NBC scrapes bottom, bullies CBS by digging up Ben Wright incident


As the media is often wont to do, the focus of reporters and producers covering this weekend's LPGA Championship in Wilmington, Del., has been away from the golfers, but on whatever residue of controversy is left from last year's Ben Wright incident.

Neither Wright, who made remarks about the impact of lesbians on the ability of the women's game to attract corporate sponsors, among other statements, nor the Wilmington News-Journal reporter who reported Wright's statements, Valerie Helmbreck, are anywhere near the DuPont Country Club this weekend. But that hasn't stopped the media from dredging up the story.

The worst of the vultures is NBC, which has produced a lurid and sensational 14-minute piece on the matter for tonight's "Dateline NBC" news magazine show, and rushed copies of the story out to TV reporters, including this one.

In the story, Helmbreck, who has not appeared on camera before tonight, describes the professional and personal travails she has endured over the past year, as Wright and CBS officials allegedly sought to discredit her to other reporters.

One wonders what NBC's motivation is in airing this story, besides, of course, the chance to exploit a sexy topic during sweeps month, and to kick the competition when it's down.

Indeed, a CBS spokeswoman responded yesterday, "We applaud NBC for taking news time to attack a direct competitor."

Should we expect to see a "Dateline" story on former NBC news correspondent Arthur Kent, the "Scud Stud" who left the network after exchanging angry barbs with the top brass? Or will we get a long piece with the "Dateline" producer who staged the detonation of a pickup truck and nearly destroyed the news division's credibility?

Of course not, because you never air your own dirty laundry in public, and NBC should stay away from CBS'.

Big hitters

As for the tournament itself, analyst Mary Bryan says the DuPont course's layout and the wet weather that has hit the region might create a rematch of last year's showdown between Laura Davies and Kelly Robbins, two long hitters who battled down to the wire. Davies made up a three-stroke deficit in the final seven holes to win.

"The long hitters have an advantage and Laura's the best, though God blessed her with a lot of things, but He didn't give her patience, and she may need that this weekend," said Bryan, who spent part of her childhood in Crofton.

The event was reduced to a 54-hole tournament because of yesterday's rainout. After today's first round, CBS (Channel 13) will air the final two rounds tomorrow at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

The sweet science

It's a big-time boxing tripleheader tonight on HBO. Six heavyweights -- none of whom, believe it or not, actually has a title -- meet at Madison Square Garden at 9 p.m.

The biggest bout on the card features Evander Holyfield against Bobby Czyz, but the other two fights, Lennox Lewis-Ray Mercer and Tim Witherspoon-Jorge Luis Gonzalez, should be worth a peek. In addition, Frank Deford will have an essay on the mess that is the heavyweight title picture.

The postseason scene

College lacrosse joins pro basketball and hockey in moving into the playoffs, and Sunday's first-round doubleheader at Navy will get extensive coverage locally.

The Loyola-Towson State match airs at noon on WTMD (89.7 FM), with the Johns Hopkins-Notre Dame game following at 3 p.m. on WWLG (1360 AM). Both games will air live on Home

Team Sports, starting at noon.

NBC (Channel 11) will have another NBA doubleheader tomorrow starting at 12: 30 p.m., and a Sunday tripleheader commencing at 12: 30 p.m. TNT brings a doubleheader tonight at 7, with a single game Sunday night at 8: 30 and another single game Monday night at 8.

On the ice, ESPN will have Detroit-St. Louis tonight at 8, and the Rangers-Pittsburgh tomorrow at 7: 30. The Fox (Channel 45) game of the week here is Florida-Philadelphia on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Clearing the record

In this space yesterday, we said Josh Lewin had done one game of televised baseball before getting named to Fox's broadcast team. In fact, he has done more than 70 games on television. However, he had only one tape of his work to present to Fox officials.

Sorry about the error.

Pub Date: 5/10/96

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