Sunday night football picks up speed with ESPN


Like the anchor of a relay team, ESPN takes over weekly cable telecasts of the NFL Sunday night cable telecast package with Sunday's Detroit-Green Bay game.

But, the analogy sort of fails there, because ESPN won't be running the backstretch the way TNT ran the first part of the course or the way NBC or Fox tackles the entire race.

"We are a football show," said Fred Gaudelli, ESPN's senior coordinating producer. "ESPN caters to the sophisticated fan of all the sports that we cover. We put a lot of thought into how we can take the viewer and fan inside the game. That's the responsibility of every ESPN producer."

In the past, that kind of thought has led to the introduction in 1991 of a camera mounted on the center of the crossbar of the goal post, which allows viewers to see plays develop. Three years ago, ESPN debuted the "spotlight," designed to take an enhanced look at specific players, trends and matchups that are key to a game.

Last year, ESPN unveiled the "stat bug" that provides running stats for the team's leading passer, rusher and receiver. This year's new plaything is the "preplay," where analyst Joe Theismann and sideline reporter Ron Jaworski pick apart and anticipate specific plays and trends with the help of computer-generated, 3-D graphics.

The trick, of course, is not to overrun the home audience with the toys, a skill at which ESPN has largely been successful.

"We've always had as much equipment as anyone," said play-by-play announcer Mike Patrick. "We've never tried to force any of them if they didn't work. That's the beauty of ESPN's coverage. If our director has 17 cameras, but five of them aren't showing anything, we don't use them."

Hoop hoop hooray

The NBA's 51st season tips off tonight, with the apparent theme being what's old is new again, what with such NBA stalwarts as Larry Bird, Rick Pitino and Chuck Daly coming back to the league.

This sort of retro feel is just fine by TNT analyst Hubie Brown.

"What sold this league was great team play and everyone being subservient to the good of the team," said Brown. "That's what you're hoping for with these guys coming back to the league. From the league's standpoint, we'd like to see better team play and the tempo come back."

A one-hour preview, "Tip-Off 97" gets things started at 7 p.m., then Brown and partner Dick Stockton will be in Boston for the Celtics-Chicago Bulls matchup. In the second game of the doubleheader, Utah takes on the Los Angeles Lakers at 10: 30 and "Inside the NBA" caps it all off after the Lakers-Jazz game.

The Wizards' opener against Detroit airs on Washington's Channel 9 at 7: 30, with their home opener with Miami coming on Home Team Sports tomorrow night at 7: 30.

In other NBA broadcast news, former Piston John Salley joins NBC's telecast team as a studio analyst, replacing Julius Erving who left to go to the front office of the Orlando Magic.

Talking with Tyson

Up until the moment ABC boxing analyst Alex Wallau walked into a New York hotel on Tuesday and saw Mike Tyson sitting there, Wallau was unsure the interview would take place.

Once the two sat down, Wallau said Tyson was more forthcoming than he ever had been in the 19 previous times the two had talked.

"From my standpoint, this is the most direct and forthright interview I've ever done with him. I've never seen him open up like this," said Wallau. "I thought he would be much more guarded and rehearsed and try to avoid anything controversial and that was not the case."

Among the revelations gleaned from Tyson, in a chat that took place before his motorcycle accident in Connecticut on Wednesday: Tyson believed his cornermen, and in particular, a doctor, lied to him about the severity of the head butt injury he suffered to Evander Holyfield before he bit Holyfield's ear.

Tyson has seen doctors since the fight, but won't say if they are psychiatrists, as Wallau believes.

Tyson doesn't think he will be reinstated from a ban imposed by Nevada athletic officials after the Holyfield fight, but plans to box again if reinstated.

Tyson, who calls himself "lonely" and "fragile," thinks the media and the public in general "hate" him, but also issued an epithet to those in the public who want him banned.

"There's this weird contradiction about him. You'll get this viciousness, but you also get this childishness too. This is not the Mike Tyson that read that apology. This is a totally different persona," said Wallau.

Find out for yourself Monday on "Prime Time Live" at 8 p.m. on Channel 2.

Around the dial

Don't think for a moment that the NFL is immune to all the hype that comes with the November sweeps. Why else do you think Dallas and San Francisco just "happen" to play every year ** in the 11th month?

Sunday's clash (Channel 45, 4 p.m.) doesn't have quite the luster of previous Cowboys-49ers dustups, but that won't stop Fox from making the most of the game, by dispatching the pre-game show crew to 3Com Park, as well as routing 90 percent of the country to the game. Among the major markets, only fans in Philadelphia will be unable to see the game, and

that's because the Eagles are playing Arizona at the same time.

Meanwhile, on the college football front, Channel 13 will have a couple interesting border rivalry games tomorrow, with Maryland playing host to Virginia at noon, followed by the Florida-Georgia game from Jacksonville, Fla.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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