For O.J. Simpson, Making Time Means Air Time at NBC

It really does pay to be cordial to everyone. You just never know who might end up being your boss someday.

Just ask O.J. Simpson.

Back when he was a junior at USC in 1967, Simpson was approached by a freshman reporter for the Notre Dame school newspaper after the Trojans' 24-7 victory over the Irish at South Bend, Ind.

Simpson was the last player in the locker room and was brushing his teeth when the young reporter came over seeking an interview. Simpson gave the reporter as much time as he wanted.

The reporter was Terry O'Neil, now executive producer of NBC Sports and the person who hired Simpson to replace Ahmad Rashad on the "NFL Live" pregame show.

Bob Costas said that although he is looking forward to working with Simpson on "NFL Live" this fall, he actively campaigned to keep Rashad on the show.

Costas said it's true that he and Rashad had some differences in the past, but they are now friends. Costas, Rashad, Rashad's wife Phylicia and Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins went out to dinner together last Saturday in Minneapolis.

"Ahmad was very upbeat," Costas said.

Rashad will work as a commentator this fall with play-by-play announcer Don Criqui.

Among the many regular Jim Healy tapes is this one: "Goldberg would love to do it."

It comes from Costas, who prior to going on the air with his nationally syndicated Sunday night radio show, "Costas: Coast to Coast," asked his producer to get someone to organize the day's sports scores.

In the full version of the tape, which Healy plans to play next Monday or Tuesday on his 5:30 p.m. KMPC show, Costas calls it "donkey work" that "millions of kids would love to do." He adds: "Goldberg would love to do it.

The Goldberg in the tape, Dave Goldberg, looked up Costas in the Astrodome press box earlier this month when Costas was there to announce a game for NBC.

"I hadn't seen Dave in a year and a half," Costas said. "He's working as a writer in Houston. He had no idea he had become a legend in Los Angeles."

While the announcing team of Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh will be NBC's No. 1 on pro football, the network is not saying which of the seven other teams is No. 2.

Marv Albert and Bob Trumpy may disagree, but Charlie Jones is claiming the spot for he and Merlin Olsen.

"I'm fired up," Jones said. "I feel like a kid again. Dick and Bill had better bear down because Merlin and I sure will, and we will be pressing them."

Jones and Olsen will announce the Aug. 6 exhibition game in London between the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

"That's a showcase game for NBC," Jones said, "and the fact that we're working it indicates to me that we are definitely the No. 2 team. Actually, I call us the 1A team."

Olsen, of his decision to stay on with NBC, said: "It's not my style to walk out on a job. That's was never an option I considered. And what would I do, go begging CBS for a job?"

One of the most heart-warming sports stories of any year is the one about Montreal relief pitcher Tim Burke. After pitching two scoreless innings in the All-Star game, Burke boarded a plane that night for Guatemala to join his wife Christine and bring back their new adopted son, a 2-year-old Guatemalan.

ESPN West Coast reporter Chris Myer asked Burke prior to the All-Star game if he, a producer and a cameraman, could tag along. Burke agreed, and by the third inning of the game Myer had approval to go.

Myer had to go from Anaheim to his home in Agoura Hills, pack his bags, and get to Los Angeles International Airport in time to accompany Burke on his midnight flight.

The story ended two nights later with Burke getting a save in Cincinnati by striking out the Reds' Eric Davis in the ninth inning.

ESPN ran the piece as a six-minute-plus feature on "SportsCenter" last Sunday. If there is such a thing as a shoo-in for an Emmy, this is it.

One of the most tragic sports stories of any year is the one of Donnie Moore's suicide, and Channel 2's Keith Olbermann deserves recognition for not only the way he handled reporting it Tuesday night but also for his complete and thorough follow-up the next day.

Channel 4 turned the story over to its top news reporter, Patrick Healy, and Fred Roggin added a nice commentary Wednesday night.

On the other hand, at Channel 7, the story showed how out of place it can be for new sports anchor Todd Donoho to lead his 11 p.m. sportscasts with a trivia question.

There has been a lot of talk about Al Michaels becoming ESPN's lead baseball play-by-play announcer next season, but Michaels isn't so sure it will happen.

He said he's under contract to ABC through 1993, and that he would take a job with ESPN only if he gets permission from Dennis Swanson, ABC Sports president.

"I'm not one to break a contract," Michaels said.

Pointing out an example, Michaels said that when he had a three-year contract in the early 1970s with the Cincinnati Reds, he honored it even though after two years the San Francisco Giants offered him a job and at a much better salary. He took the Giant job a year later, after fulfilling his contract with the Reds.

"I'm very loyal to ABC and Dennis Swanson," Michaels said. "What happens will be up to Dennis."

Since ABC and ESPN are both owned by the same company, Capital Cities, maybe something can be worked out.

"If not, I can't complain," Michaels said. "I'm doing 'Monday Night Football,' the most attractive prime-time sports package on television."

TV-Radio Notes

ABC is planning an extensive celebration this season in honor of the 20th anniversary of "Monday Night Football." A season-long tour sponsored by Epson America will begin in Washington with the first telecast Sept. 11, when the New York Giants play the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium. A highlight of the tour will be a magnificent 8-by-16 assemblage featuring souvenirs such as helmets, jerseys and photos from the past 20 years of "Monday Night Football."

Dennis Lewin, ABC Sports senior vice president, said publicist Bob Wheeler came up with the idea and Wheeler's brother-in-law, Jim Ridlon, a professional artist, created it in his studio in Syracuse, N.Y. Ridlon is a former defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. . . . Speaking of the Cowboys, they are among the few teams who will not appear on "Monday Night Football" this season. The Miami Dolphins are another. How the mighty have fallen.

Recommended viewing: "The Lighter Side of Sports," a Steve Rotfeld-produced show on ESPN, begins another season Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Jim Valvano as the new host. Rick Pitino, Kentucky's new coach, is the featured guest on the first show. Valvano is a crack-up. He's sort of a mix between David Letterman and Morton Downey Jr. . . . "Costas: Coast to Coast," dropped last month by KFI, can be heard Sunday nights at 6 on San Diego's powerful XTRA (690).

KRLA sportscaster and Raider commentator Rich Marotta and Helen Aspell are getting married Saturday in Las Vegas. . . . Greg Gumbel has been hired full-time by CBS. . . . New tennis commentators: Lisa Bonder-Kreiss has been hired by Prime Ticket, and Diana Nyad has been hired the USA network. Bonder-Kreiss is a former tennis player and Nyad was a long-distance swimmer. She was a diving commentator for ABC during the 1984 Olympics. . . . Two major cable companies, Century and American, have reduced the monthly cost of SportsChannel to $7.45 and $6.95, respectively.

Among the highlights of a busy sports weekend is the Mike Tyson-Carl (the Truth) Williams fight tonight on HBO. The prefight coverage begins at 7 p.m., the fight around 7:30. Radio coverage will be carried by KNX. . . . ESPN's 32 hours of Olympic Festival coverage begins Saturday. . . . ESPN this weekend also offers U.S.-West Germany Davis Cup coverage from Munich. . . . Highlights from the induction of Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski into the baseball Hall of Fame will be on "CBS Sports Sunday" on Channel 2 at 11:30 a.m. KNX will carry CBS Radio's periodic reports, beginning at 9:47 a.m.

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