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.