If Musburger Got It Right, He’d Call a Foul on Himself

Somebody, please, put a muzzle on Brent Musburger.

CBS Sports, if it is going to assign Musburger to basketball, should at least print a sign for him that reads: “Think before you speak.”

Like it or not, Musburger and Tom Heinsohn, who, of course, is everybody’s favorite commentator, will be working the Laker-Dallas playoff series after Channel 9 and TBS televise Game 3 tonight.

CBS takes over with Game 4 Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

While the bad news is the network’s selection of announcers, the good news is there will be no 11:30 p.m. delayed telecasts in Los Angeles.


If Game 5 is necessary next Tuesday, Channel 2 will carry it live at 8:30. Elsewhere, it will be televised at 11:30. Of course, 11:30 is live for East Coast viewers.

Any remaining games in the series will be televised live nationally by CBS or TBS. All of the remaining Boston-Detroit games will be televised live by CBS, and all the championship series will be shown live.

How bad is Musburger on basketball? Well, in Sunday’s Game 7 of the Boston-Atlanta series, he may have reached a low in shilling for his network in the third quarter. After the Celtics’ Danny Ainge committed a foul, he said:

“Ainge has become a good golfer. When he goes home late this afternoon, he’ll probably check in to see who won the Colonial. That’s coming up here next on CBS.”

Of course, foremost in Ainge’s mind would be Lanny Wadkins’ victory in the Colonial National Invitation golf tournament.

Musburger’s comments are sometimes harmless cliches, such as “McHale puts it to the parquet,” meaning Kevin McHale dribbled the ball.

But other times he is out-and-out wrong.

On Sunday, when Atlanta’s Doc Rivers was called for goaltending on a layup by Danny Ainge with 19 seconds left, Musburger said Ainge was fouled. The official, meanwhile, signaled goaltending.

Heinsohn quickly, and quietly, corrected his partner. “It was goaltending,” Heinsohn said. Musburger: “It was that.”

Thank you, Brent.

From this point on, Musburger had nothing but troubles.

The score was 116-111 with 17 seconds left. As any fan knows, a five-point lead isn’t much in a National Basketball Assn. game.

But that didn’t keep Musburger from saying, “The Boston Celtics will win this series,” adding that the goaltending call “sealed the fate of the Atlanta Hawks.”

Musburger kept trying to put Sunday’s game into the refrigerator, or whatever you want to call it, and kept having to retract himself. “They (the Hawks) still have a glimmer of hope,” he was forced to say. Then: “This team will not surrender.”

Meanwhile, Heinsohn kept telling viewers, despite what Musburger said, it wasn’t over.

And Heinsohn was right.

While Musburger needs an editor, Heinsohn needs a speech therapist. You wonder how someone with such poor communication skills can end up on network television. He is hard to understand and often puts the subject at the end of a sentence. “They’re really running now, the Lakers,” he’ll say.

Can you imagine an English teacher asking her students to diagram one of Heinsohn’s sentences?

But what Heinsohn is most often criticized for is being biased toward the Celtics. He played for the Celtics, he coached them and now he is a Celtic announcer on cable television in New England.

Actually, Heinsohn attempts to be objective. Late in Sunday’s game, Atlanta’s Dominque Wilkins literally ran over the Celtics’ Dennis Johnson, knocking the wind out of him. But no foul was called. “It was a good no-call,” Heinsohn said.

No it wasn’t. One got the feeling Heinsohn was trying to prove he isn’t biased.

CBS simply should not assign Heinsohn to Celtic games. It’s a no-win situation. He’s criticized no matter which way he goes.

At least CBS didn’t assign Heinsohn to the Celtic-Detroit series, although that would have been a break for L.A. viewers. And Heinsohn will not work the championship series, no matter who plays. Dick Stockton and Billy Cunningham will handle that series.

Despite his deficiencies, Heinsohn came across better than Musburger last Sunday, although Heinsohn made one unfortunate error.

With time running out and Boston leading, 118-115, Ainge fouled Wilkins. Heinsohn said it was good strategy because the Celtics had a foul to give. And Musburger added that time had run out.

Wrong on both counts. The foul sent Wilkins to the line to shoot a two free throws with one second left. Conceivably, he could make one, then miss the second on purpose. A tip-in would tie the game.

It didn’t work out that way. Wilkins made his first shot, and Dennis Johnson rebounded the second and the Celtics won, 118-116, saving Musburger from considerably more embarrassment.

Musburger’s low point Sunday came when CBS showed several angles on the goaltending call on Rivers. At first, Musburger called it a bad call.

After several replays, he said: “That’s superb work by our technical crew here this afternoon. I cannot imagine anyone doing a better job under the pressure of a seventh game.”

He added: “ I change my opinion. It was a terrific call.”

Viewers must have been wondering what Musburger could see that they couldn’t. The pictures were good, but also inconclusive.

Heinsohn, noting that Ainge regained possession and probably would have scored anyway, simply said: “I couldn’t see it, to tell you the truth.” That’s all Musburger should have said, too.

TV-Radio Notes

Take away Brent Musburger and Tom Heinsohn, and last Sunday’s Atlanta-Boston telecast was a good one. You couldn’t fault the camera work, and the score was put up after almost every basket, as it should be. And the time remaining, when it was important, was put up on the screen, too. Bob Fishman and Bob Stenner, the producer and director, will also be working the Laker-Dallas series for CBS. . . . The Lakers will be part of two specials on Channel 2 Monday. In one at 2:30 p.m., after the Celtics and Pistons, Jim Lampley, with help from actors Scott Curtis and George Kirby, takes a futuristic review of the Lakers in the 1980s. In the other, at 7:30 p.m., Lampley returns to the present to look at the Lakers’ chances of repeating. . . . Add Lampley: He will be reunited with Kathleen Sullivan, his partner during the 1984 Winter Olympics, today on “CBS This Morning.” Lampley will fill in for co-anchor Harry Smith, who has the day off.

What a day Sunday is for sports viewing--the Indy 500 followed by a Laker playoff game. It all begins at 7 a.m. with a one-hour special, “Road to Indy,” with actor James Brolin and announcer Paul Page. Then ABC will have one hour of pre-race coverage, beginning at 8 a.m., and then the race at 9. Page, the voice of the Indy 500 radio network the past 11 years, will work in the ABC-TV booth this year with Sam Posey and Bobby Unser. Jack Arute and Brian Hammons will report from the pit areas and garages. ABC, televising the race live for only the third time, is well prepared. “We have taped profiles or interviews with about two-thirds of the field,” said associate producer Ned Simon. Cars driven by Mario and Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan will be equipped with in-car cameras. . . . Radio coverage of the race will be carried by KPZE (1190) in Anaheim.

ABC begins its 13th season of “Monday Night Baseball” on Memorial Day with the Dodgers vs. the Mets at New York at 5 p.m. Should be interesting. It’s the first meeting between these two teams since Pedro Guerrero threw his bat at the Mets’ David Cone last Sunday. . . . Z Channel, in association with Choice Entertainment and Al Goossen Promotions, will televise a monthly fight card from the Country Club in Reseda. The first show, next Tuesday at 7 p.m., is headlined by a Michael Nunn-Ron Daniels fight. Tony Hernandez and Tex Cobb are the announcers. The main event is a tuneup for Nunn, who meets Frank Tate in a middleweight title bout July 28 at Caesars Palace. . . . The National Collegiate Athletic Assn. men’s volleyball championships, held May 7 and won by USC, will be televised by CBS Saturday at 11:30 a.m.