The TV Repairman:
Bill Walton and Steve Jones, the guys talking NBA basketball on NBC while Greg Gumbel fills you in on the necessities: Give 'em a gold star.
Houston was having a tough time making headway against San Antonio the other night and, suddenly, four guys were in sync. "But the way Kenny Smith is playing [horribly], it doesn't matter," said Walton. Moments later, a sub was sent in, and Bill said, "finally, FINALLY, Rudy Tomjanovich gets Smith out of there and sends in Sam Cassell." The Rockets were away to an easy victory. Was he being overly critical? No, factual.
The ex-teammates (Portland) also have fun ragging on one another without it being distracting. To Jones' "David Robinson never gave up on the play," Walton replied, "I would hope so, wasn't it his turnover that started the play?"
You learn something and are entertained. Isn't that the idea?
* "When a guy has temporarily lost confidence in his forehand, he has to do something," John McEnroe was saying, "and an alternative would be to run around his forehand and hit backhands."
Yikes! Wash your mouth out, John. Next to "watch the ball," this is the second thing tennis instructors harp on the most, not running around a weak shot. But this is the pros (French Open) and the USA/NBC analyst knows the first and foremost assignment is to win and get through the match.
McEnroe takes a practical approach while discussing the game, which is a gift for viewers who have long since tired of the usual staid commentary.
USA will be doing three hours tomorrow (9 a.m.) before McEnroe gets a chance to gargle and join NBC for its three-hour stint at 3 p.m.
* Let's hear it for John Lowenstein. A guy makes a bad play or causes a situation to worsen and the Orioles' part-time commentator is there to point it out. Too many other analysts have a hard time doing that, unfortunately.
* A sort of weird situation arises Sunday with the NASCAR Miller Genuine Draft 500 being at noon on the Nashville Network followed an hour later by the IndyCar Miller Genuine Draft 200 on ABC, except on Channel 2, which is telethoning this weekend.
* Forget all that noise about Bruce Cunningham and Steve Davis switching assignments at Channel 45 sports, where does that leave the Walter Cronkite of local sports broadcasting, Tom Matte?
* There's a pay-per-view boxing card on tonight that has a very good chance of exceeding the running time of the Jerry Lewis Kids telethon over Labor Day weekend: Five (count 'em) title fights (alias 12 rounds) see Miguel Gonzalez (35-0) vs. Marty Jakubowski (83-1); Alejandro Gonzalez (36-2) vs. Tony Green (23-3); Hector Sanchez vs. Daniel Zaragola, their records are classified information; Bronco McKart (23-2) vs. Aaron Davis (40-3); and Marco Barrera (35-0) vs. Frank Toledo (23-2).
* The latest "Fastest growing sport in America," roller hockey, will have a full schedule of games on ESPN2 Monday nights. Street hockey did a number on baseball recently when the San Jose Sabercats had 60 percent more local homes tuned in than a Giants game. Time to renegotiate your contracts, fellas.
* ESPN is going absolutely bonkers with golf today, the LPGA stop in Michigan at 9 a.m. being followed by the NCAA men's championships at 11 and the PGA Tour Memorial tourney at 1:30 p.m. The Golf Channel must already be being perceived as a serious threat.
Still, the cable isn't shunting baseball, sending along three games from the College World Series, live at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. and a taped job at midnight.
* Sunday's CBS "Sports Show" figures to be a gold mine for folks interested in Olympic sports or simply looking to get away from the usual baseball-golf glut. Beginning at 2 p.m., the NCAA track championships will be covered live. The 3:30-4:30 hour sees "Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story," a tribute to the late, great middle distance runner. From 4:30 to 6 p.m., it's the Prefontaine Classic meet. Please hold all calls.
* Decent line from NBC's Marv Albert: "The Texas Rangers are sponsoring Dennis Rodman Night. They are encouraging fans to take their shoes off, put their feet up and ignore the game."