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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

CBS Betting Sheridan Is Right Man

August 30, 1996|LARRY STEWART

Danny Sheridan is a rarity. He makes a good living off point spreads. Not betting them, but talking and writing about them.

When it comes to point spreads, Sheridan, a slick-talking Southern gentleman from Mobile, Ala., is a guru. As a senior at the University of Alabama in 1969, he told everyone the New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

These days, he writes books and newspaper columns about point spreads, puts out a newsletter and has his own 900 number. The last nine years, he was a regular on CNN's "College Preview Show."

Now CBS, which on Sept. 7 gets back into college football regularly for the first time since 1991, has hired Sheridan to work on its college football studio show with Pat O'Brien and analyst Craig James, formerly of ESPN.

Sheridan's job, however, is to break stories, not talk about point spreads, says CBS.

But Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post called this a bad gamble on CBS' part, an unfathomable fumble. Wrote Shapiro: "It's a dreadful reflection on CBS, a hire that never should have been made."

Conventional wisdom says that gambling and college sports are not compatible, and that any appearance of a connection between them is wrong.

So what was CBS thinking when it hired a guy best known for point spreads? Was it looking for another Jimmy the Greek?

Rick Gentile, the executive producer of CBS sports, said, "Danny will not have the same role Jimmy the Greek had. He will not pick games. In fact, we'll bend over backward to make sure he doesn't pick games. When he's on the air--and he's only scheduled for six appearances--he'll be there to provide inside information."

But aren't there plenty of other people not associated with gambling who could do the same thing?

"We looked around," Gentile said. "[Senior producer] Eric Mann and I made up the search committee. We talked to other guys. We felt Danny is well connected--he knows everybody--and was the best guy for the job."

Said Sheridan, "I am not an oddsmaker, I am not a bookmaker. I don't even bet. I don't smoke, I barely drink and I'm not involved in any illegal activities. Don't I have the right to work for CBS if they want me?"

Said Gentile: "It's not like we are unaware of who Danny Sheridan is or what he does, but we really don't think it is much of an issue. Why [Shapiro] made it an issue, I don't know. Maybe it was a slow week.

"I'm not trying to be cavalier. We are concerned about our image. But we think we have a guy who people will want to watch because he offers good information.

"We're sticking with Danny Sheridan. Maybe we'll end up making a change, I don't know. But at this time I see no need to do that. We'll see what happens."

Said Sheridan, "Before I was hired, I told Rick if what I do is going to be a problem, I'd be happy to stay with CNN. But I just don't see why it should be a problem. Just about every newspaper in the country runs football odds. Point spreads and office pools have become a part of everyday life."

But point-shaving scandals and other unsavory things associated with gambling have not.

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Fantasy facts: The gambling aspect of sports is everywhere, but there is a big difference between betting point spreads with a bookmaker and being in a fantasy league.

TNT, aware of the fantasy league craze, will offer pertinent statistical information on a crawl that will run continuously on the bottom of the screen during its one-hour "Pro Football Tonight" shows at 4 p.m. Sundays.

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Recommended viewing: An excellent two-hour documentary on Muhammad Ali will be shown three times on TNT next Tuesday--at 5, 7 and 9 p.m.--plus the following Friday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 10 p.m. . . . The second of the five-part series on the Brooklyn Dodgers, entitled "The Original America's Team" and being carried by ESPN, will be shown Tuesday at 6 p.m. It focuses on Jackie Robinson. The producer, director and writer of the series is Mark Reese, son of Pee Wee Reese, who was featured in the first segment.

For those who can get the Classic Sports Network, another one of its outstanding original programs, "Those Who Changed the Game," will be televised tonight, 5-6:30, and will be repeated at 8. It will also be shown Sunday at 4 and 8 p.m., and Thursday at 6 and 10 p.m. The show focuses on Joe Namath, Wilt Chamberlain, Bobby Orr and Lou Brock and offers plenty of rare footage.

TV-Radio Notes

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