ESPN once again on the outside looking in at NCAA tournament


Imagine doing a major amount of the advance work for a bigger-than-big party, up to and including previewing the talent and publicizing the event, only to find that you don't get invited.

That's the annual predicament ESPN finds itself in regarding the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Most nights during the winter, it's hard to tune in to the self-proclaimed "worldwide leader in sports" and not see college hoops of some sort, yet when it comes down to the marquee event of the year, ESPN has its corporate face pressed against the glass looking in.

But for Dick Vitale, the tournament is just an example of not missing what you haven't got.

"Maybe there's a little envy, but I learned in life that you can't sit and whine and cry about things you don't have," Vitale said yesterday. "I'd like to have the looks of Redford and the hairstyle of Travolta and I don't have those things. I'd like to be as smooth as a Bryant Gumbel or Bob Costas on the air, but I'm not. So, I learned to deal with what I have."

What Vitale and ESPN will have Sunday that CBS won't is a 90-minute special to unveil the tournament pairings. While the broadcast network will have the selections a half-second before ESPN, the cable gang will be able to provide greater analysis than CBS, because they'll have more time to do it.

"We'll have more in-depth [material] on the teams, brackets and pairings as well as some good human interest stories," said ESPN studio analyst Digger Phelps.

Both CBS (Channel 13) and ESPN will go on the air at 6: 30 p.m. Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg will be the hosts of CBS' 30 minutes in New York, with Chris Fowler at the helm for ESPN, flanked by Phelps and Vitale.

ESPN also will carry the women's draw, starting between 5 p.m. and 5: 15 p.m. Sunday after the Big 12 men's tournament final.

History comes alive

For the moments when you wonder why you shell out so much money for cable service, HBO provides an answer Monday at 10 p.m. with a stellar 90-minute documentary, "Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports."

Narrated by actress Lauren Hutton and poet Maya Angelou, the program takes a mostly American view of women's participation in sports, from the Victorian Age through the suffrage movement and into the modern era.

Lovingly produced by Kendall Bridges Reid and the wonderful Julie Anderson and written by Mary Carillo and Frank Deford, "Dare to Compete" is a brilliant look at the triumphs and setbacks women have faced in carving out their rightful territory in athletics.

Through archival footage and still pictures, we see Suzanne Lenglen, the great tennis player and the first female athletic superstar, the women who competed in the 1930s, '40s and '50s in professional baseball, the great Tennessee State track teams that included Wilma Rudolph, and so much more.

The last half of the documentary steps away from direct recital of history into explorations of larger themes, such as the impact of the Amateur Athletic Union on girls sports, the growth of feminism in sports and, of course, the effect of Title IX.

There are holes, to be sure, but to point out flaws in such a magnificent telecast would be nitpicking. Get a tape and be sure to keep this one for posterity.

Around the dial

It's the fervent hope of all Maryland men's basketball fans that the Terps will be playing Duke in Sunday's championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, but regardless of what happens in Charlotte, N.C., the two schools will meet in televised competition on the lacrosse field in the first of Channel 2's package of games. Scott Garceau and Keith Mills will have the call from College Park at 1 p.m.

As for the ACC tournament, here's an annual reminder: No matter what you may hear on ESPN, its tournament coverage will be blacked out in Baltimore. You'll get Raycom/Jefferson Pilot coverage and like it on Channel 54, which will air today's quarterfinals, starting at noon, tomorrow's semifinals at 1: 30 p.m. and Sunday's title game at 12: 30 p.m.

WBAL (1090 AM) launches its slate of Orioles exhibition broadcasts this weekend, with tomorrow's game against Minnesota, and Sunday's meeting with Florida. Both broadcasts are scheduled for 12: 35 p.m., but may be altered by Maryland basketball broadcasts.

Since CBS will have its hands full with the NCAA tournament for the rest of the month, NBC (Channel 11) will leap into the golf breech over the next few weeks, starting with this weekend's telecasts of the Doral Ryder Open at 3 p.m. both tomorrow and Sunday. And speaking of golf, Marylander Jim McKay narrates a two-hour documentary, "The Story of Golf," airing on Channel 22 and other Maryland Public Television stations Sunday at 5 p.m.

And finally, Silver Charm, Free House and Puerto Madero are the horses to watch in tomorrow's Santa Anita Handicap (Channel 45, 5 p.m.), while NASCAR's Las Vegas 400 airs live on Washington's Channel 7 at 2: 30 p.m. Sunday, while Channel 2 will tape the race for airing at 12: 05 Monday morning.

Pub Date: 3/05/99

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