Hardest-Working Man in Host Business

Just about everybody knows Terry Bradshaw used to be a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Howie Long was a defensive end for the Raiders and Ronnie Lott was a defensive back for USC, the 49ers, Raiders and Jets.

Then there is the other member of Fox's NFL studio cast, James Brown. We know he is not "the Godfather of Soul," nor the Texas quarterback. Those are other people named James Brown.

Maybe this James Brown was an offensive lineman for someone.

"Yeah, that's what a lot of people think," said Brown, who is 6 feet 4 1/2, 250 pounds.

What Brown is, besides being about as nice a person

as you'll ever meet, is a former high school basketball All-American who could have played college ball anywhere but ended up at Harvard.

And this Harvard man was on his way to big things in the business world when he got sidetracked into sports broadcasting. And now this former college guard is the point man on a football pregame show that is the best of its kind and regularly beats the competition. In the all-important second half-hour, Fox's pregame show leads NBC's in the ratings, 4.6 to 3.9.

"If it looks like we're having fun doing the show, it's because we are," Brown said as he prepared to leave his relatively new Century City home for Green Bay and Sunday's NFC championship game between the Packers and Carolina Panthers.

"Maybe some people think we are too flip at times, but there is nothing phony about our affection for each other. If anybody tries to look for something that indicates we really don't get along as well as it appears, they're not going to find anything. I call Terry a 'lovable redneck' because that's what he is."

Brown, a newlywed of 2 1/2 years and the father of a teenage daughter, treats everyone the same, as if he or she were a long-lost friend.

He is bright, personable and successful.

The person most responsible for making him that way, he says, is his mother, Mary Ann Brown, 62, of Bethesda, Md.

"Moms has a PhD in common sense," Brown said. "Our schoolwork was always No. 1 with Moms."

Four of her five children--four boys and a girl--are college graduates. Brown, 45, is the oldest, and helped show the way for the others.

Brown credits his father, John, who died of a liver disease at 47 in 1977, for showing him a work ethic.

"My father often would work two jobs to support us," Brown said. "While he'd be working as a correctional officer in a minimum security prison, he'd also be driving a taxi."

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Another important person in Brown's life is his legendary high school coach, Morgan Wootten, the winningest high school basketball coach in the country. Wootten, who Brown happily reports is doing well after a liver transplant four months ago, put DeMatha High of Hyattsville, Md., on the high school basketball map.

And Brown helped. Twice, he was a Parade high school All-American, and he was rated as one of the top five players in the country as a senior in 1969.

He almost went to UCLA, but his mother said that since he had made an early commitment to Harvard, that's where he would go. She wouldn't even let him take a recruiting trip to Westwood.

A three-time All-Ivy League player, Brown was drafted in the fourth round by the Atlanta Hawks in 1973.

"Cotton Fitzsimmons was the Hawks' coach then, and I always remind him about what he told me when he cut me," Brown said. "He told me that with my background, I didn't need basketball to be successful, while the player I was competing against did.

"I can laugh about it now, but I thought it was unfair at the time. I thought I should have been judged solely on my basketball ability. But you know what? After that, and after Red Auerbach told me I'd need to put in a year overseas before I'd have a chance to make the Celtics, I looked at myself in the mirror. I told myself, 'You prepared very hard to reach this level, but you didn't prepare hard enough to stay at this level.'

"Ever since then, I have never gone into anything without being as prepared as I could be."

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After getting an MBA from Harvard and after starting up the corporate ladder, first with Xerox and then with Eastman Kodak, Brown was invited to do some commentary on a few local telecasts of Washington Bullet games. That led to some work with CBS, and by 1984 he was also a full-time sports anchor for WUSA-TV in Washington and was also doing a considerable amount of play-by-play.

He is now the host of Fox's NFL and hockey coverage, he is the host of a syndicated television show, "America's Black Forum," and he also works on HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel."

Yes, things are going well. This James Brown can legitimately say, "I feeeeel good!"

TV-Radio Notes

Talk-show host Joe McDonnell told management at KWNK, which has been sold, that he was quitting Monday morning. About an hour later, a source told him that Peter O'Malley would be announcing that afternoon that the Dodgers were for sale. Since he no longer had his own show, he called the One-on-One Network and broke the story on Kevin Wall's show, which in Los Angeles is carried by KWNK. Meanwhile, XTRA was speculating that O'Malley was going to announce something about a new football stadium proposal. . . . McDonnell said he will do some fill-in work at KABC when Geoff Witcher goes on vacation Jan. 20, but otherwise isn't sure what is in his future. He said he could end up back on KWNK when the new owners take over in March.

KNEWS (540 and 1260) has reverted to KGIL and is now an all-Beatles station but is still carrying the Clippers and USC basketball. . . . "ABC's Wide World of Sports" begins its 36th season Saturday with Robin Roberts returning as host but with a couple of new features--"Wide World Classic" and "Spanning the Globe." The classic segment apparently was spawned by the popularity of Classic Sports Network. Also on Saturday, "Wide World" will announce that Olympic champion Michael Johnson is its athlete of 1996.

NBC's Dan Hicks and Hannah Storm, who are married, are the parents of Hannah Elizabeth Hicks, born Tuesday. . . . ESPN has named Jeff Foxworthy as host of the 1997 Espy awards show on Feb. 10. . . . "TNN Motor Madness," a new Friday feature, makes its debut today at 5 p.m. with monster trucks featured.

One of the segments on the year's first installment of "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" on HBO Monday at 10 p.m. will be a look at the financial troubles looming for German tennis star Steffi Graf. Another segment looks at Madison Avenue's relationship with the Super Bowl. . . . Showtime offers five world title fights Saturday, delayed, at 6 p.m. The card includes Frankie Randall, Terry Norris, Felix Trinidad and Christy Martin.

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What Los Angeles Is Watching

A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for sports programs Jan. 4-5.

SATURDAY

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Event Ch. Rating Share NFL playoffs: Jacksonville at Denver 4 21.9 48 NFL playoffs: San Francisco at Green Bay 11 19.6 49 Pro basketball: Clippers at Houston 9 3.4 6 Figure skating: Canadian Pro Championships 2 2.2 5 Skiing: King of the Mountain downhill 2 .4 1 Women's basketball: Notre Dame at Ohio State 2 .3 1

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SUNDAY

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Event Ch. Rating Share NFL playoffs: Dallas at Carolina 11 30.5 57 NFL playoffs: Pittsburgh at New England 4 23.1 53 Pro basketball: Lakers at Vancouver 9 7.5 12 Figure skating: Canadian Pro Championships 2 3.1 6 Golf: World Championship of Golf 7 2.5 5 Women's basketball: Penn State at Georgia 2 1.0 2 Women's basketball: Tennessee at Connecticut 2 .6 1

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Note: Each rating point represents 49,424 L.A. households.

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