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.