There are two subtle, but noticeable things at work in Sunday's official disclosure of Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in a one-hour prime-time special on Fox (Channel 45, 7 p.m.)
The most obvious is that Sports Illustrated, the nation's most recognized sports magazine, is choosing a different medium to bestow its highest honor, effectively scooping itself and the 23 million people who read SI each week. One wonders how many readers will read the Sportsman story next Wednesday after seeing the special three days earlier.
"That's a very legitimate question, and it remains to be seen what will happen. The reader will have to answer the question of whether he feels scooped," said SI managing editor Mark Mulvoy.
Sunday's special is a production of SITV, the new television-production arm of the magazine. In just over a year of operation, it has received five sports Emmy nominations and won an Emmy for a special that recognized the 40 figures SI's editors deemed the most important in its first 40 years of publication.
Though the Sportsman was honored on two HBO specials in the mid-1980s, this is the first time the designation has been announced in another medium before the magazine could do so. Mulvoy, who selects the Sportsman in consultation with other editors, says he has some misgivings about the setup, but sees a higher purpose.
"This is something we're doing that we think will enhance the entire franchise of Sportsman of the Year. The Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year will have more exposure," said Mulvoy.
The second subtle trend in the special is the refining of the image of host Terry Bradshaw, who shared the 1979 award with Willie Stargell, and credits his Sportsman designation as turning around the perception that he was a dumb quarterback.
"You all know all the things that were written and said about me," said Bradshaw on a conference call this week. "Well, when I got this award, I just felt better about myself. I just felt neat, and everything was sort of put to rest."
Bradshaw, who plays the wild-man role on Fox's NFL pre-game show, tones the act down considerably for Sunday's show, which coyly hints around the list of candidates, before revealing the winner at the end, in a segment that, not surprisingly, was not made available to critics.
But the suspense ended early anyway. As reported in yesterday's Sun, Cal Ripken will receive this year's award.
WWLG yells Fore!
In yet another expansion of its sports programming, WWLG (1360 AM) tonight debuts "Golf Line," a weekly one-hour call-in show devoted to, well, golf, airing at 10 p.m., or just after live game coverage on Thursdays. With host Steve Reeves, assistant golf pro at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, "Golf Line" will examine the PGA, LPGA and Senior tours, as well as chat up trends, equipment, rules, techniques and the like.
By the way, starting next Monday, the 10 p.m.-1 a.m. show, with hosts Spiro Morekas and Mark Mussina and vacated by Stan "The Fan" Charles, gets the new name, "Sports Showdown." Pistols at 50 paces, everyone.
Handing out the hardware
Virtually every major college football award this side of the Heisman will be given out tonight at 9:30 at Walt Disney World on ESPN.
Among the prizes to be distributed are: the Maxwell, Chuck Bednarik, Fred Biletnikoff, Doak Walker, Davey O'Brien, Jim Thorpe and Student-Athlete awards, as well as the Outland and college football Coach of the Year trophies.
Booby prizes, no doubt, will be presented to hosts Chris Fowler and Lee Corso by their smarter colleague, Craig James.