Montana takes NBC snap, as TV throng kicks off year

The TV Repairman:

Joe Montana could be beachcombing somewhere down in the South Pacific and, according to some, he would be big news. Boy, they never let you forget when you win a couple of Super Bowls, do they?


In its preview of the NFL, which commences Sunday with a doubleheader on Fox, an early game on NBC and TNT leading off the cable split in the evening, TV Guide asks and answers the compelling question: Does Joe Cool have enough fire for TV?

Granted, it's a long season, the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals closing it out on Christmas night on "Monday Night Football" (ABC), and subject matter is often found lacking. But Montana right off? The once reluctant to get into broadcasting ex-quarterback will be in the "NFL on NBC" studio with Greg Gumbel, Joe Gibbs and Mike Ditka.


The noon show will be going head-to-head with the Fox Foursome of Terry Bradshaw, James Brown, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson for an hour, which puts them in a tie for second behind ESPN's "GameDay," stretched out to 75 minutes probably on its way to five hours.

As Chris Berman put it when asked about the additional 15 minutes: "We could probably start at 8 o'clock in the morning if we didn't have to write the script and I didn't have to comb my hair. We're ready to go." Berman's team will include holdovers Tom Jackson, Chris Mortensen, Joe Theismann and new kid on the block Sterling Sharpe.

"One thing," Berman said of the former Green Bay receiver, "since Sterling never talked to the press, what he says will be fresh because we haven't heard it before."

CNN is back with its preview show beginning at 11 a.m., TNT has kicked its "Pro Football Tonight" show out to 60 minutes, getting under way at 7 p.m. In these parts, Washington's Channel 9 will have a 10:30 a.m. effort entitled "Redskins Blitz" and Channel 5 checks in at 11 a.m. with "Redskins Playbook."

To paraphrase Churchill, "Never will so many say so much about so little." Still, as Berman says of ESPN's added time, "this is not a desperation move to get a head start on the others by any means. There's a demand there. They just might have to move church up."

An added feature for fans actually attending NFL games this year is the league will provide a same-day video package prepared by the masters, NFL Films. Yet another reason to raise ticket prices, yes.

* The Orioles-Mariners game at Camden Yards tonight has an 8 o'clock start as part of "Baseball Night in America" with Jon Miller and Billy Sample on the call. If the visitors score a half-dozen runs in the first inning, your fallback position is either the Arena Football League title game at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN or USA Network's U.S. Open tennis matches.

Labor Day, the Angels and O's are on Channels 54 and 50 at 1:30 p.m., one of seven games on that day, then the world moves in for "Cal Games" 2,130 and 2,131 Tuesday and Wednesday. ESPN, besides sending the Sept. 6 game to the universe, will devote an "Outside the Lines" show to "A Rip of Games" Tuesday at 7:30 and "SportsCenter" and "Baseball Tonight" will be full of the festivities both nights. Channels 13, 50 and HTS will do the record game (all the same telecast, of course).


* John McEnroe gets a chance to rush home and change his clothes before hustling back for CBS coverage of Flushing Meadow at noon tomorrow and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

As if there's not enough chattering going on as people are whacking the ball back and forth, USA's Barry McKay is always coming up with things like, "Tell us, John, how difficult is it playing on the Grandstand Court (at the U.S. Tennis Center) when fans are moving in from the Stadium Court?" Come on. Concentration in tennis is important, but the situation asked about isn't like open-heart surgery in the middle of Times Square on New Year's Eve.

* There are nine college football games on the tube tomorrow (a lot of teams don't open until next week), and it still almost matches the total for the entire season back in 1952 when the NCAA signed its first contract with NBC.

Probably the most competitive games tomorrow are Miami at UCLA (ABC, 8 p.m.), Syracuse at North Carolina (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) and Brigham Young at Air Force (ESPN, 12:30 p.m.). Channel 11 has Notre Dame-Northwestern at 2:30 p.m., Channel 2 has Florida and Duke at 3:30 p.m. * Strange starting time for the WBC heavyweight crown bout between Oliver McCall (26-5) and the man who never runs out of title shots, Frank Bruno (39-4) on Showtime tomorrow: 9:35 p.m. Nigel Benn (41-2) vs. Danny Ray Perez (18-3) is also on the card. If you miss it, it's on cable again Sunday (11:30 a.m.)