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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

Markas Sails Along Amid Clipper Chaos

April 10, 1998|LARRY STEWART

Introduced to a stranger as a local sportscaster, Rory Markas was asked whose games he broadcasts.

"The Clippers," Markas replied.

"No wonder I've never heard you," the stranger said.

Funny line. Markas hears a lot of them. It goes with the territory.

Nobody escapes the seemingly endless jokes that bombard the Clippers, not the players, not management, not the front office.

Not even the broadcasters.

And for them, this is the toughest time of the year. Across town, announcers Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz are gearing up for what what figures to be another exciting Laker postseason. They have the roar of sold-out houses behind them. They have huge audiences hanging on their every word. They have network sportscasters fighting to get a few minutes of interview time with their players.

Markas has no such problems. Behind him are mostly the sounds of silence, with fewer than 5,000 fans at some games at the Sports Arena despite the announced attendance figures. His team is going nowhere.

Ralph Lawler, Bill Walton and Paul Sunderland take care of the television side for the Clippers.

But Markas doesn't even get to enjoy the glamour of being on television. He often does the Clipper radio broadcasts by himself, without even an analyst to bounce his opinions off, buoy his spirit or fill air time.

Is it possible to be an anonymous voice on a station in a metropolitan area of 13 million people?

Markas might feel that way, but he never shows it on the air. Listen to his enthusiasm and you would think it was the Clippers who were heading for the postseason.

"Maybe it's tough at 2 in the afternoon," Markas said, "when I'm looking over my notes for the game. But once the games starts, it's not tough. It's still exciting for me. You never know what's going to happen when you go to work. And how many people can say that?"

Besides, if Markas, 39, ever does let his enthusiasm wane, he'll hear about it from the fan who has known him the longest, his mother. Billie.

"She'll call me up occasionally and say, 'You didn't sound quite as enthusiastic as you should,' " Markas said.

Billie remembers when her son dreamed of being a sportscaster in Los Angeles. That was when he was growing up in this city, his dreams inspired by nightly radio visits from the likes of Hearn and Vin Scully.

Determined to reach the heights of those who inspired him, Markas started at the bottom, doing high school games in Nogales, Ariz. He broadcast games of Little League, triple-A baseball, the Continental Basketball Assn. and spent eight years doing play-by-play for the Milwaukee Brewers. He has worked at KCBS, and still mans a shift at KNX Radio when his schedule permits.

But his main employer is the Clippers, for whom he is now completing his fourth season behind the microphone.

His wish to be a sportscaster in L.A. has come true.

Which just proves the wisdom of that often-repeated advice to be careful what you wish for.

TOUGH BUSINESS

Beginning April 20, Alan Massengale will be the new prime-time sports anchor at KCAL-TV, replacing Tom Murray. Murray, who has been at the station since 1990 and an anchor since 1991, will work weekends and will also do special projects.

Massengale is a veteran who has worked at Prime Sports, ESPN and Fox Sports News. Both KCAL general manager Don Corsini and news director Dennis Herzig are familiar with Massengale's work and say they are comfortable with him.

"Alan was available," Corsini said, "and we decided we wanted him here, pure and simple. We like Alan's work. Tom has done a good job, but we are trying to enhance the broadcast."

If hard work is a good way to enhance a broadcast, Murray was one of the best in town at doing it. While some sportscasters rarely leave their studios, Murray could be found at events all over town every night of the week, letting athletes know that he was not just another pretty face with a well-written script. He and KCBS' Jim Hill are the two most visible television faces at local sporting events.

KCAL management certainly has the right to do whatever it thinks will result in the best ratings.

But it would be nice to know that qualities like diligence and dependability are factored into their decisions.

ENOUGH ALREADY

Attention, Hannah Storm: Enough already with the pink blazer. It's blinding on the eyes. NBA already has a peacock. It doesn't need a flamingo.

Attention, Dick Vitale: Enough already with the caricature of yourself in the background while you speak. One shot of you is quite enough, thank you.

Attention, SportsChannel: Enough already with the information box in the upper-left corner of your baseball telecasts. The vital information provided is much appreciated. The sponsor logo beneath it is not. At the rate this trend is headed, the upper-left corner may someday be reserved for the actual telecast while the rest of the screen is filled with logos, graphics and charts. If people want a Web page, they'll turn on their computers.

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