something to calm him down."
No Basketball Controversy
It was probably too much to expect for NBC, the NBA's broadcast network of record, to follow TNT, the cable network, and address Charlotte center Alonzo Mourning's comments on a star system among players.
Mourning, speaking after Thursday's fourth game of the opening round of the playoffs, said Michael Jordan should have been called for a foul on the game's last play, when Hersey Hawkins was attempting to put back a missed shot with time running out.
Replays show Jordan hacking at Hawkins, and Jordan even admitted that he had committed a foul. TNT, to its credit, was right on the spot with replays and comments from Jordan and Mourning Thursday night, but NBC was silent all through the weekend.
Because of a scheduling conflict with an Orioles telecast, Home Team Sports and Channel 20 have swapped Washington Capitals playoff telecasts. HTS will carry tonight's second game of the Pittsburgh Penguins series and Channel 20 will air Wednesday's third contest, a rare over-the-air home telecast.
On the subject of hockey, many of you were no doubt shocked when you tuned into ESPN2 Saturday night, expecting the Caps-Penguins game and got the Rangers-Nordiques instead. And with the absence of Channel 20 on Baltimore County systems, the game was doubly blacked out for a large number of viewers.
An ESPN spokesman said yesterday that the network had to black out its coverage on Pittsburgh, Washington and Baltimore cable systems. Here's hoping that will change by the end of the week.
Finally, an item was edited out of Friday's "On the Air" column: Channel 11 did carry Saturday's "NBA Inside Stuff" and its feature on Washington Bullets center Juwan Howard's college graduation.