Athletes Can't Miss This Story

Local television stations understandably scrapped their sports segments last week to give blanket coverage to the rioting.

Channel 5 turned Ed Arnold into a street reporter. Other sportscasters, for the most part, could only sit and wait.

Jim Hill was one who didn't. A former athlete with ties to the community's black athletes, he became a major player in Channel 2's coverage.

Hill interviewed Magic Johnson. He interviewed Jim Brown and former gang members with whom Brown has worked for years. He interviewed A.C. Green, Darryl Strawberry and other prominent black athletes.

Hill also got the viewpoint of a white athlete, Howie Long of the Raiders.

It was clear that this story had plenty of sports-related angles.

Black athletes have more visibility than any other minority group in our society. Their views on what has gone wrong and their roles in solving some of the problems became news.

So, television and radio responded accordingly.

The black athletes' roles were discussed on Dick Schaap's "Sports Reporters" show on ESPN last weekend and this week on Roy Firestone's "Up Close."

Firestone offered a commentary Monday. He had Dorsey High coaches Paul Knox and Kevin Gibson on Wednesday, although reader Lorin Pullman, a Hamilton High graduate, called to complain that it was wrong to imply that Dorsey is located in South-Central Los Angeles.

On the same show, "Up Close" regulars Marvin Cobb, a former athlete, and Shelley Smith, a writer for Sports Illustrated, addressed the South-Central L.A. situation and talked about athletes' roles.

Smith spent the weekend touring South-Central L.A. with black sports agent Jerome Stanley, who, coincidentally, is a Dorsey graduate.

"Athletes have to get involved," Smith said.

Said Cobb: "Athletes have to be more courageous."

Strawberry and Eric Davis will appear on CNN's "Baseball '92" program Sunday at 8:30 a.m., live from Shea Stadium.

This type of programming has been all over the airwaves.

One message that has been coming through loud and clear since the Rodney G. King verdict set off the civil disturbances: It's time for black athletes to start investing in the inner cities, where many of them came from.

Of all the words heard from the sports world in the last 10 days, possibly the most meaningful came from Magic Johnson.

Hill caught up with him at the Sports Club of L.A. last Friday morning. The interview was shown as soon as Hill could get back to the station, then was repeated at the top of Sunday night's sports wrap-up show.

"If blacks are going to make it in our society, the only way to get power is through ownership," Johnson said. "If we're going to beat the system, it has to be with our brains and not our fists and hands. And we have to do it together."

Earlier, Johnson said: "We can't wait for everybody else to rebuild our community. We've got to put our own hands in it.

"I'm looking forward to going down there and seeing what I can do, whether it's myself putting money back in the community or whatever. I've already got one business down there, and I'm planning on doing some other things.

"Every other black entrepreneur needs to start putting up buildings or malls or whatever it might be. Then we'd have jobs for our young people."

In introducing the piece Sunday night, Hill said that Johnson would awe viewers with his words as he awed them on the basketball court.

Said Johnson: "This is not just about Rodney King. Blacks, we've been frustrated for years. It's not just a girl being shot. All that just added fuel to the fire. It's no jobs, being mistreated for 200 years.

"OK, they're saying we've had enough, and I agree. But there is a way to say it. This (rioting) is not the way.

"Now (other people) can say, 'See, this is what they do. They tear up their own community.'

"What has come out of this for us? Nothing. But now if we put our heads together, we can do something."

Hill, who grew up in a black area of San Antonio, remembers what it is like to be a have-not.

"A trip to California might as well have been a trip to the moon," he said. "And I'm talking about driving to California."

Now Hill is in a position to help.

"It's not a case of wanting to help, it's a case of having to help," he said. "As I said on the air, we now have two strikes on us, counting the Watts riot. Strike 3 and we're out.

"It will be a lot worse next time."

Tuesday, along with former Raiders James Lofton and Rod Martin, and black off-road racer Felix (Night Hawk) Giles, Hill went to visit riot victims at Martin Luther King Hospital.

But he knows much more needs to be done.

"We can't do it with a Band-Aid approach this time," Hill said. "We can't do it with monetary donations. We're talking about a total commitment.

"With the kind of athletes we have here in Southern California, I'm confident that, as a group, a lot can be accomplished."

TV-Radio Notes

NBC will use Chuck Daly as an NBA commentator this weekend. He will work with Tom Hammond on the Cleveland-Boston game Sunday at 9:30 a.m., the first game of a tripleheader. . . . Magic Johnson again will be paired with Dick Enberg. They will work Saturday's Portland-Phoenix game. Enberg will work with Steve Jones Sunday on the Utah-Seattle game. . . . Marv Albert and Mike Fratello will work both Chicago-New York games this weekend. . . . Worst prediction of the year category: Ted Green, an "Up Close" regular, said Tuesday: "The Knicks have two chances of beating the Bulls even once--slim and none, and slim has left town." Added Green: "The Bulls will go 15-0 in the playoffs." A few hours later, the Bulls lost to the Knicks.

KMPC's Robert W. (Don't Call Me Bob) Morgan called in sick Thursday morning. Sidekick Scott St. James made up all kinds of stories about Morgan's "disappearance," even wondering if he had been put in a witness-protection program. Nice credibility. "It's called show business," St. James said. "If he doesn't show up (today), I'll make up something else." . . . Earlier in the week, Morgan was telling his listeners about a feud between KMPC's "Monsters of the Mid-Day," Todd Christensen and Joe McDonnell, and suggested the two put on gloves. Said McDonnell: "We had some problems getting used to each other. You have to get used to the water before you jump in. But everything is fine." . . . By the way, McDonnell also called in sick Thursday.

What's going on at KMPC, anyway? Bob Rowe showed up the other day and learned, by hearing a promo, that he wouldn't be working the "Baseball '92" show that night with Steve Yeager. That's no way to treat a loyal trooper. Also Rowe, known as Dr. Angel Fever, was missed. One caller wanted to know what had become of backup Angel catcher Ron Tingley. Neither fill-in John Rebenstorf nor Yeager knew that Tingley is still on the roster. . . . For the record: It was Rowe, not Dodger reporter Larry Kahn, who came up this one: "How do you spell Offerman? With two F's and 50 E's." Said Rowe: "I finally come up with a line and then I don't get credit for it." Wonder if Rowe would have used the line if Jose Offerman played for the Angels?

KLAC has come up with an interesting replacement for Gabe Kaplan, who is leaving "Sportsnuts." Gary Owens of "Laugh-In" fame takes over Monday. Owens was with KMPC for two decades, leaving in 1981. He was later at KIIS-KPRZ and then became vice president of the Gannett Radio Division. All the while, he has also been doing guest spots, promos and commercials for radio and television. . . . Geoff Nathanson is also leaving KLAC. He will be doing some fill-in work at XTRA later this month.

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