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It's Time to Replace the Talking Heads With Racing Cars

May 30, 1986|LARRY STEWART

If the twice rained-out Indianapolis 500 had been run Tuesday or Wednesday, it would not have been televised. ABC would not have preempted daytime soap operas for a weekday race.

That was one of the reasons Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials rescheduled the race for Saturday. "They made one of those decisions that was right for everybody--the drivers, the fans and the broadcasters," said Dennis Lewin, ABC Sports' senior vice president.

Race coverage will begin at 8 a.m. PDT, with the race starting at 9.

The rescheduling caused ABC to do a little shuffling. Saturday's "Wide World of Sports," featuring Gerry Cooney fighting Eddie Gregg, will now be shown at 1 p.m. PDT, meaning the fight will be live.

Al Trautwig, scheduled to call the fight, will instead remain in Indianapolis. Keith Jackson will replace Trautwig on the fight. Donna de Varona, who was at Indy last weekend, is scheduled to work ABC's coverage of Saturday's New York City Mini-Marathon 10K, which will be televised during "Wide World" on a delayed basis.

Add Indy: The rainouts were costly to ABC. For one thing, it has to pay for travel expenses, housing and per diem for its Indy crew of 250 and pay for the security and maintenance of its equipment in Indianapolis. Also, the network will not collect from advertisers whose commercials ran during the 5 3/4 hours of interviews and taped highlights of past races used to fill last Sunday.

Advertisers paid for speeding cars, not talking heads. A nice deal for sponsors. ABC's fill material, most of which was interesting and nicely done, drew amazingly high Nielsen ratings throughout the country, including a 9.5 in Los Angeles.

Switching careers: Former Philadelphia 76er Doug Collins, who appeared destined for stardom in broadcasting, has chucked it, at least temporarily, to become coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Last week, before Collins switched careers, Peter Lund, the president of CBS Sports indicated a fondness for Collins' work. Lund said he thought Collins was his network's best pro basketball commentator.

So why did Collins leave CBS to take such an unstable position as coach of the Bulls?

"It was simply a career decision," Lund said from his New York office this week. "He's 34 years old and he wanted to try his hand at coaching. His decision to take the Chicago job had nothing to do with his situation at CBS. It never got to the point where we said, 'If you stay, we'll do this or that.' "

Add Lund: Although he is high on Collins, Lund said that doesn't mean he's down on Tom Heinsohn.

"The public is getting used to Tommy," Lund said. "He's gained an identity as our No. 1 NBA commentator, and I think that's important.

"Hypothetically, you can always say somebody else can do a better job than the person doing it. Somebody can probably do my job better, somebody can probably do your job better. But that doesn't mean my boss or your boss is going to replace us. You start doing that, and where do you stop? You're constantly replacing everybody.

"One thing I like about Tommy is he isn't afraid to express an opinion. But sometimes that gets him in trouble. I know people in Los Angeles, and now people in Houston, don't like him. And people in Boston don't like him, either. He's just trying to be objective, but Celtic fans view him as a traitor."

Habla Espanol?: NBC will televise seven World Cup soccer matches, beginning with two this weekend, and ESPN will televise 15, beginning Monday. But the most complete coverage will be provided by Channel 34 through the Spanish International Network. All 52 matches will be televised by SIN, most live and the rest on a same-day delay.

One problem. The SIN telecasts are in Spanish only.

SIN would like to include some English commentary, but since the Federation International de Football Assns. (FIFA), world soccer's governing body, sold English rights to NBC and ESPN, SIN is limited to Spanish commentary.

That's unfortunate. Jorge Berry, Channel 34's sports director who will serve as one of SIN's two play-by-play announcers, speaks perfect English. Berry, who has been at Channel 34 for 4 1/2 years, grew up in Mexico City, but since his father came from Texas, English was spoken in his house.

SIN's other play-by-play announcer will be Tony Tirado. He and Berry will work with eight different commentators from a studio in San Antonio. There wasn't enough space in the broadcast facilities in Mexico to accommodate the SIN announcers.

However, Teofilo Cubillas, SIN's other regular soccer announcer, will be in Mexico to supplement SIN's coverage with interviews.

For game coverage, SIN, as well as NBC and ESPN, will use the world feed provided by Mexican television.

Besides more complete coverage, SIN has another edge on NBC and ESPN--no commercials during game action. SIN will televise two 2-minute commercials during a 15-minute pregame show, then none until halftime.

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