Cross thanks teacher for his success


What a pleasure it was to speak with Irv Cross this week.

Cross, 70, is the recipient of this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Pete Rozelle Radio-Television award. He will be honored Aug. 7 at the enshrinees dinner in Canton, Ohio, with the other Class of 2009 enshrinees -- Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson Jr. and Rod Woodson.

In 1971, Cross became the first African American sports analyst on national television. He anchored the “NFL Today” show from 1975 to 1989 for CBS and covered sports as varied as gymnastics, pro basketball, track and field, and football for the network.

This honor, he said, “gives me goose pimples,” and his thanks to a fifth-grade teacher who, Cross said, inspired him should give all of us goose pimples.

Cross, who played football at Northwestern and was drafted into the NFL by the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of 15 children. He grew up in the manufacturing town of Hammond, Ind., near Chicago and recalled the day his mother died -- when Cross was in fifth grade. Ruth Ewing was his teacher at Maywood Elementary School in Hammond.

“Mrs. Ewing came up and put her arm around me after my mother died and said, ‘Irv, you’re the kind of kid who should go to college.’ No one in my family had ever gone to college,’ ” Cross said.


The elementary school had a Good Citizens Room where Ewing encouraged Cross to practice using his voice by putting a broom in a bucket and pretending he was speaking into a microphone.

“Had she not put an arm around me that day,” Cross said, “none of this ever happens.”

It’s great to hear a story about a teacher who mattered instead of only a coach. Cross’ voice is still strong and practiced without aid of microphone or broom and bucket. His teacher is no longer alive, but one suspects she knew how appreciated she was.

Cross said he doesn’t pay much attention to NFL pregame shows now. “I’m usually at church,” he said. He also suggested he doesn’t feel as if he’s missing much. “I’m kind of a purist,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like these shows now are overload. I just want to know who’s playing and a couple of key facts. I don’t need much more than that.”

Dan Patrick, unfiltered

Beginning Monday, Dan Patrick will let us see what it’s like to do a live radio show. His syndicated show will be simulcast on DirecTV’s 101 Network. “You’ll see the sausage being made here,” Patrick said.

While Patrick does his show from a Connecticut studio, robotic cameras in Los Angeles will spy on him. “It was my idea,” Patrick said. “Let’s show you the show and show you the show during the show.”

Got that?

Where’s Universal Sports?

It’s a question that has come up this week because the cable network is broadcasting the controversy-filled World Swimming Championships in Rome.

While DirecTV offers a whole lot of channels and extra NFL and tennis programming as well as Dan Patrick, it does not carry Universal. No deal has ever been worked out between DirecTV and Universal, so you who think you just aren’t finding it on DirecTV can stop looking.

Good today

Looks as if this is the last year of the Buick Open golf tournament. Buick once sponsored Tiger Woods and Woods is playing this weekend, on the Golf Channel at noon. For the tennis fans, the L.A. Open is on twice -- Tennis Channel at noon, ESPN2 at 8.

Good on Saturday

The Dodgers at Atlanta is on Channel 11 at 1 p.m. On Universal Sports beginning at 9 a.m. from Rome, watch Michael Phelps swim the 100-meter butterfly final and Dara Torres help the U.S. women in the 4x100 medley relay and check out who is wearing what space-age suit.

Good on Sunday

More national exposure for the Dodgers and Braves, on ESPN at 5 p.m. Wonder if Manny Ramirez has anything to do with this. Maybe Tom Watson can win a consolation golf prize, the U.S. Senior Open, noon, Channel 4. Greg Norman is also in the field at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. And the X-Games are on Channel 7 at noon with rally car racing and skateboarding.

Probably not the same audience for Watson and skateboard fans.