NBC to Look Back at Original Version of Bird vs. Magic

NBC last month looked back 25 years at the first Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight in a Sunday afternoon special that drew a solid 5.9 national rating, the top sports rating of the day.

Kansas City sportswriter Rick Gosselin, a Michigan State graduate, saw the show and, over lunch the next day with NBC sports publicist Doug Kelly, made this suggestion: How about a look back at the 1979 NCAA title game, the one featuring Michigan State’s Magic Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird?

When Kelly, a UCLA graduate, got back to New York, he found NBC’s tape of the game, which drew a national rating of 24.1, still the all-time high.

Kelly passed along Gosselin’s idea to executive producer Michael Weisman, and the result is another excellent NBC flashback. It will air as part of Sunday’s 11 a.m. “SportsWorld” program, a one-hour show that will originate from Seattle with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire serving as hosts.


Enberg, McGuire and Billy Packer were the announcers for the 1979 title game, and the host was Bryant Gumbel, who shows considerably more emotion than he did during last year’s Olympic Games in Seoul.

The CBS hosts for the coverage of Saturday’s Final Four semifinals and Monday night’s final will be Jim Nantz and James Brown.

Nantz seems to be an emerging star at CBS. Only 29, he’s smooth and sharp.

Nantz was hired by CBS in August of 1985--without even applying for a job.


He was a sports anchor at the CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City, where he also worked as Hot Rod Hundley’s sidekick on Utah Jazz radio and TV simulcasts, and did Brigham Young University football and basketball play-by-play.

Los Angeles talent consultant Bill Hay, without telling Nantz, sent a tape of Nantz’s work to CBS.

After viewing the tape, Ed Goren, producer of the network’s college football report show, invited Nantz to New York for a job interview.

“I thought somebody was playing a cruel joke on me,” Nantz said from Seattle. “I said, ‘Come on, who is this?’ ”

But he got the job.

“My master plan was to someday work for a network, but (not until) I was 40 or so,” he said. “I never would have applied on my own. “Bill Hay saw my work and liked it. It goes to show you, you never know who is watching.”

Coming back: “American Sportsman,” whose 20-year run on network television ended in 1984, returns to ABC Sunday at 3 p.m., with Curt Gowdy as the host.

Gowdy goes trout fishing in New Zealand, duck hunting in Mississippi with Walter Payton, and to the Florida Keys to take a look at dolphins that are being studied to help children with Down’s syndrome.


“This is the best show we’ve ever done,” Gowdy said. Quite a compliment considering the show won more than 75 awards during its original run. “Credit Dennis Swanson (the president of ABC Sports) for getting it back on the air.”

Gowdy hopes Sunday’s special will lead to more. “I’d prefer maybe four specials a year rather than a 13-week run like we used to have,” he said.

Gowdy said he always dreamed of trout fishing in New Zealand, considered a mecca for the sport.

Plans for two previous trips during “American Sportsman’s” original run had to be canceled at the last minute. On one occasion, Gowdy’s mother suffered a stroke, and another time his wife broke her hand.

This time, Gowdy made it to New Zealand, but while there he fell and broke some ribs.

Because of the injury, Gowdy had to pull out of an April 14 assignment to serve as the host of pay-per-view coverage of Robbie Knievel’s attempt to jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

This is the same stunt Robbie’s father, Evel, failed to accomplish, 21 years ago.

Wall climbers: Want to see something different this weekend? How about competitive sport climbing on CBS’ “Sports Sunday” at 9 a.m.


The world’s top rock climbers will climb a 12-story hotel wall at Snowbird, Utah.

Robert Carmichael is co-creator of the event, along with mountain climber Jeff Lowe. David Michaels is the producer, and James Brown is the host.

TV-Radio Notes

Brent Musburger and Billy Packer will announce both Final Four semifinal games Saturday, as well as Monday night’s title game. . . . Al McGuire previews the title game for NBC on Sunday at 10 a.m. . . . A video tape of Monday’s game, to be produced by San Francisco-based GGP Sports, is expected to be on the market the next week. . . . The European Broadcasting Union this week agreed to pay $66 million for the television and radio rights to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. NBC’s fee is $401 million.

HBO had only 88 seconds of action to show last Saturday in covering Michael Nunn’s one-punch knockout of Sumbu Kalambay. It was a pretty good show, especially since commentator Sugar Ray Leonard was on hand to talk about the possibility of meeting Nunn down the road. . . . Leonard gave Nunn a big buildup, but a New York boxing writer witnessed a confrontation between the two late Saturday night at a Las Vegas nightclub. Leonard reportedly pointed a finger at Nunn and said, “I’m going to mess up your life just like I messed up Marvin Hagler’s.”

Channel 2 will preview the Angels tonight at 7:30 and the Dodgers Monday night at 8:30, after the basketball game. Keith Olbermann is the host of both shows. . . . Marv Albert is the host of “Baseball ’89: A Change of Seasons,” on NBC Saturday at 12:30 p.m. . . . FNN/SCORE offers “Spring Training Stories” Saturday at 2:30. Todd Donoho is the host.. . . ESPN will have a special one-hour SportsCenter show Monday at 4 p.m. to focus on baseball’s opening day. . . . ABC’s Al Michaels will be on NBC’s “Later With Bob Costas” Monday night to talk about the start of the baseball season. Tom Landry will be Thursday night’s guest.

In addition to the Masters next weekend, Channel 2 also will have a women’s tournament, the AI Star Centinela Hospital event at Rancho Park in West Los Angeles. People and Properties, Inc., a sports marketing and television production company based in Greenwich, Conn., and Walnut Creek, Calif., is producing the two-day coverage. FNN/SCORE is carrying it nationally, and Channel 2 is carrying it locally.

On April 15, Channel 9 will televise a special, “The Summer of 42: Kareem’s Final Farewell,” from 6 to 7 p.m. Roy Firestone is the host and Ted Green the producer. . . . Z Channel will carry Sports Channel America’s Boston Marathon coverage Monday, April 17. . . . NBC, as expected, announced this week that it will carry the 1990 National Hockey League All-Star game next Jan. 21, the weekend before the Super Bowl. NBC will also carry the 1991 NHL All-Star game. . . . Oops dept: Who goofed? We did. After hearing Angel announcer Al Conin say that Harry Caray made a guest appearance during a game last week with the Chicago Cubs, we thought he was serious and reported it. But Caray didn’t really make an appearance. Conin was just kidding about partner Ken Brett doing a Caray impersonation. . . . “Boardwalk and Baseball’s Super Bowl of Sports Trivia” on ESPN with Chris Berman begins its second season Monday at 3 p.m. with UCLA taking on Nebraska.