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Good Sports, Bad Gimmicks : RANKING THE ANCHORS WHO TELL L.A. THE SCORE

August 02, 1992|STEVE HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For a while it seemed as though one television sportscast in Los Angeles after another was becoming infected with the Wacky Weatherguy syndrome.

Remember KABC loudmouth Ted Dawson, paying off on a bet about the USC basketball team by jumping fully clothed into a swimming pool near campus?

Or KCOP's vampire-voiced Vic (the Brick) Jacobs, showing displeasure by tossing plastic-foam chunks of mortar at the screen?

Or KCAL's smirking, schoolboyish Joe Fowler, gesticulating wildly at the camera?

Or KABC's Todd Donaho, with his amateurish "Take a Hike" segment?

All gone, thank goodness.

Wait--you say, Donaho's still employed at KABC? Excuse our wishful thinking.

While fewer clownish figures are handling TV sportscasts locally, the talent has also become more diluted with the departure of literate, sharp-tongued Keith Olbermann. He was foolishly cut loose by KCBS and quickly signed by ESPN. And then there was the refusal of skilled sports reporter Jim Lampley to return to his specialty for KCBS after he was fired as the station's 11 p.m. anchor-husband (wife Bree Walker stayed behind).

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Sunday August 9, 1992 Home Edition TV Times Page 6 Television Desk 1 inches; 15 words Type of Material: Correction
KABC sportscaster Todd Donoho's name was misspelled in the article "Good Sports, Bad Gimmicks" (Aug. 2).

So who's left?

KNBC's Fred Roggin, on the disabled list earlier this year with a chemical dependency problem, has rebounded to establish himself as the top local sportscaster.

Humor is the forte of Roggin, who realizes that he is, after all, only covering games that children play. He's the best at making use of videotape, such as his July 4 fireworks tribute, a compilation of the "explosions" of such temperamental types as John McEnroe.

Aside from offering the top sportscaster, KNBC has the best bench in the league, with witty Bret Lewis as Roggin's backup. Lewis is more skilled than most of the first-stringers at the other stations. A while back, when Roggin and Lewis were both unavailable, KNBC went even deeper into its roster of reserves and used a duo named Jess Marlow and Kelly Lange to give the scores. Whatever happened to them?

It's ironic that two of the more capable sportscasters in town, KTTV's Rick Garcia and KCOP's Tony Hernandez, receive so little exposure because of the minimal air time provided by their stations.

Garcia has a cocky, irreverent style and a knowledge of sports that deserve a larger forum. Even his wisecracks during the obligatory "happy talk" segment with KTTV's anchors are interesting.

Hernandez, picked up on waivers from KCBS two years ago, possesses a smooth, confident delivery and a sense of humor.

We're willing to excuse one cornball promotional stunt-disguised-as-news that was staged by KCOP: Hernandez' "exclusive" interview with Elgin Baylor at halftime of a Clippers telecast at which Baylor revealed that the team's new coach would be Larry Brown. What a coincidence that the Clippers allowed the station to break the news first--KCOP broadcasts the Clippers games!

So refreshingly unpredictable was Olbermann on Channel 2 that we could overlook his Pat Riley hairdo and the strange assortment of sweaters he wore on his Sunday sports wrap-ups.

His successor, Jim Hill, doesn't measure up, even if he does dress better. Hill, obtained from KABC as a second choice after Lampley refused the job, is an ex-NFL defensive back. And his problem is that he too often tries to come across as a buddy of the sports figure he is interviewing. Rarely do you hear critical comments or tough questions from him.

The other day Hill interviewed Lou Duva, the trainer of Evander Holyfield, the heavyweight champ. Holyfield had just stumbled to an unimpressive victory over roly-poly Larry Holmes, the 42-year-old ex-champ. Referring to the criticism of Duva's fighter, Hill spoke as though the light-hitting Holyfield belonged in the same category as Muhammad Ali, commenting that "he's winning and doing what he has to do."

On another occasion, when ex-USC running back Ricky Ervins mentioned that the atmosphere between some players and coaches at the school was "bad," Hill changed the subject and kidded Ervins about his new Super Bowl ring. This, though USC's record has sagged in recent years and Ervins was virtually ostracized by Trojan coach Larry Smith during his senior year.

Over at KTLA, it's hard to believe that the station's lead sportscaster started out in the television business as Skipper Stu, a Sacramento cartoon host who piloted his boat, the Channel Tender, with his faithful octopus helper, OU Squid.

Skipper Stu was so playful. Sportscaster Stu is more grim-faced and occasionally seems to be in a bit of a hurry to get home.

But Stu Nahan knows sports; he's a former minor-league hockey player. And there's something to be said for a no-nonsense sportsreader who eschews the forced smile that is now obligatory for virtually every on-camera person and also does his best to avoid "happy talk" with the anchors.

Nahan's back-up is another veteran, Ed Arnold, who comes across as an energetic, hard-working newsman, if somewhat lacking in charisma.

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