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Fox Trots Out Stars, Big NFL Production for Timely Debut

Fox couldn’t have planned it any better, what with baseball going on strike the same day as its first NFL telecast.

It’s only an exhibition, but Fox is treating tonight’s Denver-San Francisco game as a major event. It will use 12 cameras, the same number CBS used to televise last season’s NFC championship game in Dallas.

David Hill, the president of Fox Sports, said the network’s battle cry going into the season is “same game, new attitude.”

The announcers for the 5 p.m. game will be Pat Summerall and John Madden, working with their old CBS sidekicks--producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman.

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Said Madden, “This is the most excited I’ve been for the start of a football season since I’ve been a broadcaster.”

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Sour grapes? ABC’s crew might not have been as fired up for the Buffalo-Washington game it televised last Monday, but it hardly deserved the roasting it got from XTRA’s Chet Forte. It was only an exhibition game.

Forte, on his radio show, said the crew of Al Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf is “getting worse and worse.” And, without singling out producer Kenny Wolfe by name, said that there really is no producer, that Michaels runs the show.

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Michaels declined comment.

Maybe it was not intended, but Forte, who formerly produced and directed “Monday Night Football,” came across as bitter.

Maybe he thinks that if he slams the telecast, Dennis Swanson, the president of ABC sports, will call and say, “Hey, Chet, you’re right. All is forgotten, please come back and work for us.”

Sorry, Chet. Just be glad NBC has hired you to direct NFL telecasts this season.

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Feud fizzles: The feud between XTRA’s Jim Rome and Lee Hamilton reached new heights--or rather new depths--last Friday when Rome called Hamilton all kinds of names after saying that Hamilton, quoted here, had lied about Rome complaining to station management about him.

Program director Howard Freedman confirmed that Hamilton had lied about Rome’s alleged complaining, and said he told both to knock it off. Thank goodness. The whole thing was juvenile and unprofessional.

Others at the station make fun of Hamilton, which is easy to do, but they haven’t been nearly as vicious as Rome.

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Add Rome: His radio show may have its ups and downs, but his ESPN2 show, “Talk2,” has been clicking. ESPN2 will show a special one-hour “Best of Talk2" Sunday night at 7:30, and ESPN has it in the works to show a monthly “Best of Talk2" beginning in September.

Part of Sunday night’s special will be an interview Rome did with paralyzed football player Mike Utley, in which the former Detroit Lion talks about not sleeping for nine days after his 1992 injury and how it took him 1 1/2 hours to open a can of beer.

Rome, on his radio show, got a good comment out of Kansas City Royal Brian McRae the other day. McRae, offering a solution for ending the baseball impasse, said, “Put the negotiators on a plane with a limited amount of fuel and tell them they have to reach an agreement before the fuel runs out.”

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Mr. Nice Guy: It was reported here recently that once the sale of Prime Ticket was made final, owner Bill Daniels, who sold the regional sports cable network to Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), would distribute $10 million among 15 of Prime Ticket’s top executives and another $2 million or so among the other 100-plus employees.

Such generosity is not uncommon for Daniels. In 1984, he distributed $6 million among 108 employees after selling Multivision, Ltd., an Anchorage, Alaska, cable television system.

The Prime Ticket sale went through last week and the promised bonuses were handed out in sealed envelopes at a breakfast for the employees last Saturday at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica.

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The affair was also a tribute to Daniels, and the love, respect and admiration the employees expressed for their outgoing boss was remarkable. There were few dry eyes in the place by the time Daniels took the podium.

“This is a hell of a reception for a guy who just sold a company out from under you,” he quipped.

Daniels, who has had about 50 companies over the years, said, “My philosophy has always been to hire the best people possible, then turn ‘em loose; stay out of their hair but back them to the hilt.”

It worked with Prime Ticket. He and Jerry Buss each put up $5 million to start the company in 1985. Daniels, who bought out Buss in 1988, sold the company for $220 million.

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“This is an example that the free-enterprise system works,” Daniels said. “It too often appears to be a screwed-up world we live in, but this function exemplifies what makes our nation great.”

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Add Prime Ticket: Roger Werner, CEO and president of the regional sports cable network, is the only executive leaving the company. The former ESPN president, who signed a personal-services contract with Daniels in 1990 and went to Prime Ticket in 1992, will continue with Daniels in other ventures.

During Werner’s 18 months at Prime Ticket, it experienced tremendous growth and profits increased by more than 400%.

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Recommended listening: Here’s a date a lot of readers have been inquiring about: The new KMPC will broadcast a 1 1/2-hour tribute to Jim Healy on Aug. 24. Naturally, it will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The special will include interviews about Healy and, of course, some of his memorable bits.

TV-Radio Notes

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A recent study commissioned by the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles says women’s sports and female athletes are being under-reported by local television stations. The study was a follow-up to a similar one in 1989. “This new study is intended to measure what, if any, progress has been made in the four years following the original report,” said Anita DeFrantz, AAF president. “Its findings are both encouraging and frustrating.” The encouraging part was on the network level, she said, the frustrating part on the local level.

The study concluded that “when a choice was made to focus on a women’s event or a feature or a story on a marginal but visually entertaining sport,” the visually appealing sport won. An example cited was a 79-second Channel 7 Sunday night piece on nuns playing bikini-clad women in a celebrity volleyball match. One thing the local stations could do to improve gender equality would be to hire female sportscasters. There are none on any of the major Los Angeles stations. One obvious candidate is Ann Meyers.

Meyers and Bill Macdonald will serve as co-hosts of a one-hour special, “California Special Olympics Summer Games,” on Prime Ticket Sunday night at 6. Prime Ticket’s Special Olympic coverage in 1992 won an Emmy Award. . . . Richard Brown, the president of the Angels, and baseball agent Dennis Gilbert will be Alan Massengale’s guests on Prime Ticket’s “Press Box” tonight.

With Pat Summerall now at Fox, Jim Nantz is anchoring his first major golf tournament for CBS this week with the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Nantz, who has been with CBS since 1985, has anchored 15 golf tournaments but never a major. “You cover a major championship differently because there are a lot of fringe fans who just watch the Grand Slam events,” Nantz said. . . . TBS, besides carrying the first and second rounds of the PGA Championship, will offer two hours of early-morning coverage Saturday and Sunday, 8-10 a.m. . . . To help fill the baseball void, KABC radio is planning to carry games between the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers’ triple-A club, and the Vancouver Canadians, the Angels’ triple-A club, Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

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Chick Hearn is one of seven nominees for induction into the American Sportscasters Assn. Hall of Fame. The others are Charlie Jones, Keith Jackson, Chris Schenkel, Pat Summerall, former Green Bay Packer announcer Ray Scott and Chuck Thompson of Baltimore Oriole fame. The winner or winners will be announced next month. Vin Scully was the lone inductee in 1992. Howard Cosell and Marty Glickman made it last year. The hall is in its 10th year.


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