The TV Repairman:
Because the U.S. Open is only a month away and CBS has at least a hundred-hour barrage of coverage planned, the network will go bonkers with a simple tennis exhibition tomorrow (2 p.m.), padding a Monica Seles-Martina Navratilova match out to two hours with reviews, previews and interviews, likening Monica's return to play as the equal of MacArthur's return to Corregidor.
Depending on the mood of Seles when interviewed, she's either all a-twitter about coming back to (probably) dominate women's tennis, or she's still frightened about returning to the public arena. "The guy who stabbed me [two years ago] is still out there," she says. "He can come to any tournament and he's still obsessed. What will it take for him not to do it again?"
Obviously not the non-tennis courts. The guy, Gunther Parche, who says he couldn't stand Seles taking over women's tennis from Steffi Graf, received a two-year suspended sentence for his knife-wielding attack.
As for Martina, don't go painting her as a former tennis player. She recently won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon and, just last week, played about a dozen singles and doubles matches in World Team Tennis during which she aggravated an injury. If she can't go, Mary Pierce is at the ready, but Navratilova will gut it out, believe.
Regarding the flap about Seles' ranking when she returns, analyst Mary Carillo cuts to the quick thusly: "They should have made special allowances for her, but I believe she's going to come back so fast and kick so much butt that she'll render the entire ranking issue moot." Seconded.
* What does it say about us when USA Network scores its biggest boxing audience ever (nearly 2 million households) for a replay of the Roy Jones-Vinny Pazienza walkover a month ago? That's the one where Jones barely got hit and totally annihilated the Paz. . . . If your system still craves baseball, be advised Major League Baseball Home Video now has 125 tapes dealing with the game on store shelves.
* The subjects on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" Sunday (9:45 p.m.) are Lenny Dykstra (for no apparent reason), sports agents, the injuries and pain in pro football (have you purchased a couple of season tickets lately?) and another look at the career of the late Howard Cosell. Lots of breaking news stories, guys. Of James Brown's segment on agents, Gumbel says, "It's the kind of stuff you wouldn't see on network broadcasts," which prompts the question of NBC's "Today" anchor, why not?
* The PGA Tour is at the Ideon Classic in Massachusetts this weekend and, if nothing else, it answers the question, if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a noise? This tourney is about the only tour stop of any prominence that gets no concentrated national network or cable coverage, yet you'll know about it. Thank heaven for newspapers.
* TNT and TBS will be doing 70 NBA games beginning with the Hornets-Michael Jordan game Nov. 3, and the Washington Bullets get their customary (and mandatory) one showing: vs. Golden State, Dec. 27. Hubie Brown will analyze all 70 even if he's not present.
* The NHL has dropped two games off its regular-season sentence to its teams (from 84 to 82). It seemed close to ideal last year when the clubs played 48, but what does a TV Repairman know.
* Gary Player is no Jay Leno, but he comes up with some real thigh-slappers every so often. At the British Open, the 59-year-old South African said, "I'm looking forward to the super-super senior tour. This will be when we play three holes and the one who remembers the score wins."
* It hasn't come out yet, but the reason they were able to come up with the bust of O.J. Simpson, which was stolen out of the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, so quickly is it was discarded by a Cleveland Browns fan who thought it was a Jim Brown likeness.
* Amazing, Fox is paying $14 million for rights to the 1999 Pan-American Games in Winnipeg. A decimal point would have made the price just about right.
* Former Green Bay receiver Sterling Sharpe, starting in as a pro football reporter and commentator for ESPN, told USA Today, "I'll talk to players for background [material], but if they don't want to be used [cooperate], they just have to say so. Nobody will get hurt or upset." Uh, Sterling, it doesn't quite work that way. There are people you have to talk to, the quarterback, for instance. Oh well, live and learn. Sharpe did the silent bit as a player.
* Seriously, who do you think is a better spokesman for baseball, a person with the interest of the whole game and its varied aspects in mind, acting commissioner Bud Selig or Costas? No, not NBC sportscaster Bob, his son Keith, age 9.
* Obviously we're not the only country that allows sports to slip out of perspective. A whole continent (South America) looks in live on the telly as soccer player Diego Maradona wanders in and out of trouble and world suspensions and signs to play for $8 million (just like Darryl Strawberry). Folks want a two-year suspension shortened a couple of months so Maradona can start the season on time. "God has given me to Boca [his new team], which was what I wanted," said the player sacrilegiously, a play on his infamous "Hand of God" goal against England in the World Cup a while back.
* The expansion boys from Charlotte and Jacksonville (what, no Baltimore?), the Jaguars and Panthers, will be the people staggering around in the heat at the Football Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. . . . ESPN will check in at 7:30 p.m. with the induction ceremony of Steve Largent, Lee Roy Selmon, Henry Jordan, Kellen Winslow and the late Jim Finks.
* At least Gary Bender has this to include in his resume as he leaves TNT/TBS: It's taking two men to replace him, Verne Lundquist doing the NFL Sunday night package and Dick Stockton handling NBA telecasts.