The Rams will make their 1985 television debut this evening. Their exhibition game with the Philadelphia Eagles at Ohio Stadium on the Ohio State campus will be shown live by Channel 2 at 4:30 p.m., with Jim Hill and Pat Haden reporting.
The game wasn't going to be televised at all, but Ram owner Georgia Frontiere intervened. She called General Manager Frank Gardner of Channel 2 and essentially asked: "What needs to be done to get the game televised?"
Jay Strong, Channel 2's program director, said: "We had to do some scrambling, but we got it done."
ABC, which this week announced a three-year deal to televise the Indianapolis 500 live, reportedly will pay $3.2 million for the rights to the 1986 race. A source said the network paid $1.7 million for the tape-delayed rights to this year's race, so the increase for live rights is less than double.
Speedway officials may have shortchanged themselves. NBC, which does a lot of Indy-car races, wanted the Indy 500 desperately and was prepared to pay a considerable amount for it. And independent producer Don Ohlmeyer had plans to make the race a pay-per-view event that might have grossed about $20 million.
But neither NBC nor Ohlmeyer got a chance to make a bid, because ABC had an exclusive negotiating period. That period ended Aug. 1, but Indy officials offered ABC an extension.
Driver Johnny Rutherford said: "I'm surprised they went with ABC, but then, I don't like to second-guess the people that make those decisions. We (the drivers) were hoping a new television deal might push the winner's purse up to $1 million. Maybe it will, eventually."
Danny Sullivan, this year's winner, earned $507,662 for his team.
Paul Page, the radio voice of the 500, said: "I don't think a live telecast will hurt our audience that much. A lot of people spend the Memorial Day weekend outdoors, and then there will be those who, I hope, will turn the sound down on their TV and listen to us. What might be a little tougher for us now is to sell the race to station general managers."
About 725 radio stations carried this year's race. The all-time high was 860.
Page, who also works for NBC, said: "In a way, I'm relieved NBC didn't get the race. Then I would have had to make a choice between doing the race for radio or TV. But I would have liked to have seen NBC get the race since our production people are more experienced at covering Indy-car races, although Larry Cam and Bob Goodrich always do a fine job."
Cam has been the director of ABC's delayed Indy coverage, Goodrich the producer.
"But now that it's a major live event, ABC might feel they have to bring in their top people, like Chet Forte, who don't have the experience," Page said.
Jim McKay, who is cutting back on his workload, will skip next year's race, so Jim Lampley will anchor the coverage. Lampley is a solid, all-around announcer but has limited experience in covering auto racing. The commentator will be the overly excitable Sam Posey, who competed at Indy only once, finishing fifth in 1972. He returned the following year, but his team was disqualified for cheating when it tried to qualify a car that had already been bumped.
"Posey is a great guy, but of all the guys around, I don't see why ABC uses him for its Indy coverage," Page said.
Add auto racing: ESPN has taken some heat this week because of its involvement in last Sunday's Pocono 500, which it televised on a same-day, tape-delayed basis. Al Unser Jr. was equipped with a microphone by ESPN, and when radio communications with his crew broke off, ESPN allowed him to use its equipment to talk with them. Unser ended up finishing second, and some people thought he might not have finished that high without ESPN's help.
Said Page: "What ESPN did at Pocono was really an improper invasion into the event. Actually, I don't think drivers should even be miked at all."
Add Page: NBC will be using him as a football play-by-play announcer this season, and he and new commentator Sam Rutigliano will practice on Saturday night's Raiders-Miami Dolphins game at the Coliseum. NBC is televising the game nationally, with Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy as the on-air announcers. The game is blacked out in Los Angeles.
Add Rutigliano: The former coach of the Cleveland Browns is scheduled to be paired with Charlie Jones during the regular season. Jones, by the way, is entering his 26th straight season as a pro football announcer, which makes him first in longevity among current network announcers. Jones started out announcing American Football League games for ABC in 1960.
Jones will miss the first week of the season because he'll be in Rome for the IAAF Mobil Grand Prix track and field meet Sept. 7. The meet will be taped and televised Sept. 14.
Jones' former broadcast partner, Bob Griese, has been teamed with Marv Albert as John Brodie's replacement. Brodie has left broadcasting for golf and will attempt to make it on the PGA Seniors Tour.
Add Brodie: About 10 pro golfers, among them Gary Player and Doug Sanders, have applied for Brodie's former position as NBC's golf commentator. NBC will go over the list and pick three or four who will be given auditions in October and November.
Pay-per-view event: The Indianapolis 500, like a major fight, may qualify as a pay-per-view event, but what about a contrived tennis match in which Bobby Riggs and Vitas Gerulaitis take on Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver?
"The Challenge," as it is being billed, will be televised live from Atlantic City, N.J., on a pay-per-view basis tonight at 6, but only on four Southern California cable systems--Sammons, Jones Intercable, Rogers and Storer. The cost is $15.
A national audience of between 75,000 and 150,000 is expected, which means as much as $3.2 million may be raised. The TV money will be split between promoters and local cable outlets. The purse for the event is $500,000, with $300,000 going to the winners and $200,000 to the losers.
KMPC (710) and San Diego's KPQP (1360) will carry NBC radio's Monday Night Football this season, beginning Sept. 9 with the Washington Redskins at Dallas. The announcers will be Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy. When an Angel game conflicts with the football game, KMPC will farm out one or the other to KLAC (570). There may be some conflicts with the Clippers as well. The Clippers and KMPC made a deal this week. . . . ABC got a 13.2 national Nielsen rating for last Monday's exhibition game between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. It was the highest rating ABC has had for an exhibition game since its 13.8 for Dallas against Seattle in 1979. . . . From Joe Namath: "John Elway has got to improve on his mistakes." Namath, meanwhile, is doing just fine with his.
Jim McKay, Jim Palmer and Donna de Varona will be the announcers for ABC's coverage of Saturday's Little League World Series championship game. Donna de Varona? . . . Add Little League telecast: ABC will experiment with a tiny camera mounted on the home-plate umpire's mask. The camera may eventually be used in major league games. . . . Pac-10 teams will be featured on "College Football Previews," with Bill Fleming on Channel 4 Saturday at 4 p.m. . . . Magic Johnson and other NBA stars played in a benefit all-star game in Washington Aug. 3, and the game will be televised by Channel 4 Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. . . . ESPN announced it will televise the Texas-Texas A&M; game Thanksgiving Day at 4:30 p.m.