Just when it looked as if Wimbledon was heading for the ho-hum of another Steffi Graf coronation and the apparent Andre Agassi-Pete Sampras showdown, in came the wackiness of Jeff Tarango and his wife, Benedicte.
And NBC was all over the tennis story of the year, next to the return of Monica Seles, as Tarango accused chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh of being "the most corrupt official in the game" Saturday. He then walked off in the middle of a match -- believed to be a first in Grand Slam history -- only to have his wife slap the umpire, an event Bill Conlin called the equivalent of "a food fight in the Sistine Chapel" on yesterday's "ESPN Sports Reporters."
With matches on, NBC was limited in what it could show Saturday, but took full advantage of yesterday's day off and spent about 10 minutes of the three-hour show, running extended remarks from Tarango's post-match news conference. The network also gathered reaction from a variety of sources, including Baltimore's Pam Shriver and Goran Ivanisevic. Ivanisevic found merit in at least some of Tarango's protests.
Luckily, for NBC, it had on hand the one person perfectly suited to comment on players' on-court eccentricities -- one John Patrick McEnroe, the king of boorish tennis behavior.
McEnroe, who had his share of run-ins at Wimbledon and who was once double-faulted in the Australian Open, said Tarango "hurt himself. He shot himself in the foot--just inexplicably. I can't believe he did that at Wimbledon, of all places."
Nonetheless, McEnroe said Tarango should be fined but not suspended.
"I don't know if that's warranted," said McEnroe. "It appears that Jeff Tarango could use a vacation--perhaps a long one -- maybe just get away from the game and take a different perspective. But I do find it funny and humorous the way his wife stood up for him. I thought it a remarkable thing to put it mildly."
Welcome back, Bill
By the way, it was great to see Conlin, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist and one of the "Sports Reporters" stalwarts, back after missing a few months recuperating from heart bypass surgery.
Conlin, who personifies droll, said he knew it was time to come back when the scenes of his life flashing before him were shorter than a baseball game.
Counting on 'Countdown'
Even if the baseball itself isn't so great, WBAL's "Countdown to Baseball" pre-game show and post-game coverage has become one of the year's best finds, mostly because of the hustle of host Josh Lewin and his corps of hard-working interns.
For instance, not only did the listener hear a cut of Eddie Murray's 3,000th career hit on WBAL (1090 AM) last Friday, but the station also aired a good chunk of the not-so-media-friendly Murray's post-game talk with Cleveland announcers.
Add hearing calls from other teams -- which is no logistical picnic -- to other features, including two weekly farm team reports and Pam Ward's Sunday week in review pieces, and the combination makes "Countdown" the best addition to the local sports radio scene in a while.
Hold that cliche
Doesn't it seem as though every time there's a great late-inning comeback like the Orioles did yesterday, some announcer feels compelled to invoke Yogi Berra's worn malaprop about when a game really is over?
Within minutes of each other, announcers from both the radio and television sides of the Orioles broadcast empire quoted Berra. It's enough to make you wish Yogi had never said it in the first place.