Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012 - Classic Sports TV and Media blog

I started the Classic Sports TV and Media blog on 12/30/2011, so yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of this site. For the benefit of newer readers, I decided to summarize some highlights from the first year of the blog. So here are my choices for the top 12 entries from this blog in 2012 (in chronological order of posting):
  1. recalling the day in 1982 when CBS pulled an analyst out of the stands to call an NCAA tournament game (with video)
  2. analyzing the myth about 3 consecutive buzzer beaters during the first weekend of the 1981 NCAA tournament
  3. a detailed three-part series on the history of the TV coverage of the NCAA tournament from 1969-present
  4. looking back at the Rick Barry "watermelon grin" comment during the 1981 NBA Finals (with video)
  5. remembering the classic New York Mets broadcast team of Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner (with video)
  6. a complete history of US TV coverage of the Ryder Cup from 1959-present
  7. a summary of how ABC and Keith Jackson handled conflicts between the baseball playoffs and college football
  8. recalling the magic of the ABC Monday Night Football Halftime Highlights narrated by Howard Cosell (with video)
  9. exploring the baffling myth about 1969 Alabama - Ole Miss being the first prime time college football regular season telecast
  10. introducing the first pairing of Pat Summerall and John Madden in 1979 (with video)
  11. providing a look at the first ESPN college basketball telecast in 1979 which was also the TV debut of Dick Vitale (with video)
  12. documenting the first game that Dick Enberg and Billy Packer called together in 1974
Thanks for reading and following. I have more content planned for 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The first game called by Dick Enberg and Billy Packer

38 years ago tomorrow, Dick Enberg and Billy Packer called their first game together, a matchup of UCLA at Maryland. At the time, college basketball was very much a regional sport with a minimal national TV presence. Enberg was the primary play-by-play announcer for the TVS network founded by Eddie Einhorn. Packer worked as the main analyst for ACC games on the Chesley network produced by C.D. Chesley.

The game took place on Saturday 12/28/1974 at 9 pm ET and was syndicated to much of the nation. This telecast was the first joint production between TVS (which had rights to several conferences including the Pac-8 which included UCLA) and Chesley (which had rights to the ACC and therefore Maryland).

Packer's book Hoops: Confessions of a College Basketball Analyst provides a lot of detail on the first Enberg/Packer telecast. However, Packer incorrectly describes it as "a 1975 Super Bowl Sunday game". These teams did not play on 1/12/1975 (or any other Super Bowl Sunday for that matter) and there was no national college basketball telecast on this date either. The game actually took place two weeks earlier on a Saturday night.

According to Packer's book, the question of whether this telecast would feature TVS or Chesley announcers was still undecided until the morning of the game. Eventually, Einhorn and Chesley came to a compromise agreement. Enberg opened the telecast and called play-by-play for the first half. Jim Thacker (who was Packer's regular broadcast partner on the ACC games) handled play-by-play for the second half. Packer was the analyst throughout. Thacker did sideline features while Enberg was calling the game and vice versa. Packer said that he met Enberg that morning for the first time.

In his book Oh My!, Enberg also mentions this game and raves about how impressed he was with Packer's basketball knowledge and insights on that first telecast.

Enberg and Packer became a regular tandem during the 1975-76 season when NBC in conjunction with TVS put together a weekly package of national games. NBC first hired Enberg to broadcast this package and actually considered having him call the games solo. According to Enberg's book, he had been so impressed with Packer from the 1974 game that he recommended NBC sign Packer to be the analyst. Two seasons later, the network added Al McGuire to the mix to form a legendary broadcast trio.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CBS special on NCAA tournament - 75 Years: Behind the Mic

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the NCAA tournament, CBS has an interesting array of special programming planned. The celebration kicks off when CBS airs 75 Years: Behind the Mic on Sat 12/29 at 2 pm ET. This show is hosted by Greg Gumbel and features many announcers who have called the tournament over the years including Dick Enberg, Gary Bender, Jim Nantz, and Bill Raftery. It also contains a special segment on the 1992 Duke-Kentucky regional final with Verne Lundquist and Len Elmore who called that memorable contest.

CBS Sports Network will also replay this episode multiple times.

UPDATE: This show also includes a nice tribute to the great Al McGuire. Props to CBS for incorporating some original NBC tournament footage into the mix. And while Billy Packer does not appear, the other announcers discuss his contributions to this event.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ESPNU presents SEC Storied documentary on Sam Bowie

The next episode of the ESPN Films series SEC Storied chronicles Kentucky basketball player Sam Bowie and his injury plagued career. Bowie is best remembered for being drafted #2 by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1984 NBA draft, one slot ahead of Michael Jordan.

The documentary Going Big debuts on Thu 12/20 at 9 pm ET on ESPNU with many re-airings scheduled. For DVR purposes, note that the premiere episode follows a live basketball game so plan accordingly. You can also catch replays of earlier installments of SEC Storied including:
Here is a preview clip. (Note: I'm not exactly sure what Jack Ramsay means when he says that Portland should have packaged Clyde Drexler and the pick to get a center and then drafted Jordan. It sure sounds like he is double counting the draft pick.)

Original NBC footage of The Immaculate Reception

With the 40th anniversary of The Immaculate Reception approaching, here is a look at the original NBC call of that controversial Franco Harris touchdown from the 12/23/1972 divisional playoff game between the Steelers and Raiders. The network rebroadcast this footage during the 1997 playoffs on the 25-year mark of the long-debated play.

Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis were the announcers that day although only Gowdy appears on this clip. I suspect that NBC had already dispatched DeRogatis from the booth to prepare for postgame interviews.

Monday, December 17, 2012

NFLN documentary on The Immaculate Reception

The final edition of the NFL Network series A Football Life focuses on the controversial Franco Harris touchdown near the end of the 1972 Steelers-Raiders divisional playoff game which came to be known as The Immaculate Reception. The special even includes a former director of the CIA performing a frame-by-frame analysis of the play. NFLN is premiering the documentary on Wed 12/19 at 8 pm ET with many replays scheduled.

This episode includes commentary from many players from that game. However, a striking note from the press release confirms that John Madden who coached the Raiders in that game declined the chance to be a modern interview subject.
Madden refused to be interviewed for the special because the play still draws so much emotion from him forty years later.
The preview clip on the NFL Films blog does contain a 1980s interview with Madden.

During a Monday Night Football game in 2002, on the 30th anniversary of the play, Madden did talk about it with Al Michaels, but sounded uncomfortable during the discussion.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Documentary on 1963 Mississippi State vs Loyola (Chi) game

One Night in March, a documentary which chronicles the 1963 Mississippi State basketball team and its participation in the NCAA tournament  That all-white squad, defying a state injunction against integrated competition, snuck out of Starkville and headed to East Lansing to face eventual tournament champion Loyola (Chi) which started 4 black players. Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News ranked this as the greatest moment in NCAA tournament history. This 34-minute film which was produced in 2002 recently became available for free online viewing.

This Saturday, the two schools meet on the basketball court in Chicago to commemorate the Game of Change nearly 50 years after this significant moment in civil rights history.

Monday, December 10, 2012

NFL Network documentary on Marcus Allen

The latest installment of the NFLN series A Football Life profiles Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen. The one-hour documentary premieres on Wed 12/12 at 8 pm ET and will be replayed multiple times. Broadcaster Al Michaels is among the many interview subjects. The NFL Films site contains a preview clip.

The episode includes footage from an interview that Michaels conducted with Allen which aired during halftime of a 1992 ABC Monday Night Football game. During that interview, Allen spoke out in quite strong terms about his acrimonious relationship with Raiders owner Al Davis.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

ESPN 30 for 30 Bo Jackson documentary

The next edition of the fabulous ESPN 30 for 30 series chronicles the legendary Bo Jackson who achieved success in both MLB and the NFL. Jackson actually played both pro sports from 1987-1990 before a severe hip injury cut short his athletic career. His fame also exploded via the "Bo Knows" Nike advertising campaign.

The ESPN Films production is titled You Don't Know Bo and premieres Sat 12/8 at 9 pm ET with multiple replays scheduled. The ESPN site has a trailer for this film.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The 1979 debut of Dick Vitale as an ESPN college basketball analyst

<UPDATED 12/5/2019 to accurately label this telecast as one of the first on ESPN>

This week marks the 33rd anniversary of one of the first college basketball games televised by ESPN. On 12/5/1979, the 3-month old cable network aired a game between Wisconsin and DePaul at 9 pm ET. The analyst for this contest was Dick Vitale who ESPN had recently hired for $150 a game. Vitale was making his television debut after being fired as head coach of the Detroit Pistons in November. Joe Boyle who had a background as a hockey announcer handled the play-by-play that evening. Here is the opening to that inaugural telecast with both broadcasters in 3-piece suits:

Right off the bat, Vitale exhibits his trademarked motormouth style by talking essentially non-stop from the 0:47 mark to the 2:24 mark. Notice the facial expressions of Boyle while Vitale rambles on before finally turning things back to his broadcast partner. I counted 10 times that Vitale used some variation of his classic phrase "we talk about" during this intro.

ESPN eventually paired Vitale on a regular basis with former NBC broadcaster Jim Simpson and this duo called many college hoop contests during the early years of the fledgling network. Vitale went on to work with many other play-by-play partners on ESPN including Tim Brando, Mike Patrick, Brad Nessler, and Dan Shulman.

Ironically, this historic telecast was the only college basketball game that Boyle ever called for ESPN. Contrastingly, the analyst ESPN assigned to this event remains in the same role 33 years later. In a book published in 2006, Vitale reflected back on that first telecast and stated that he had never seen Boyle since that night.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

NFL Network documentary on Barry Sanders

The next edition of the must-see NFL Network documentary series A Football Life profiles the career and life of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. one of the most electrifying talents to ever take the field. The NFL Films site has a preview clip. This 60-minute episode debuts on Wed 12/5 at 8 pm ET on NFLN with several re-airings planned.

Upcoming schedule for this series:

  • December 12 – Marcus Allen
  • December 19 – The Immaculate Reception

NBCSN documentary on Earl Campbell

The NBC Sports Network is presenting a documentary which profiles Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell. After an outstanding career at the University of Texas, the "Tyler Rose" burst onto the NFL scene with the Houston Oilers in 1978. I still vividly recall his dominating performance in a Monday Night Football game that season against Miami.

The one-hour documentary titled Still Standing: The Earl Campbell Story premieres on Tue 12/4 at 11pm ET. Note that NBCSN  has a live college basketball game leading into this time slot, so plan accordingly if setting your DVR (or record one of the many scheduled re-airings).

The list of interview subjects includes longtime ESPN broadcaster Ron Franklin who was the radio play-by-play voice of the Oilers when Campbell played there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The first telecast for the team of Pat Summerall and John Madden

33 years ago yesterday, the legendary duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden called an NFL game on CBS for the first time. This was in 1979, nearly 2 years before CBS permanently paired them together. Summerall and Tom Brookshier were regular broadcast partners at the time. But Brookshier had a family commitment which conflicted with the 11/25/1979 Vikings-Buccaneers assignment, so CBS instead put Madden with Summerall on that game in Tampa. Here is a clip from the opening of that telecast:

Madden was in his first year as a CBS analyst after retiring as coach of the Oakland Raiders. His made his CBS debut on 9/23/1979 when he called the Saints-49ers game with Frank Glieber. CBS only assigned Madden to 8 games that initial season, typically on weekends when the network had more than 6 games on its schedule. Many of his games went to rather small regional audiences. He worked primarily with Glieber in 1979, but also called one game each with Dick Stockton and Lindsey Nelson.

In 1980, CBS promoted Madden to full-time status. He worked with Gary Bender that season and was assigned to more prominent games including the NFC wild-card playoff. I specifically recall being extremely impressed with his insights while watching the Falcons-Eagles telecast that season. Madden used his coaching background to provide great perspective which was a stark contrast to the typical lackluster analysis of that era. He paid extra attention to blocking and interior line play and received many positive media reviews for his football commentary. Outside of the booth, his popularity was skyrocketing from the Miller Lite beer commercials. Madden had also developed a fear of flying so he travelled to games by train.

Heading into the 1981 season, CBS decided to break up the Summerall/Brookshier team and elevate Madden to the role of #1 analyst. During the first half of that season, CBS experimented by pairing Madden with Vin Scully for 4 weeks and then with Summerall for 4 weeks to determine which play-by-play partner meshed best with Madden. At mid-season, CBS chose to permanently pair Pat and John together. The Summerall/Madden team remained intact through the 2001 season (including a move to FOX in 1994) and would call 8 Super Bowls.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The myth about the first prime time college football regular season telecast

Despite what many media reports would have you believe, a significant first in sports TV history took place on Saturday 11/16/1968. That evening, ABC televised the Alabama at Miami game at 8:30 pm ET with Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson calling the action. This marked the first college football regular season prime time national telecast.

The following season, ABC provided national coverage of three prime time games in the regular season. The most famous of these was the Alabama-Mississippi matchup in Birmingham on Saturday 10/4/1969 at 9:30 pm ET with Schenkel and Wilkinson also at the microphones.

However, for some strange reason, numerous newspapers, books, and web sites over the years have incorrectly referred to that 1969 game as the first regular season prime time college football national telecast and multiple recent reports continue to make this mistake. Furthermore, it wasn't even the first such game in 1969 as ABC had televised Air Force at SMU in prime time at 9:30 pm ET on Saturday 9/13 to open the season. I am baffled as to why so many media outlets are wrong regarding the facts about a milestone telecast.

Here is a chronicle of some of these erroneous claims:

In 2007, ESPN compiled a list of the 100 defining moments in college football. ESPN ranked this 1969 game at #95 and described it as the "first nationally televised night game".

To commemorate its 50th anniversary in 2004, Sports Illustrated compiled a state-by-state "greatest of" feature. The section on Mississippi included the SI cover photo from the 1969 game and claimed it was "the first college game to be nationally televised in prime time".

In 2008, the University of Alabama official athletic site labelled the 1969 game as "the first prime-time telecast of a college football game"You would think the official Alabama site should know better since the Crimson Tide participated in the true first such game in 1968.

Thet same year, the Marietta (OH) Times and an LSU publication also printed the same error.

The same misinformation appears in several books. In 2005, ESPN published the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia. You would expect such a comprehensive reference work to be thoroughly researched, yet this tome refers to the 1969 contest as "the first regular-season college football game televised in prime time."

Other books making this false claim include:
  • The University of Mississippi: A Sequicentennial History
  • Football in the SEC: Southeastern Conference
  • 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
Fast forward to 2012 and publications are continuing to perpetuate this myth. In February of this year, the Courier Journal (of Florence, AL) called the 1969 game "the first national prime-time broadcast of a college football game". This summer, an Ole Miss site published a story describing the 1969 game as "the first national prime time broadcast of a college football game". And less than 2 months ago, an Alabama Crimson Tide online magazine contained a writeup on the 1969 game and stated that it was "nationally televised, a first in prime time for regular season college football".

So why do so many media reports continue to get this story wrong? Frankly, I have no idea, but I will offer a few theories:
  • The 1969 game was much more exciting than the one in 1968 and probably resonated more strongly in the memories of those who watched it on TV. The 1969 contest featured several lead changes and offensive records with Alabama scoring late to win 33-32. Mississippi quarterback Archie Manning passed for 436 yards. Meanwhile Alabama won the 1968 contest by a score of 14-6.
  • The 1969 telecast was in early October and featured two ranked teams, an undefeated Crimson Tide squad, and a highly publicized player in Manning. The 1968 telecast took place in mid-November when both teams had 3 losses and Miami was unranked.
  • The 1969 telecast likely stood out more as it was the only game ABC televised that day. In 1968, ABC had regional coverage of other games in the afternoon and the national game from Miami that night.
  • While I don't know how the myth got started, I suspect that once it appeared in print for the first time, subsequent publications picked up this erroneous information without verifying it and the effect snowballed. Still one would expect prominent media outlets such as ESPN and SI to perform more careful research. And there should be no excuse for media related to the Alabama Crimson Tide to make such a mistake.
In 2011, Ivan Maisel provided an interesting retrospective on the 1969 game on the ESPN site including a nugget that ABC chose 10/4 for its prime time telecast to avoid competing against the baseball playoff doubleheader on NBC that afternoon. Ironically, the central theme of Maisel's original article was the same false claim about the 1969 game being the first such prime time telecast. A reader pointed out this error in the comments section and Maisel updated the story to correctly cite the 1968 game as being first. Notice how awkwardly the second paragraph of that article reads from this revision.

Finally, I will point out that the weekly 2012 Miami Hurricanes football press release trumpets the fact that Miami was involved in the first prime time telecast in 1968, but incorrectly states that the game was played at Alabama. So even when the 1968 game gets its proper due, the truth still gets lost in the shuffle.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

NFL Network documentary on John Riggins

The next installment of the fantastic series A Football Life on NFL Network profiles the colorful Hall of Fame running back John Riggins. This one-hour documentary premieres on Wed 11/21 at 8 pm ET with several replays scheduled on NFLN.

This preview clip looks intriguing. So does the upcoming schedule:

  • December 5 – Barry Sanders
  • December 12 – Marcus Allen
  • December 19 – The Immaculate Reception

Darrell Royal documentary on Fox Sports Southwest

If you have access to Fox Sports Southwest (DirecTV 676), check out the special programming lineup planned for Thurs 11/22 which focuses on the football rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M. (Note: All times listed are CT.)

FSSW kicks things off with a look back at the 1963 game between these schools which featured a controversial finish and took place 6 days after the death of President John F. Kennedy. The schedule for that evening includes a re-airing of The Story of Darrell Royal, a 2003 documentary on the legendary Texas head coach with Keith Jackson of ABC among the interview subjects.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Howard Cosell halftime highlights on ABC Monday Night Football

One of the staples of the original ABC Monday Night Football production was the halftime highlights segment narrated by Howard Cosell. This regular feature of the halftime show contained NFL Films footage of key plays from a subset of the Sunday games. Cosell would voice over highlights which were accompanied by canned crowd noise.

The presentation seems slow-paced and amateurish by today's standards, but this feature was quite popular at the time. Cosell's deliberate vocal style meshed well with the slow-motion video. Howard had a commanding presence and his unique delivery and voice inflection tended to make the highlights appear dramatic and important. Cosell would actually narrate the highlights without a prepared script.

After the first commercial break at the end of the half, Cosell would recap the scoring for the game in progress and then transition into the highlight package. Even if the prime time game was dull or one-sided, many viewers would stay tuned though the halftime show to see which games were selected and hear how Cosell described the action.

Here are some classic clips from 1971, 1972, and 1973 followed by a few observations:

  • Notice how Cosell starts out the first 2 clips by stating that the highlights were selected by the producers. Despite this standard proclamation, many fans would blame Cosell if their favorite team was not spotlighted on the highlights show.
  • When the highlights included footage from a Raiders home game, you could count on Howard to identify the venue as the "Oakland .. Alameda .. County .. Coliseum" (first game of 1971 clip). 
  • He seemingly always referred to the Green Bay team as "The Pack".  
  • These clips show his penchant for using "pet names" for many players ("Freddy" Dryer, "Johnny" Gilliam, "Johnny" Hadl, "Joe Willie" Namath). 
  • Cosell also had a habit of interjecting the uniform number ("Franco Harris number 32") and/or college ("Raymond Chester from Morgan State") of the ball carrier during the narration.
  • ABC was fond of showing highlights from one or both teams who were scheduled for the next Monday Night game so that Cosell could shill for that upcoming telecast (first two games of 1972 clip). Similarly, if one of those teams got blown out, ABC would likely omit that game from the highlight package.
  • On the 1971 clip just after the 7:00 mark, Cosell, while describing a kickoff return, had the pomposity to state "he broke one earlier this year that you viewers will remember from our halftime highlights show". 
  • On the 1972 clip, ABC presents the halftime score from Miami showing the Dolphins on top rather than today's standard which places the home team on the bottom.
  • As an aside, each of these videos includes a block of vintage 1970s commercials near the midway point.
The halftime highlights segment was classic Cosell and most certainly wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful with anyone else at the microphone. Cosell popularized many catch phases such as "right there", "look at him go", and "he .. could .. go .. all .. the .. way". Chris Berman of ESPN (who has frequently spoken in glowing terms about the way Cosell did these highlights) always paid tribute to Cosell by using many of the same catch phrases and incorporating a Cosell-like delivery during the ESPN Sunday night NFL Primetime show which peaked in the 1990s.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Documenting the history of pro football uniform designs

While my primary focus in this blog is historical sports broadcasting, I also appreciate research efforts covering any aspect of sports history. So I am choosing to publicize the impressive work being done at the Gridiron Uniform Database. This fabulous site catalogs the design and color of the uniforms and helmets worn by professional football teams each year. The database contains template images for each NFL team/season going back to the 1920s including the AFL (1960-69) and AAFC (1946-49). This is an ongoing research project especially for the early years of pro football.

Click on a team such as the San Diego Chargers and see its uniform designs year-by-year. Click on a year and view the uniforms for each team that season - for example the 75th anniversary season of 1994 when several teams introduced throwback uniforms. This database even illustrates the infamous vertically striped socks of the early-1960s Denver Broncos.

The site also provides week-by-week portrayals of the uniform matchups for the most recent seasons. For other years, you can click on the "Who Wore What When" (WWWW) links to see a chart of game-by-game jersey and pants colors worn by each team.

I recommend listening to one of the site contributors, Tim Brulia, as he discusses this intriguing research project on a recent Gridiron Greats podcast. The Gridiron Uniform Database site also has a companion blog and a Twitter feed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on Naismith rules of basketball

The next installment of the ESPN 30 for 30 series chronicles an interesting quest to return the original rules of basketball document to the University of Kansas where the rules creator Dr. James Naismith had coached. The famous rules document fetched $4.3 million at auction in 2010. Based on the preview clip, this appears to be another "must-DVR" episode in this great ESPN film series.

The 70-minute documentary titled There's No Place Like Home debuts on Tue 10/16 at 8 pm ET and ESPN plans several re-airings.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Keith Jackson and ABC conflicts with college FB and MLB playoffs (1976-1986)

Keith Jackson became the #1 college football announcer on ABC in 1974. Starting in 1976, ABC also held a share of the baseball TV package and used Jackson on its postseason MLB coverage. This resulted in some interesting scenarios on October Saturdays which featured both playoff baseball and college football on ABC. And there was no consistent pattern in the way ABC juggled these assignments. Here is a summary of how ABC and Jackson handled these conflicts year-by-year:

1976: ABC assigned Keith to the ALCS (along with Reggie Jackson and Howard Cosell) and that series opened on Sat 10/9. However, that day Keith instead called the Oklahoma-Texas football game while Bob Uecker substituted on play-by-play for game 1 of the ALCS in Kansas City. Keith called the remainder of the ALCS.

1977: Jackson was part of the ABC World Series crew with Tom Seaver and Cosell. On Sat 10/15, Jackson called World Series game 4. Earlier that afternoon, Chris Schenkel filled in for Keith on football and called the Texas-Arkansas game with Ara Parseghian.

1978: ABC and Jackson pulled an interesting stunt. ABC put Keith on the ALCS and he worked the first three games (with Jim Palmer and Cosell). Things got interesting on Sat 10/7. That day, Keith called Oklahoma-Texas (which started at 12:30 pm ET) with Frank Broyles. After the football game, he flew from Dallas to New York on a Lear jet that ABC had hired. ABC arranged for a police escort for Jackson from the Cotton Bowl to the Dallas airport and an ambulance to take him to Yankee Stadium (as ABC was unable to line up another police escort). Jackson arrived just in time to call ALCS game 4 (which started at 8 pm ET) that night.

1979: ABC used Jackson and Al Michaels as co-#1 announcers on the World Series (with Don Drysdale and Cosell), Jackson called games 1,2,6, and 7 in Baltimore while Michaels handled the middle three games over the weekend in Pittsburgh. This arrangement allowed Keith to call Oklahoma-Texas on Sat 10/13 with Broyles.

1980: Jackson again pulled a form of double-duty. ABC assigned Jackson to the NLCS with Drysdale and Cosell. On Sat 10/11, Jackson called Oklahoma-Texas with Broyles (which started at 12:30 pm ET). He then hopped a flight from Dallas to Houston and reached the Astrodome while NLCS game 4 (which started at 4 pm ET) was in progress. Drysdale called play-by-play for the first several innings. Keith joined the telecast about halfway through and called the action for the remainder of the game with Drysdale shifting back to an analyst role.

1981: ABC assigned Jackson to the AL East division series with Drysdale and Cosell. However, on Sat 10/10, Keith called Oklahoma-Texas with Broyles instead of game 4 of the MLB series. The duo of Drysdale and Cosell worked the baseball game with Don handling the play-by-play in Keith's absence. Jackson returned to New York for game 5 the next day. ABC also had the World Series this season and used the same arrangement as in 1979 with Jackson calling weekday games and Michaels handling the weekend. This allowed Keith to call Nebraska-Missouri on Sat 10/24.

1982: ABC put Keith on the ALCS with Palmer and Earl Weaver. This time baseball won the Sat 10/9 conflict as Jackson called ALCS game 4 in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Curt Gowdy filled in to announce the California-Washington football game that afternoon with Broyles.

1983-1985: ABC did not use Jackson on baseball.

1986: Jackson worked the NLCS for ABC with Tim McCarver. On Sat 10/11, Keith called game 3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium instead of college football. This was the last season that ABC used Keith on the MLB postseason. Jackson remained a fixture on the ABC college football scene through the 2005 season.

So, for the years that ABC used Jackson on both sports, we have a total of 9 Saturday conflicts (two in 1981). The final tally:
  • Jackson skips a game of a baseball postseason series to call football - 2 times
  • Jackson misses football to call baseball - 3 times
  • Jackson calls both football and baseball on the same day - 2 times
  • ABC removes a conflict via the Jackson/Michaels World Series rotation - 2 times

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NFL Network documentary on the Fearsome Foursome of the LA Rams

The great NFL Network series A Football Life continues with Fearsome Foursome which profiles the 1960s defensive line of the Los Angeles Rams (Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy). This one-hour NFL Films production premieres on Wed 10/10 at 8 pm ET and NFLN has scheduled several re-airings. The list of interview subjects includes Dick Enberg who was the Rams radio broadcaster early in his career and later worked with Olsen on the top NBC telecast crew calling NFL games for many years.

You can see a preview clip of this documentary on the NFL Films site.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on 1988 Olympic 100m dash

The next episode of the tremendous ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary series focuses on the 100 meter track finals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Ben Johnson recorded the fastest ever time in this event, but tested positive for steroids afterwards and was stripped of the gold medal. This episode titled 9.79* premieres on Tue 10/9 at 8 pm ET with multiple re-airings planned.

I remember watching as NBC televised this race live around midnight ET. Here is how Charlie Jones and Frank Shorter called the action: (the race starts around the 7:40 mark).

Earlier this week, ESPN launched the new season of this series with Broke which featured athletes who have encountered financial problems for various reasons. If you missed this fascinating documentary, check out the replay schedule.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Error in Golf Channel documentary on 1991 Ryder Cup

The most fascinating historical broadcast aspect of the excellent Golf Channel documentary War by the Shore on the 1991 Ryder Cup was the discussion of the Saturday afternoon NBC coverage. Commentator Mark Rolfing said that the last fourball match was still on the 13th hole when NBC had been scheduled to conclude its telecast at 6 pm ET. And Roger Maltbie remarked that TV networks did not typically overrun the scheduled ending time for golf events at that time. But NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol gave the go-ahead to stay on the air and NBC continued televising the action for 90 extra minutes and without commercial interruption. This was quite significant considering the relative lack of TV coverage for previous Ryder Cups.

However, this segment of the documentary contained an error. Around the 32 minute mark, during this discussion of the NBC Saturday telecast, Rolfing said: "And this is the first day of network coverage of a Ryder Cup". That statement is clearly wrong as ABC televised some Ryder Cups in the 1970s and 1980s. I'm surprised that the filmmaker didn't catch this factual error.

The documentary included some original footage from both USA Network and NBC. Overall, it did a great job of capturing the drama and significance of this event. I highly recommend watching a replay of this documentary.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chronology of Ryder Cup coverage on US TV

While the Ryder Cup currently receives extensive TV coverage, this event was largely ignored by American TV networks for many years. Here is a summary of my research on the evolution of Ryder Cup TV coverage by US networks. I compiled this primarily from various newspaper archives.

Note: The above link takes you to a section of 506sports which contains detailed TV schedules and announcers for these Ryder Cups (free registration required to view). The hours listed represent the scheduled TV coverage.

<EDITED on 9/27/2018 to bring this up to date as of the 2018 event>  

The lean early years

The 1959 Ryder Cup was the first one televised in the US as NBC provided 2 hours of coverage on Saturday (which is when the matches concluded at that time). Chick Hearn was the lead announcer.

As far as I can tell, none of the Ryder Cups during the 1960s received any US TV exposure. In 1971, Sports Network Incorporated (SNI) provided 90 minutes of syndicated coverage on the final Saturday.

In 1975, the Ryder Cup shifted to the current Fri-Sun schedule. ABC held the US network rights and carried 2.5 hours of coverage of the Sunday singles. ABC also provided Sunday coverage in 1979 (2.5 hours) and 1983 (2 hours) with Jim McKay as lead announcer. There was no US TV coverage of the 1973, 1977, or 1981 matches when the Ryder Cup was held overseas.

In 1985, ESPN provided the first ever US TV coverage for a Ryder Cup held in Europe. However this coverage lasted only 1 hour and was presented on tape delay in November some 7 weeks (!!) after the matches.

In 1987, American TV coverage finally extended to all three days of the event. ESPN carried 2 hours of coverage on Friday while ABC aired 2.5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday.

1989 was the first time that any US network covered a Ryder Cup live from Europe. The USA Network televised 2 hours each on Friday and Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday (all live). Jim Simpson was the lead play-by-play announcer. Gary McCord and Ben Wright were among the other voices on the USA Network telecast team.

The NBC era

The 1991 Ryder Cup was significant for many reasons, one of them being a huge increase in America TV coverage. USA Network expanded to show 9 hours on Friday with Bill Macatee and Peter Kostis anchoring. USA also covered the Saturday morning matches (4 hours). Macatee would be the primary voice on all subsequent Ryder Cups that USA covered through 2006. NBC aired the Saturday afternoon matches (4 hours) and provided 4.5 hours of action on Sunday. Charlie Jones was the lead announcer for NBC with Johnny Miller as primary analyst (where he remains to this day). The Sunday matches were scheduled to end by mid-afternoon so that NBC could cover regional NFL games at 4 pm ET. All 1991 coverage was live and this would remain the case for every subsequent Ryder Cup contested in the United States.

In 1993, USA again provided 9 hours of Friday coverage, but this time on tape delay. NBC carried 6 hours on tape delay Saturday and 4.5 hours live on Sunday with Jim Lampley as the lead announcer. In subsequent years, both USA and NBC would televise the Fri and Sat action on tape delay each time the matches were staged in Europe.

For the 1995 matches, USA expanded to 10 hours on Friday. NBC televised 6.5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, NBC covered the morning session, broke off to televise a college football game, and then returned to air the end of the afternoon session. Dick Enberg took over as main NBC announcer. As in 1991, NBC would cover NFL 4 pm games after the Ryder Cup Sunday action.

In 1997, both the Friday coverage on USA (10 hours) and the Saturday coverage on NBC (6 hours) were on tape delay. NBC aired the Sunday singles live for 4.5 hours.

In 1999, USA expanded to 10.5 hours on Friday. NBC expanded to 10 hours on Saturday and followed with 6.5 hours on Sunday.

The scheduled 2001 matches were postponed in the aftermath of 9/11. In 2002, we again had tape delayed coverage on both Friday and Saturday (10 hours each day on USA and NBC respectively). NBC provided 5.5 hours of live coverage on Sunday. Dan Hicks assumed the role as lead NBC announcer.

The 2004 TV coverage was similar to 1999 while the 2006 TV coverage matched that of 2002.

In 2008, ESPN picked up the Friday rights with Mike Tirico anchoring. The TV times were the same as in 2004.

In 2010, ESPN came on the air live at 2:30 am ET on Friday and was scheduled for 10.5 hours. This marked the first live Ryder Cup Friday coverage from a venue in Europe since 1989. NBC again planned to tape delay the 10 hours of Saturday coverage and televise 6 hours live on Sunday. However, rain interrupted the Friday play forcing significant schedule adjustments. ESPN wound up covering 5 hours of the revised Saturday session starting at 3 am with NBC then picking up live coverage at 8 am. After the Saturday matches concluded, NBC filled in with tape delayed coverage of earlier matches until 6 pm. On Sunday, NBC came on the air at 4 am for live coverage. The singles matches were moved to Monday and carried live by USA Network starting at 4 am.

For 2012, ESPN expanded to 11.5 hours on Friday while NBC went with the traditional 10 and 6 on the weekend.

2014 marked the first time that an entire Ryder Cup held in Europe was scheduled to be televised live in the US. The Friday coverage moved to Golf Channel which started at 2:30 am ET. NBC had 10 hours on Saturday (starting at 3 am ET) and 6 hours on Sunday beginning at 7 am.

For 2016, Golf Channel again scheduled 10.5 hours on Friday with NBC on tap for 10 hours on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. Recent NBC hire Tirico will host all 3 days and fellow NBC newcomer David Feherty joins the telecast team.

The scheduled 2018 coverage is similar to that of 2014. Golf Channel increases the Friday coverage to 11 hours starting at 2 am ET and will come on the air the same time on Saturday for one hour leading into NBC's 10 hours. NBC expands to 7 hours on Sunday starting at 6 am.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Golf Channel documentary on 1991 Ryder Cup

On Tuesday 9/25 at 9pm ET, Golf Channel will premiere a documentary on the 1991 Ryder Cup matches from the Kiawah Island Ocean Course. The film, which is titled War by the Shore, features archived footage and current interviews with many of the players from that event including Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Mark Calcavecchia, Nick Faldo, Paul Azinger, and David Feherty. The 1-hour documentary also contains commentary from TV announcers such as Johnny Miller, Roger Maltbie, and Mark Rolfing who called the matches for NBC that weekend.


This special will be replayed multiple times on both Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. You can see a preview clip on the Golf Channel site.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tribute to Steve Sabol of NFL Films

I was saddened to learn of the passing of NFL Films president Steve Sabol today. Steve (along with his father Ed) contributed so much to the growth of the NFL with creative and innovative filmmaking.

I remember watching This Week in Pro Football back in the 1970s with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier voicing over game highlights from the previous week. And the Super Bowl highlight films narrated by the great voice of John Facenda, most notably the miking of Chiefs coach Hank Stram for the Super Bowl IV edition.

Sabol artfully mixed footage and narration with the iconic music of Sam Spence.

I need to mention two of my favorite recent features from NFL Films. First was the Lost Treasures of NFL Films series from 2002 where Sabol unearthed behind the scenes vault footage which had never been aired.

And secondly, the 2009 series Full Color Football: The History of the American Football League which chonicled the birth and growth of the AFL.

Thank you Steve Sabol for all of your contributions to chronicle the history of professional football. The Hall of Fame finally inducted your dad in 2011. You belong in Canton with him.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Classic NY Mets broadcast team of Nelson, Murphy, and Kiner

My first memories of following baseball come from the 1969 season and the New York Mets tremendous broadcast team of Lindsey NelsonBob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner. This trio was the inaugural set of announcers for the expansion Mets in 1962 and stayed intact for 17 years handling both TV and radio duties.

Nelson was a versatile broadcaster who also called a lot of college and pro football on the national stage. He was known for wearing an array of colorful patterned sports jackets. Murphy was a solid announcer who also called some regional college football on ABC. He moved exclusively to radio when the Mets created separate radio and TV crews in 1982. Both Nelson (1988) and Murphy (1994) were honored by the baseball Hall of Fame with the Ford C Frick broadcasting award.

Kiner, a Hall of Fame player, was never a polished broadcaster and was prone to mispronunciations and malapropism. But he was a great storyteller and provided brilliant baseball insight. In 1973, Mike Schmidt struggled mightily during his first full season and stuck out frequently. But I recall watching a Mets-Phillies telecast that year as Kiner kept raving about Schmidt's swing and predicted he would have a bright future. Ralph also hosted the Kiner's Korner postgame show after home telecasts on WOR-TV channel 9. This quirky but popular show typically featured highlights from the game with Kiner interviewing a key player from the winning team.

This clip from the 1969 East division clincher features Murphy at the start, Kiner around the 0:57 mark and Nelson around the 1:23 mark.

After the 1978 season, Nelson left to become the lead announcer of the San Francisco Giants. Murphy remained the voice of Mets radio through the 2003 season. Kiner is still a part-time member of the Mets TV team and makes occasional on-air appearances.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jim Lampley calling Division 3 football on ABC in 1977

Here is an ABC regional college football telecast from 11/12/1977 between Division 3 rivals Wabash and DePauw with a young Jim Lampley calling the action. Lampley started with ABC in 1974 as a sideline reporter. By 1977, he had moved into a regional play-by-play role. The analyst was former Detroit Lions coach Rick Forzano.

At the time, the ABC TV contract with the NCAA required the network to televise a few Division 2 and Division 3 games each year, so this telecast helped ABC satisfy the terms of that deal. These D2/D3 games typically went to very small regional audiences. When this game ended, viewers joined in progress the primary ABC telecast between Colorado and Oklahoma which was called by Keith Jackson and Ara Parseghian.

Here is a brief video with some background on this telecast. ABC decided to televise it only 3 days in advance. This clip also includes a great tidbit about Billy Joel performing a concert on the DePauw campus the night before this game (which was 6 weeks after his breakout album "The Stranger" was released).

Friday, September 7, 2012

The launch of ESPN on 9/7/1979

33 years ago today at 7 pm ET, ESPN launched and its first program was SportsCenter. Lee Leonard was the first voice on the air on the Total Sports Cable Network as ESPN billed itself. George Grande was at the SportsCenter desk that evening. The first actual sporting event that ESPN televised was slow pitch softball.

Here is what it looked like when ESPN hit the airwaves on 9/7/1979:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Two ESPN Classic specials on 1972 Munich Massacre

Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the September 5th terrorist act against Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. ESPN Classic will show a pair of 1-hour episodes numerous times over the next 2 days. The first one, called Tragedy at Munich, is part of the tremendous ongoing series featuring original ABC footage from this Olympiad. The second is titled Tragedy of the Munich Games. Set the DVR for both.

ABC coverage of the "imposter" at the 1972 Olympic marathon

Here is my review of the episode in the ESPN Classic series on the 1972 Munich games which focused on the Olympic marathon. Jim McKay called the action for ABC with Erich Segal as "expert commentator" which was the term ABC used for its Olympic analysts. Segal was an author best known for writing the novel Love Story, but he was also a recreational runner and had raced in the Boston Marathon many times.

ABC televised the start of the marathon live and the episode began with that footage. The special then showed an interview Segal had conducted with Shorter while the two were running. Segal taught at Yale where Shorter had been one of his students. Host Chris Schenkel voiced over some of the mid-race footage.

But the most memorable aspect of this event took place near the end of the race when a West German student wearing a running uniform with the number 72 emerged from the tunnel onto the stadium track ahead of leader Frank Shorter and pretended to be winning the race.

Segal was noticeably upset at what was unfolding and his emotional commentary is priceless and worth a viewing: "That is an imposter! Get him off the track! ... This happens in bush league marathons! ... Throw the bum out! ... Get rid of that guy!" A bit later, he personalizes his on-air remarks: "Come on Frank! You won it! ... It's a fake, Frank!"

ESPN committed an embarassing gaffe by superimposing a graphic reading "voice of Eric Siegel" which botched the spelling of both his first and last names. ESPN Classic will provide multiple re-airigs of this 30-minute episode as it doing for all shows in this series.

Monday, September 3, 2012

ABC coverage of USA track controversies in 1972 Olympics

The USA Track Controversy episode in the great ESPN Classic series on the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics focused on the following events:
  • sprinters Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart missing their 100m heats because the USA track coaches were using an outdated time schedule
  • the controversial podium demonstration by 400m gold medalist Vince Matthews and silver medalist Wayne Collett during the playing of the national anthem
  • Jim Ryun being tripped in a 1500m qualifying heat and failing to advance in that event
The highlights of the episode are the original ABC interviews by Howard Cosell, specifically the famous one he conducted with USA sprint coach Stan Wright who accepted responsibility for the 100m time schedule foulup. This 1-hour show (which will be re-aired a few more times) is well worth DVRing just for this interview alone. At the time, many felt that Cosell was overly harsh during his questioning of Wright.

Say what you want about Cosell as a broadcaster, but the man conducted interesting interviews, was willing to ask probing questions, and always seemed to get the key figures on the air to discuss difficult topics. The episode also included separate interviews that Cosell did with Robinson and Hart and a joint interview that he got with Matthews and Collett.

Jim McKay and Bill Toomey called the 400m races. McKay and Marty Liquori called the 1500m heat. The show also included one 100m heat which McKay called without an analyst.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Upcoming replays of classic Ryder Cups on Golf Channel

The next three Tuesdays, Golf Channel will be re-airing original NBC telecast footage from previous classic Ryder Cup matches. Here is the schedule for these 3-hour episodes titled Ryder Cup Tuesdays which cover the final day singles matches (times are ET):
  • Tues 9/4 at 8:30 pm - 1997 Ryder Cup final day
  • Tues 9/11 at 8:30 pm - 1999 Ryder Cup final day 
  • Tues 9/18 at 8:30 pm - 1991 Ryder Cup final day 
The NBC coverage for 1997 and 1999 featured Dick Enberg as lead announcer along with main analyst Johnny Miller. NBC used former Ryder Cup captains Tony Jacklin (1997) and Bernard Gallacher (1999) to add a European flavor to the telecasts. Dan Hicks, Roger Maltbie, and Gary Koch were also part of the NBC TV crew.

Charlie Jones handled the lead play-by-play role for NBC in 1991. And David Feherty played for Europe in the famous Ryder Cup known as the "War By the Shore".

Friday, August 31, 2012

Observations on the ABC coverage of 1972 Olympic basketball

One of the episodes in the ESPN Classic series on the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics focused on USA basketball. This 2-hour special (which will be re-aired a few more times) contained original ABC footage from 4 of the USA games. Over half of the show was devoted to the gold medal game against the USSR.

Frank Gifford and Bill Russell were the primary basketball announcers and called the final. However, Bill Flemming worked with Russell on a few games. (Gifford also called wrestling in Munich.) The special included Olympic host Chris Schenkel leading into the game coverage (which was shown on tape delay) and providing the results in advance.

Gifford sounded out of his element calling basketball play-by-play. At times, ABC showed a fullscreen view of the scoreboard while game action was taking place. At one point, you could hear loud coughing (presumably Russell) and soon afterwards, it sounded like a microphone got switched off.

Throughout the end of the controversial gold medal game, Gifford seemed extremely confused although it is hard to blame him too much considering the bizarre scene and strange actions by the officials. Right as the USSR was about to inbound the second time with 3 seconds left, ABC inexplicably cut to a shot of the scoreboard and missed the attempted play. After the finish, Gifford provided the incorrect score when he referred back to the earlier apparent USA victory. For some reason, Russell, after making a comment during free throws with 1:50 left on the game clock, was not heard on-air for the rest of the game.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ESPN Classic series on the 1972 Summer Olympics

Over the next two weeks, ESPN Classic is running a series to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summer Olympics. These episodes titled Summer Olympics - 1972 Munich feature the original ABC telecast footage. This series includes episodes on:
  • Olga Korbut
  • Mark Spitz 
  • USA Track controversy
  • USA-USSR basketball final
  • Marathon (won by Frank Shorter)
  • USA boxing (Ray Seales)
  • USA swimming and diving
  • USA wrestling
  • USA women's gynmastics
  • Tragedy at Munich
  • and more
In this series, you will see Jim McKay and Gordon Maddux on gymnastics, Keith Jackson on swimming, Frank Gifford and Bill Russell on basketball, Howard Cosell on boxing, McKay with Erich Segal on the marathon (Segal: "That is an imposter! Get him off the track!"), and of course, McKay and Chris Schenkel on the hostage crisis. The series started last night and each episode will re-air a few times. Check out the complete schedule (all times ET) and set the DVR.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Estimating the total number of MLB games broadcast by Vin Scully

Recently the Dodgers announced that the legendary Vin Scully will return in 2013 for a 64th season of broadcasting games for the franchise. On the heels of this news, a member of the506 wondered how many Major League Baseball games Scully has called during his career and decided to initiate a collaborative effort towards estimating that number. (Note: Free registration required to view this forum thread on the506.)

As of this writing, the estimate (which counts regular season, postseason, and All-Star games) is that Scully will have broadcast a total of 9183 MLB games by the end of the 2012 regular season. The number includes his network (NBC television and CBS radio) appearances along with his local TV/radio work for the Dodgers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Error by filmmaker in ESPN 30 for 30 Pony Exce$$ documentary

One of the best episodes from the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary series was Pony Exce$$ which chronicled the 1980s SMU football program. An NCAA investigation into illegal payments to players led to the school receiving the so-called "death penalty".

Starting around the 28:55 mark, the film devotes a few minutes to the 10/25/1980 SMU game at Texas. This segment contains ABC TV footage featuring announcers Al Michaels and Lee Grosscup allegedly previewing this matchup between the Mustangs and Longhorns. The documentary inserts the 10/25/1980 date on the screen right after the first ABC clip and later describes this game as being on "national TV".

However, there are several problems here. ABC did not televise this 1980 game at all. ABC covered nine regional games in two timeslots that afternoon (noon and 3:30 pm ET), but not the game from Austin which started at 2 pm. The ABC video clip contains a CFA logo, but the CFA TV package didn't exist in 1980. Also, Michaels and Grosscup didn't work together in 1980.

It turns out that this ABC footage is actually from an SMU-Texas game in 1984. The insertion of this clip into the otherwise excellent documentary was a definite error by the filmmaker.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Golf Channel documentary on Snead/Nelson/Hogan

Golf Channel is premiering a film on Mon 8/13 at 9 pm ET which chronicles the impact of Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Ben Hogan on the game of golf. This documentary titled American Triumvirate includes interviews from other greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Ken Venturi. Golf Channel will re-air this special multiple times in the upcoming days.

This preview clip from the episode features Nicklaus discussing Nelson:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Curt Gowdy calling an Olympic swimming event in 1976

Want to hear Curt Gowdy announcing a swimming race? Here is a video of the women's 4x100m freestyle relay from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal as the USA team took the gold medal over the favored East Germans. Gowdy called the race for ABC along with analyst Donna DeVarona. Gowdy worked for NBC at the time and was still their #1 NFL play-by-play voice, but NBC loaned Gowdy to ABC for the Montreal Olympics. Gowdy also called basketball with Bill Russell at the 1976 games.

A few items of note from the clip: When the announcers appear on the screen at the 0:53 mark wearing the famous ABC yellow blazers, their press credentials are clearly visible on camera. Around the 6:23 mark, Gowdy twice cuts off DeVarona and talks for almost 20 seconds recapping the lane assignments before allowing her to make a point. Also, multiple times Gowdy refers to the event as the "4 times 100 meters".

Friday, August 3, 2012

Historic Olympic Broadcaster Logos

I stumbled onto an interesting feature on a blog which contains images of the broadcaster logos for the United States networks which televised the Olympic games going back to the 1960s. The site has some commentary on the designs of these broadcaster logos along with images of the official logos for each Olympiad and provides an intriguing look at how these emblems have evolved over time. It also includes historical background information on the US TV coverage over the years such as rights fees and hours of programming.

Here are a few of the TV broadcaster logos: NBC Tokyo 1964, ABC Lake Placid 1980, and CBS Albertville 1992.

Friday, July 27, 2012

ABC clip of spectacular Olga Korbut routine from 1972 Olympics

Here is perhaps the most famous gymnastics performance of all time. During the team competition of the 1972 Olympics in Munich. 17-year old Olga Korbut of the USSR executed a never before seen maneuver  on the uneven parallel bars. This routine propelled the then unknown Korbut into a household name and helped fuel interest in gymnastics. The electritfying move which became known as the Korbut Flip was subsequently banned for safety reasons.

Jim McKay called the action for ABC and the enthusiastic analyst was former gymnastics coach Gordon Maddux

Monday, July 23, 2012

Remembering Dave Wottle winning 1972 Olympic 800 meters

While the 1972 Summer Olympics are unfortunately best known for the terrorist attack on Sept 5, the Munich games featured many memorable events during the competition. I still vividly recall watching the 800 meter final on Sept 2 when Dave Wottle of the USA came from well behind to win the gold medal at the wire. Wottle famously ran the race wearing a golf cap. The IOC has since banned hats during track events.

The ABC announcers were Jim McKay and former middle distance runner Marty Liquori. This is a classic call by McKay who handled track and field and gymnastics during the 1972 games. Of course, he is best remembered for his coverage of the hostage crisis a few days later.

At the start of the race, ABC displayed individual graphics for each runner, but never showed one for lane 8 as the event started while McKay was still announcing the participants. The end of the clip also features Chris Schenkel who was the primary ABC host for the Munich Olympiad.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Observations on the 1967 NIT final footage on MSG Vault

Recently, I posted about the MSG Vault episode which included footage from the CBS telecast of the 1967 NIT championship game featuring Walt Frazier. After watching my recording a few times, I will share some observations:

The show contained a fair amount of footage from the original telecast. The audio and video quality was fantastic considering this game took place 45 years ago. What a find by the Carbondale PBS station!

I found several aspects of the playing surface quite noticeable. The floor contains mostly light colored boards interspersed with some darker ones, but not in any specific pattern. The midcourt stripe was yellow as were other court lines. The color of these markings was not significantly distinguishable from that of the light floorboards making these lines rather difficult to see. Also striking was the complete lack of logos on the floor. There was nothing on the court surface which identified this as an NIT game or the site as Madison Square Garden. You can see the court in the video clip I added to my original post.

Play-by-play man Tom Kelly did a decent job, but analyst Frank Gifford offered very little commentary during game action. There was also an odd moment during the opening to the telecast. As Kelly set the scene, Gifford's head shifted awkwardly several times as he almost seemed to be going out of his way to look anywhere but at the camera. You can see also this segment in the same video clip.

The only CBS graphic I noticed was the one identifying Frazier as the MVP during the postgame interview.  A few times, CBS superimposed a shot of the stadium scoreboard underneath the action. And Kelly mentioned the score quite frequently during his play-by-play. Throughout the telecast, you can also clearly hear the public address announcer providing information on score, fouls, substitutions, etc.

If you haven't seen this and have access to MSG Network, I highly recommend this episode which will be re-airing many times over the next few weeks.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The 25th anniversary of Sports Radio WFAN

Sports Radio 66 WFAN in New York celebrates its 25th anniversary this weekend. On 7/1/1987 radio station WHN 1050 AM transformed from a country music station which held the rights to the reigning World Series champion New York Mets into a 24x7 sports format. WFAN later moved to 660 on the AM dial and remains the radio flagship of the Mets.

Over its 25 years, WFAN has held rights to other sports teams in the NYC market and featured many unique radio personalities including Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo who teamed up for 19 years as Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon drive slot. The success of WFAN led to a plethora of all-sports formats in markets across the country.

I was one of the listeners on that inaugural day and remember Jim Lampley hosting the first show.

Here is the original WFAN 1987 weekday schedule of hosts:

    6 am - 10 am: Greg Gumbel
    10 am - 1 pm: Jim Lampley
    1 pm - 3 pm: Art Shamsky
    3 pm - 7 pm: Pete Franklin
    7 pm - midnight: Howie Rose
    midnight - 6 am: Steve Somers

Note: Franklin was recovering from a heart attack when WFAN launched so the station rotated a number of fill-in hosts in the afternoon drive slot until Franklin was healthy enough to take over.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

MSG Network to air footage from 1967 NIT title game featuring Walt Frazier

The MSG Vault series on MSG Network will feature color video from the original CBS telecast of the 1967 NIT championship game. In that contest, Southern Illinois led by Walt Frazier defeated a Marquette team coached by Al McGuire. MSG Network (DIRECTV 634) will premiere this episode titled Before He Was Clyde on Saturday 6/23 at 9 pm ET and will re-air it multiple times. Al Trautwig is the host of MSG Vault.

A PBS station in Illinois recently discovered a videotape of the game and this will be the first time this footage has been shown on TV since the live telecast in 1967. The CBS broadcast team was Tom Kelly on play-by-play with Frank Gifford as the analyst.

ESPN Classic to show 1973 King-Riggs Battle of the Sexes

On Saturday 6/23 at 9 pm ET, ESPN Classic is re-airing the Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs during the ESPN commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX. ABC televised this event in prime time from the Houston Astrodome on Thursday 9/20/1973 with Howard Cosell calling the action. The co-analysts were tennis pros Rosemary Casals and Gene Scott.  Both Casals and Scott received quite negative reviews for their on-air commentary. Frank Gifford was also part of the telecast doing interviews.

An interesting sidebar to this telecast: ABC had originally planned to use former tennis pro Jack Kramer as a co-analyst along with Casals. However, King was displeased with Kramer's treatment of women's tennis and threatened to withdraw from the match on short notice if Kramer remained involved. ABC executive producer Roone Arledge agreed to take Kramer off the commentary team and named Scott as a replacement. Kramer appeared during the opening of the ABC telecast and announced that he was stepping down. I believe that Kramer's statement will air during the ESPN Classic replay.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Classic Wimbledon on ESPN Classic

ESPN Classic is replaying many past Wimbledon championship matches over the next week. The broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Bud Collins called many of these on NBC starting in the early 1980s. Here is a subset of the schedule:

  • 1975 Ashe-Connors: Tue 6/19 at 1:30 am
  • 1977 Borg-Connors: Tue 6/19 at 4 am
  • 1982 Navratilova-Evert: Wed 6/20 at 2 am
  • 1984 Navratilova-Evert: Wed 6/20 at 4 am
  • 1980 Borg-McEnroe: Wed 6/20 at 1 pm
  • 1981 McEnroe-Borg: Wed 6/20 at 3 pm
  • 1982 Connors-McEnroe: Thu 6/21 at 4 am
  • 1984 McEnroe-Connors: Thu 6/21 at 10 am
  • 1985 Navratilova-Evert: Fri 6/22 at 2 am
  • 1988 Graf-Navratilova: Fri 6/22 at 4 am

Here is a clip from the famous 4th set tiebreaker of the 1980 match called by Bud Collins and Donald Dell:

Monday, June 11, 2012

NBC documentary on 1962 US Open win by Jack Nicklaus

NBC will air a documentary titled The 1962 US Open: Jack's First Major on Sunday 6/17 at 2 pm ET. This USGA special co-produced by Ross Greenburg will cover the victory by Jack Nicklaus 50 years ago at Oakmont capped by his 18-hole playoff with Arnold Palmer. The film contains unique archival footage from the USGA Museum. It also includes recent interviews with Nicklaus, Palmer, and various golf media members in this retrospective on the first of the 18 professional majors won by the Golden Bear.

Friday, June 8, 2012

NBA TV documentary on 1992 Dream Team

NBA TV is premiering a documentary on the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team on Wed 6/13 at 9 pm ET titled The Dream Team. This special contains recent interviews with all 12 players and includes rare footage from 20 years ago.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Remembering the classic 1976 NBA Finals game 5

Tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of the most memorable NBA game I have ever viewed. The Boston Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns in triple overtime in game 5 of the NBA Finals on 6/4/1976 in a contest best known for the riveting events during the end of the second OT.

The CBS announcers that night were Brent Musburger, Rick Barry, and Mendy Rudolph. The young Musburger was in his second season as lead play-by-play voice for the NBA. Brent brought a lot of enthusiasm to the telecasts, but could be rather loud and tended to dominate the microphone. Rudolph was a former referee who CBS installed as its top analyst for the 1975-76 season after a forgettable year with Oscar Roberston in that role. Most analysts tend to be former players or coaches, but Mendy brought a unique perspective especially on officiating calls or rules issues.

Barry was still an active player who CBS added to the TV crew for the championship series after his Golden State Warriors lost in the conference finals. During the 1970s, CBS seemed to use a different #1 analyst almost every regular season. But during the playoffs, CBS added Barry to its broadcast crew every year from 1974 through 1980 once his team was eliminated (with the exception of 1975 when Barry played in the NBA Finals). Despite being a late addition to the 1976 TV crew, Barry clearly served as the #1 analyst on that series with Rudolph taking an ancillary role. While not a polished broadcaster, Barry was quick to offer opinions and added more insight than the other CBS NBA analysts of this era.

The first clip covers the dramatic ending to the second OT: The John Havlicek running bank shot....the fan attacking referee Richie Powers....the intentional timeout called by Paul Westphal knowing the Suns were out of timeouts thereby essentially trading a technical foul for the opportunity to advance the ball to halfcourt.....the turnaround shot at the buzzer by Garfield Heard.

After the Havlicek shot, notice how quickly Barry states that time should be put back on the clock after Musburger incorrectly declared the game over. And note how Rudolph suggests that the Suns might take advantage of the obscure aspect of the illegal timeout rule to maximize their chance of winning the game. The NBA later eliminated that quirk in the rule. I also found it odd that on both of the inbounds plays in this sequence, Musburger felt the need to point out that the clock wouldn't start until the ball is touched.

The second video covers highlights including the opening to the telecast, the end of regulation and the end of each OT. This package provides some greater context showing the Phoenix comeback capped by the Westphal steal which set up the final seconds of the 2nd OT. The intro segment illustrates the way that Musburger would set the scene for the game.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ESPN Classic tribute to the Indianapolis 500

ESPN Classic is replaying the original ABC telecasts of several Indy 500s. ABC provided live coverage of the 500 starting in 1986. Prior to that, ABC aired this event on tape delay with Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart handling the commentary most years. Here are selected races from this special theme week (see above link for the complete schedule).

  • 1980 - Wed 5/23 at 1 am
  • 1983 - Wed 5/23 at 3 am
  • 1984 - Wed 5/23 at 11 am
  • 1988 - Wed 5/23 at 1 pm
  • 1991 - Wed 5/23 at 3 pm
  • 1986 - Wed 5/23 at 5 pm (first live telecast)
  • 1987 - Thu 5/24 at 1 am
  • 1970 - Thu 5/24 at 9 am
  • 1971 - Thu 5/24 at 10 am
  • 1978 - Thu 5/24 at 1 pm
  • 1977 - Tue 5/29 at 8 pm (4th win by AJ Foyt)
  • 1982 - Wed 5/30 at 6:30 pm
  • 1967 - Thu  5/31 at 6 pm (3rd win by AJ Foyt)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Looking back on the Rick Barry "watermelon grin" comment

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the controversial "watermelon grin" remark made by CBS analyst Rick Barry. It took place early in the second half of game 5 of the 1981 NBA Finals on 5/12/1981 as the announcers were discussing photos from the 1956 Summer Olympics. This clip illustrates the incredibly awkward exchange which became most noticeable when CBS put the broadcasters on camera. Co-analyst Bill Russell clearly didn't appreciate the attempt at humor by Barry or the subsequent prodding by play-by-play man Gary Bender.

The incident bothered Russell who offered less analysis than usual for the remainder of that telecast. Barry insisted he was unaware of the racial overtones of his remark and later apologized to Russell who eventually forgave him.

CBS televised this game on late night tape delay at 11:30 pm and the margin was 26 points at the time of the comments. Both of these factors limited the number of viewers who saw this segment of the original telecast. Despite the 2.5 hour delay, CBS either chose not to edit out the comments or wasn't aware of the sensitive nature of the remarks until later. Of course, this exchange took place while game action was going on so it would have been challenging for CBS to perform any kind of cleanup before the delayed telecast.

This episode came at a historical low point in TV coverage for the NBA as CBS produced four of the six 1981 Finals games on tape delay. It also turned out to be the only season for the trio of Bender, Barry, and Russell. CBS dropped Barry after the Finals. For the next season, CBS moved Bender to college games and paired Russell with Dick Stockton on the NBA. Interestingly, Barry and Russell would team up a few years later to call NBA telecasts on WTBS with Barry serving in the play-by-play role.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ESPN Classic to replay 1975 World Series game 6

ESPN Classic will replay game 6 of the 1975 World Series (Reds-Red Sox) on Mon 4/30 at 3 pm ET. The game ended on a Carlton Fisk 12th inning home run. However, the famous camera angle of Fisk's reaction was not the result of planning by NBC, but was actually caused by a rat inside Fenway Park which was bothering the cameraman. This game which had been delayed 3 days by rain was ranked #1 on the recent MLB Network list of MLB Greatest Games. The NBC telecast was called by Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek, and Dick Stockton.

Some other notable baseball rebroadcasts coming up on ESPN Classic:

  • 1992 NLCS game 7 on 4/27 at 1 pm  
  • 1986 World Series game 6 on 4/30 at 11 am 
  • 1960 World Series game 7 on 4/30 at 5 pm
  • 1987 World Series game 6 on 5/2 at 5 pm 
  • 1977 World Series game 6 on 5/3 at 11 am
  • 1986 ALCS game 5 on 5/3 at 1 pm  
  • 1986 ALCS game 7 on 5/3 at 3 pm  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

CBS again omits Gary McCord from classic Masters footage

I recorded the recent CBS special Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta: The 1987 Masters which included footage from the final round of the original telecast. Once again, CBS went out of its way to ignore/hide the involvement of Gary McCord on the CBS broadcast team that day. In 1987, McCord was the CBS announcer on hole 14. The footage that CBS used in this special featured action from every back 9 hole including #14. However, these clips contained audio from every hole announcer on that telecast with the exception of McCord. Instead, CBS superimposed music and Jim Nantz narration over the footage it showed from the 14th.

In 2006, the inaugural Jim Nantz special covered the 1986 Masters on which McCord had also been the CBS announcer on the 14th hole. But on that special, the same thing happened as CBS showed some original footage from hole 14, but included no audio or mention of McCord who was last part of the Masters TV coverage in 1994.

In both cases, it seems obvious that the omission of McCord was intentional. What is unclear is whether CBS edited McCord out of the footage to avoid ruffling feathers with the Green Jacket Establishment or whether CBS did so under orders from the Lords of Augusta as a condition for approval in replaying this footage.

The 1987 Masters went to a playoff on holes 10 and 11. Interestingly, for its coverage of the playoff, CBS used the originally assigned hole announcer (Bob Murphy and Steve Melnyk respectively) along with main analyst Ken Venturi. Lead announcer Pat Summerall who was in the 18th hole tower was not part of the playoff coverage. Venturi called the playoff action from the fairway as he talked about getting club selections from the caddies.

The 1987 playoff coverage also leads to the intriguing question as to how the CBS Jim Nantz special would have handled this footage had McCord been the assigned hole announcer on one of these playoff holes, especially on the deciding hole. Or had a critical shot or memorable audio moment (along the lines of Verne Lundquist with "Yes Sir!" or Nantz with "The Bear has come out of hibernation.") from either of these Masters tournaments occurred at hole 14.

Non-broadcasting side note: I found it very interesting that some players had a caddy attend the flagstick on much shorter putts than you see today.