Greenspan Creates Olympic Brilliance

Overstuffed on football? Well, how about a taste of Olympic winter sports?

Bud Greenspan has put together another Olympic masterpiece, "Lillehammer '94: 16 Days of Glory," in which stories from last February's Winter Olympics are told as only Greenspan can.

The first of the show's two parts, highlighted by Dan Jansen's quest for an Olympic medal in speedskating, will have its premiere on the Disney Channel Sunday night at 9.

And you don't have to be a Disney Channel subscriber to get it. This weekend is part of the Disney Channel's free holiday preview in which the channel is made available to all cable viewers on systems that offer it.

The second part of Greenspan's three-hour epic will be shown on the Disney Channel on Feb. 12, the first anniversary of the opening of the Lillehammer Games.

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The Jansen story has been well chronicled but never quite like this. The footage gathered by Greenspan's crew, the writing, and the people in the segment, such as Jansen's animated wife, his baby daughter and Jansen himself make this segment special.

This story was a tear-jerker for those who saw it as it happened, and it is even more emotional the way Greenspan tells it. So have the tissue handy.

The facts of the story are that Jansen finished fourth and 16th in the 500-meter and 1,000-meter races at the 1984 Winter Olympics, he fell in both races in 1988 following the death of his sister Jane from leukemia, and he finished fourth and 26th at Albertville, France, in 1992.

At Lillehammer, in the 500, his best event, he slipped and finished eighth. After that, he was ready to go home, thinking he didn't have a chance at a medal in the 1,000, his weakest event.

But to the shock of the family, he won the gold.

On the victory stand, he offered a salute to his late sister and later skated a victory lap carrying his daughter Jane, named after his sister.

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Another outstanding segment in part one of Greenspan's documentary is about Oksana Baiul and her narrow victory over Nancy Kerrigan in the women's figure skating.

The Tonya Harding-Kerrigan saga barely gets a mention.

Greenspan leaves those kind of stories for tabloid shows such as "Hard Copy." He accentuates the positive.

Greenspan also tells the stories of cross-country skiers Manuela Di Centa of Italy and Lyubov Egorova of Russia and of ski jumpers Espen Bredesen of Norway and Jens Weissflog of Germany.

If there is a downside to Greenspan's film, it is these segments. Tighter editing would have helped. There is simply too much footage of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Ski jumping is a very picturesque event, but after a while it gets a little old.

Overall, however, this is another excellent Greenspan production. The storytelling formula that has worked so well for Greenspan over the years once again works.

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Another alternative to football this weekend is the Skins Game, one of the most popular golf events on television.

ABC will carry this year's Skins Game at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Both telecasts will be tape-delayed.

Last year's Skins Game produced the largest Saturday rating ever for a golf event (6.4), beating the 6.3 Saturday rating for the 1991 Skins Game.

The 1986 Skins Game was the highest-rated golf telecast of the year (7.0), and in six other years, including last year, the Skins Game has outdrawn every major tournament except The Masters.

Payne Stewart, who last year won $100,000 with a 15-foot putt on hole No. 13 and $120,000 with a 20-footer on No. 16, won the title with a total $280,000. He edged Fred Couples, who won $260,000. Paul Azinger and Arnold Palmer were shut out.

A few days after last year's Skins Game at Bighorn, Azinger was diagnosed with lymphoma in his right shoulder. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation, returned to competitive golf in August and is back for this year's Skins Game, joining Stewart, Couples and Tom Watson.

Vin Scully, who has worked all but one Skins Game since the event began in 1983, is back to anchor the telecasts. He missed in 1989, when the Skins Game first went from NBC to ABC. Scully was still under contract to NBC then.

Scully will be joined this weekend by ABC commentators Peter Jacobsen and Mark Rolfing.

The event is produced by Ohlmeyer Communications in association with Trans World International. The event was created by Don Ohlmeyer, now the West Coast president at NBC, and Barry Frank, TWI senior vice president.

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To promote the Skins Game, Scully, Couples and Watson did a conference call this week.

Said Couples: "I don't watch much golf, but the Skins Game is a lot of fun to watch. I've always had the feeling if I didn't watch I'd miss something."

Said Scully: "Skins is something every golfer has played. Even a double-digit handicap left-handed hacker like me plays it all the time."

Asked about Greg Norman's proposed World Tour, which is being backed by Fox, both Couples and Watson indicated it could be a good thing if a compromise is reached with the PGA Tour.

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Not dead yet: Watson was asked about a letter he wrote to CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian criticizing commentator Gary McCord for his "bikini wax" comment and others during last April's Masters.

The letter, also sent to Masters officials, may have played a role in the removal of McCord from future Masters telecasts.

"I thought that was a dead issue," Watson said.

Pressed further, Watson said, "My only regret is that Frank decided to make a personal letter public."

TV-Radio Notes

If you happen to miss ABC's live coverage of Saturday's Notre Dame-USC game at 5 p.m., Prime Ticket will replay it at 8:30 p.m. . . . Following the game on Prime Ticket, at around midnight, will be Ann Liguori's "Sports Innerview" show, with Ram radio commentator and Hall of Famer Deacon Jones as the guest. One of the topics is the Jeff Hostetler-Art Shell feud. Says Jones of Hostetler: "He wouldn't have come up in my face like that 'cause I would've dropped him right there on the sidelines." . . . Speaking of feuds, NFL Films looks at some of the more memorable ones over the years on this week's edition of "This Is the NFL" on Channel 11 Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

CBS opens its college basketball schedule with two attractive matchups, Texas at No. 2 North Carolina Saturday at 1 p.m., and No. 1 Arkansas vs. Georgetown at Memphis Sunday at 11 a.m. . . . UCLA's opener with Cal State Northridge will be televised live by Prime Ticket, with Chris Marlowe and Bill Walton calling the action. . . . With college basketball getting into full swing, Dick Vitale will be Irv Kaze's guest on KIEV tonight at 6 p.m. Kaze show begins 15 minutes earlier than normal because KIEV will carry the North Carolina State-UCLA women's basketball game at 7 p.m. Kaze's other guest will be former Nevada Las Vegas football coach and current Las Vegas radio talk-show host Harvey Hyde.

The Roy Jones Jr.-James Toney fight will be replayed on HBO tonight at 10:30. . . . The Jim Healy tribute that was aired on KMPC July 22 will be re-broadcast Saturday, 7 to 8:30 p.m. . . . Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Dave Winfield, Danny Tartabull, Bret Saberhagen and Joe Morgan appear as themselves on Fox's "Married . . . With Children" Sunday night at 9. . . . Good news for track fans: NBC will televise five indoor meets this winter, beginning with New York's Millrose Games Feb. 3. All the meets are part of the USA-Mobil Indoor Grand Prix. . . . On "NBA Inside Stuff" on NBC Saturday at 10:30 a.m., Donna Harris Lewis continues her late husband Reggie's Thanksgiving tradition of handing out turkeys to Boston's homeless.

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