Dickerson Fuels All Sorts of News in Battle of the Opening Day Shows

ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Robin Roberts no doubt was overstating things when, at 8:59 a.m. Sunday, she said, "And now the moment you've all been waiting for--the premier of 'NFL GameDay.' "

But on the day ESPN went head-to-head with NBC and CBS in the battle of NFL pregame shows, ESPN came out the winner, and not just because it had Brent Musburger.

ESPN's one-hour show is twice as long as the other two shows, and while not really twice as good, it was the best on the opening day of the NFL season.

NBC, vastly improved, was a close second, and CBS, despite an impressive new set and an all-new cast, was a disappointing third.

"GameDay" came on at 9 a.m., a half-hour later than in its five previous seasons, with a dynamite opening--the lurking ghost of Musburger saying, "Now, you are looking live at 'GameDay's' war room!"

Host Chris Berman said: "I think Rod Serling has entered the building."

Berman, maybe realizing the Helsinki summit had knocked CNN's new 8:30 a.m. NFL pregame show off the air, said: "Here, up until kickoff, it's football that matters."

Nothing like getting your priorities in order.

Terry O'Neil, NBC Sports executive producer, said the other day that his network's half-hour show would be faster-paced than ESPN's, but nobody can accuse Berman of being slow. If anything, he talks too fast.

The thing is, "GameDay," with its one-hour format, is just more complete than the half-hour 9:30 a.m. shows.

Joe Theismann's interview with Joe Montana on "GameDay" went in depth, as Montana talked about his insecurities. He told Theismann that his fear of losing his job makes him work so hard.

On CBS, Jim Gray had an interesting and revealing interview with Eric Dickerson, but it was cut too short. The viewers were left wanting more.

Speaking of Dickerson, who is this Fred ("My Sources Tell Me") Edelstein on ESPN? Apparently, he edits some sort of newsletter nobody has heard of.

Edelstein, who rarely attributes his reports to named sources, is the guy who said the Raiders would be playing the Denver Broncos in Oakland Sunday. So that tells you something about his credibility.

Anyway, Edelstein said Dickerson refused to take a second physical with Indianapolis to force a trade to Atlanta, mentioning three Falcons the Colts wanted--John Settle, Shawn Collins and Chris Hinton. Fine, but how does he know?

On CBS, Dickerson told Gray that he passed his first physical, and for the Colts to say otherwise is a joke.

Dickerson also told Gray he has apologized to teammates for some of his critical remarks and that, while he is no angel in this whole thing, he simply becomes frustrated and angry about losing.

All three shows reported that Dickerson will meet with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Sept. 17 to sort out the whole mess.

The main reason the NBC show, "NFL Live," is so improved is the addition of Will McDonough, who spent the past four seasons at CBS. Also, NBC has given McDonough a more expanded role than he had at CBS.

McDonough was able to address several important issues. He said four big-name coaches--Mike Ditka, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and Buddy Ryan--are probably in their final seasons.

McDonough also dealt with the scrambling issue--the one regarding TV signals, not quarterbacks--in a concise and clear manner. He said there will be no scrambling this season, and when there is next season, games will be made available to home satellite dish owners and sports bars for a fee.

McDonough was one several good things about NBC's show. O.J. Simpson's feature on Ditka was excellent, and Simpson overall appeared more relaxed and comfortable than a year ago. And Bob Costas was his usual masterful self.

He offered a concise and clear report on the Raider situation. He said a decision on the team's move would be made Tuesday or, at the latest, Wednesday.

"If Al Davis is unable to reach an agreement with Oakland or Los Angeles, he will simply play out his lease with the Coliseum, meaning the Raiders will be the L.A. Raiders for two more years," Costas said.

Costas told viewers he had just talked with Davis on the phone.

Viewers are left wondering who ESPN's Edelstein talks to. He's the weak link in an otherwise fine show.

As for CBS' "NFL Today," it was too predictable and too bland.

Pat O'Brien's report on the Minnesota Vikings' retreat was good, but Lesley Visser's report on new rules to shorten games was unnecessary. They've been well publicized.

The biggest improvement is Terry Bradshaw--instead of Dick Butkus and Irv Cross--as the resident ex-jock. He's animated and funny, which can't be said about new host Greg Gumbel.

Greg is no Bryant, at least not yet, although his general likability plays in his favor.

CBS, it appears, misses Musburger. Where's Brent when you need him? Oh, that's right, over at ESPN, saying such things as "I'm just here to serve."

Maybe he's not such a bad guy after all.

TV-RADIO By LARRY STEWART Los Angeles Times Friday September 14, 1990 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 3 Column 2 Sports Desk 2 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction; Column For the record: It was incorrectly reported in Monday's editions that NBC's Will McDonough thinks Buddy Ryan is among several NFL coaches who won't be back next season. There is speculation that Ryan, who is in the final year of a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, might not be back, but McDonough doesn't agree. He said on "NFL Live" last Sunday that he believes Ryan will be re-signed sometime during the season.
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