The TV Repairman:
A famous man in baseball once said, "These are uncertain times. We cannot be content to rest on yesterday's laurels. These are times when we must strengthen rather than let down those standards which have stood in such good stead in crises that are past. Baseball cannot be selfish, or irresponsible, or lax. Neither can the men who operate it."
Lax, irresponsible, these are the traits along with others that lost baseball its television contract with not one but two networks. When the partnership commenced with the nets, everyone put up a chunk of dough to cover start-up costs. Later, when there were no games to televise, paybacks, rebates, and makeups were in order. Baseball played dumb, a role it is immensely suited for.
ABC and NBC must have taken their partnership seriously because they said, OK, because of the strike, etc., let's rewrite the agreement to start this year, not last. This no-brainer required a telephone call of, what, five minutes? Time marched on.
These irresponsible actions plus the constant blundering by management during strike negotiations with the players had to impress the nets no end. Maybe someone in the game should study up on what the duties and responsibilities of being in a partnership entail.
Which brings us to the little big man himself, Peter Angelos, who has figured out why attendance at the ballparks and in front of the TV screens is down. "It's the press," he says, "because it keeps talking about the work stoppages."
The Orioles owner went on to say baseball should be pushed, not hammered, to get its labor problems straightened out. The man is too much of a beginner to remember when years of pushing back in the '70s and '80s did no good.
If Angelos had stopped there, with a simple opinion, OK. But this man's a barrister, remember. Oh boy! He said, "the public forgives and forgets, it's the American way." By now, he theorized, the ballparks would be bulging again and he would be raking in the dough after raising his ticket prices about 17 percent.
He attempted to drive his point home by comparing what's going on in baseball with Americans forgiving and forgetting World War II and gobbling up German and Japanese automobiles. Best you don't try to slip such an analogy by a jury anytime soon, Pete.
He suggests after being reminded of past mistakes "a thousand times, enough already. We got the message."
Oh, yeah? Management and labor haven't met since the end of March. The game just lost its TV contract with ABC and NBC. It probably still hasn't paid the nearly $8 million it stole from the players for last year's All-Star Game. Who's missing the message here?
Strangely, baseball seems to think it's going to come through its TV crisis by simply dialing itself into Rupert Murdoch's billions at Fox Network. Fox can read declining ratings, too. It strives first, last and always for the young audience and no one has accused the Grand Old Game of interesting those people in eons.
* Commercial TV will be awash with fisticuffs Sunday, a rarity with BS catching a break by landing a big guy, former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis. Lewis (26-1) takes on Justin Fortune (11-2). The network vehemently denies it is doing the fight from Dublin so announcers Tim Ryan and Gil Clancy can check out ancestral digs.
Baltimoreans won't be aboard as Channel 13 scrubs the fight, women's volleyball and most of the PGA Tour golf in Memphis so you can check out the Orioles in Toronto.
ABC has a junior bantamweight (115) tiff at 3:30 Sunday, Johnny Tapia vs. Arthur Johnson. Also being shown is a heavyweight bout involving Jo-el Scott (13-0, all knockouts) taking on a guy who won't be named until the men are about to step into the ring. No, he won't be out of the audience. Of Jo-el, promoter Bob Arum says, "He reminds me of a young Mike Tyson."
Lewis, assured he'll be given a rematch against Oliver McCall, the man who lifted his title last year, says he's twice the fighter since taking on Emanuel Steward as his trainer. "He speaks reality, not fallacy," says the well-spoken Brit.
Steward than said, "Lennox is such a gifted athlete that during the next three years he'll clear up the heavyweight division and dominate it better than Joe Louis did."
"The Brown Bomber," recall, was champ for a dozen years, and Lewis says Steward talks "reality?"
* Quickie review of the "Extreme Games" on ESPN: Why?
Street luging into parked cars, sky-diving with a skateboard lashed to your feet and some joker trying to go 100 mph on roller blades may be the wave of the future, but look at all the worthwhile sports that go begging for exposure while these madcap unemployables frolic.
* The U.S. Senior Open comes at you in three-hour blasts tomorrow and Sunday from Congressional Country Club in Bethesda at 3 p.m. via NBC. The three hours previous both days is given over to tennis from Wimbledon. Tomorrow (4:30 p.m.), ABC gets the 21-day Tour de France away from the gate.
* Memorable. That's the only way to describe Tom Matte's commenting on Prime Network's coverage of the Birmingham Barracudas' 0-37 effort against the Horse With No Name on
Channel 54 last weekend from the all-but-abandoned Orange Bowl. He worked with a guy who looked vaguely familiar (Jeff Rimer).
* Yes, Larry Merchant will always be known for his trenchant HBO fight remarks, but he spins a terrific wrapup show from Wimbledon evenings on the premium channel. He brings the best out of John Lloyd, who is a typically glib Brit.
* I'm not sure, but I think I detected what resembled half a smile on the face of Hubie Brown once during TNT's four-hour telecast of the NBA draft Wednesday. Come on, Hubie, take your work seriously.
* USA Network is sending along the recent Evander Holyfield-Ray Mercer slugfest July 4 at 9 p.m. Fireworks, get it?
* Anyone who has ever seen "The Sun Also Rises," wouldn't dare miss the Running of the Bulls through the streets of Pamplona, Spain, July 8 (1:30 a.m.) on ESPN2. Please, United Artists Cable, give us city-dwellers "The Deuce" at least for this one day.