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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Schenkel, Not Olbermann, Bowled Over

June 20, 1997|LARRY STEWART

What do Chris Schenkel and Keith Olbermann have in common?

Besides both being in the news this week, nothing.

Schenkel, 73, the epitome of stability, ends a 36-year stint on ABC bowling Saturday.

It's unlikely Olbermann, 38, would ever do bowling, and it's even less likely he'd stick with one thing for 36 years. He seemingly is always searching for the perfect situation in an imperfect world.

Olbermann appeared to have found his niche as a "SportsCenter" anchor at ESPN, achieving fame and fortune--well, $300,000 a year isn't bad.

But he didn't like living in the Bristol, Conn., area, where ESPN is located. He sought a deal that would allow him to work in Bristol only on Sundays and spend the rest of the time in New York doing ESPN radio. That didn't go over, so he asked out of his contract, and ESPN let him go. His last "SportsCenter" will be June 29.

Where will he find happiness? Maybe with Court TV. The executive producer of Court TV is Erik Sorenson, who was the news director at Channel 2 when Olbermann worked there, and the two have remained close friends. They have talked about Olbermann hosting and producing a sports and law show, reportedly for $500,000 a year.

John Walsh, ESPN executive editor, said the network hates to lose Olbermann. But he also understands Olbermann's feelings about the Bristol area.

"A lot of people love this area, but you can't underestimate the difficulty of living in a rural area and not driving," Walsh said.

Olbermann suffered an eye injury when he hit his head getting on a subway car after a Dodger-New York Met game at Shea Stadium in 1980, and an ensuing vision problem keeps him from driving.

Walsh and Sage both said Olbermann's recent forced two-week leave after an unauthorized appearance on Comedy Central had nothing to do with Olbermann's departure. But it now appears Olbermann wasn't kidding when, during that appearance, he called Bristol the most god-forsaken place on the East Coast.

END OF THE LANE

Schenkel is one of the icons in American sports broadcasting. He was doing Harvard football games on television in 1947.

Saturday's Professional Bowlers Assn. St. Clair Classic at Fairview Heights, Ill., marks the end of his long ABC career. Included in the 90-minute show will be a tribute to Schenkel.

ABC is dropping bowling because of slipping ratings in the younger demographic groups.

"This isn't retirement," Schenkel said from his home in Indiana. "I want to work and I need to work because we have an autistic [8-year-old] grandson that is going to need lots of funds long after I'm gone."

Asked about the end of the long-running ABC bowling series, Schenkel, choking up, said, "It's hard to even talk about it. It was a surprise and it wasn't. It's like a friend who is sick. They're not supposed to die, and then they do."

CBS might pick up the PBA series, and if it does, the ACDelco Classic at Cal Bowl in Lakewood would be held in April, a month later than this year's tournament.

PROBING RODMAN

Kudos to NBC's Jim Gray for the interview with Dennis Rodman that was shown before Game 6 of the NBA finals last Friday, and also for the live interview he did with Rodman after the Chicago Bulls' title-clinching victory.

There were none of the softball questions Ahmad Rashad usually lobs at his friends.

In the earlier taped interview, Rodman, talking about being fined $50,000 for what he said about Mormons, said that he thought Mormons were simply people who live in Utah, like Texans live in Texas.

Said Gray: "Are you that ill-informed or is that simply a convenient excuse?"

At the end of the interview, Rodman was so emotional he took off his microphone and left crying.

Then in the live interview after the game, when Rodman talked about how he had been abused by so many people, Gray said, "But you realize you have brought a lot of that on yourself."

Gray this week said he actually likes Rodman. He got to know him when he and play-by-play announcer George Blaha broadcast Detroit Piston games during the Rodman years there.

"Beneath that colored hair and all the nonsense is a hard-working, dedicated, intelligent person who is a good, unselfish teammate," Gray said.

SHORT WAVES

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