As if to match the blandness of last night's NCAA national championship game, CBS turned in a meat-and-potatoes effort, with nothing flashy or spectacular, but mostly solid.
For once, analyst Billy Packer's attention to detail paid off, as he spotted the Wildcats' exploitation of Syracuse's 2-3 zone for three-pointers in the first half and their excellent passing throughout, and Jim Nantz was his usual understated self on the play-by-play call.
Michele Tafoya's halftime feature on the 1963 Mississippi State team that cracked the Southeastern Conference color line to play in the NCAA tournament was excellent, though one could wonder why it didn't run Saturday, when the Bulldogs were still playing.
Though the work from the CBS production truck, led by producer Bob Dekas and director Bob Fishman, was wonderful as usual, you have to wonder why, after watching ESPN run a continuous score and clock during the weekend's women's Final Four, CBS wouldn't follow suit.
On the heels of the conclusion of the college basketball season, CBS tonight offers a ballyhooed biopic of the life and times of former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano that is alternately hokey and penetrating.
As "Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story" opens (Channel 13, 9 p.m.), we find the coach in his high school gym not long before his death in April 1993, attempting to hit shots and place his life in perspective.
What follows is a two-hour look through the last 10 years of Valvano's life, from the Wolfpack's improbable victory over heavily favored Houston in the 1983 national championship game, through a series of ugly recruiting and academic scandals, to his battle against cancer of the spine.
Though the movie, produced by Sports Illustrated Television, deals bluntly with the scandals, which forced Valvano out in 1990, and with problems within his family, it is also schmaltzy and sugary-sweet to a fault.
The film also takes Hollywood-style liberties with events, for instance, placing former Channel 2 sports anchor John Saunders at the Albuquerque Final Four, where the Wolfpack won the title, and, at the film's climax, , who brilliantly captures the essence of the mercurial Valvano. LaPaglia not only nails down the late coach's intensity, but the pure joy that radiated his soul.
Ronny Cox, known best as the uptight police captain in the "Beverly Hills Cop" movies, is strong as Valvano's golf buddy, and Ashley Crow turns in an effective effort as Valvano's wife, Pam, who appears at the end of the film to encourage contributions to the foundation set up in Valvano's name to fight cancer.
The presidential seal
Talk about politics and strange bedfellows: ESPN's Chris Berman is getting an invitation to tonight's White House state dinner with President Clinton, who shared the broadcast booth with Berman during Cal Ripken's record-setting game last September, and the president of Italy, who did not.
Taking the Mike
Orioles ace Mike Mussina will pitch in today's rescheduled opener (Channel 13, 3 p.m.), then face all your tough questions on tonight's "Sports Showdown (WWLG 1360 AM; 10 o'clock), whose hosts are Spiro Morekas and Mark Mussina.
Yes, Mike and Mark are brothers.
Pub Date: 4/02/96