ABC has been waiting in the wings for 18 years to get in on the Super Bowl action and the big bucks that go with big sponsors and big ratings.
Now, thanks to their rivals, CBS and NBC, setting it up for them by airing the Conference Championships this Sunday, ABC stands to inherit perhaps one of the best matchups in Super Bowl history two weeks hence.
However, there's a big IF involved. IF, as the pro football seers seem assured it will happen, San Francisco and Miami survive their games Sunday, they then will meet each other in Super Bowl XIX in Palo Alto Jan. 20. That would put Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino, class vs. class, the passingest matchup of the decade; Bill Walsh vs. Don Shula, the biggest coaching matchup this side of John Madden.
NBC starts this Sunday's coverage at 9:30 a.m., airing the AFC Championship game from the Orange Bowl: Miami Dolphins (15-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7). Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen will be reporting over Channels 4, 36 and 39. The Dolphins are favored by 9 1/2.
CBS follows at 12:30 p.m. with the NFC Championship from Candlestick Park: Chicago Bears (11-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (16-1). Pat Summerall and John Madden report on Channels 2 and 8. The 49ers are 9-point picks.
Today's Hula Bowl All-Star game, the 39th annual, has generated a bit more interest because of the presence of Boston College's mighty mite, Doug Flutie, fresh from his Cotton Bowl triumph. Can the little guy survive the onrush of some of the biggest candidates (and in size, too) headed for the pros? How well will he perform with players from other teams with such a short preparation period?
Fortunately, Flutie will be tossing to his Boston roomie, Gerald Phelan, among other East squad receivers, including Mark Bavaro of Notre Dame and Nathan Horton of North Carolina.
Gale Gilbert of Cal, who didn't have much support in the Blue-Gray Game, leads the West squad and will be tossing to likely future pros Eddie White of Arkansas and Kell McGregor of Colorado State.
Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy report the 1 p.m. kickoff for NBC (Channels 4, 36 and 39) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
ROUNDUP: Today, NHL Hockey, Rangers vs. Bruins, 10 a.m. WOR . . . Basketball, Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest, 10:30 a.m. ESPN . . . Basketball, Stanford vs. Washington State, 11 a.m. (5) . . . Tennis, AT&T Challenge of Champions, 11 a.m. (4) (36) (39) . . . East-West Shrine Football Game, noon (2) (8) . . . Oregon vs. UCLA, 1 p.m. (5) . . . Basketball, Illinois vs. Iowa, 2:30 p.m. ESPN . . . Basketball, Oregon State vs. Washington, 3 p.m. (2) (8) . . . Pro Bowlers Tour, season premiere, the $150,000 AC-Delco Classic from Union City, Calif., 3 p.m., tape-delay (7) (3) (10) (42) . . . NHL Hockey, Kings vs. Red Wings, 4:20 p.m. (9) . . . Wide World of Sports, 4:30 p.m. (7) (3) (42) . . . Basketball, DePaul vs. Alabama-Birmingham, 5 p.m. ESPN . . . NBA Basketball, Clippers vs. Nuggets, 6:30 p.m. (11).
SUNDAY: Baseball, Puerto Rico All-Star Game, 11:30 a.m. (34) . . . NHL Hockey, Devils vs. Rangers, 4:30 p.m. USA.