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They're Scrambling More Than Elway

January 23, 1998|LARRY STEWART

SAN DIEGO — All those free-agent announcers working Sunday's Super Bowl, NBC's last NFL telecast for at least five years, aren't supposed to be talking about their postgame career plans, but the pieces are already starting to fall into place.

It appears that pregame host Greg Gumbel is headed to CBS as the No. 1 play-by-play announcer, even though a CBS representative said Thursday that Gumbel "does not have a deal."

Although there might be a temptation to pair Gumbel with his brother, Bryant, who also works for CBS, a more likely partner for Greg is Phil Simms.

Cris Collinsworth is headed for the Fox pregame show, with Ronnie Lott moving out to try his hand as a game commentator. Lott will still do some studio work, joining the Bradshaw Gang for big games.

Fox will make those announcements next week.

Collinsworth politely said Thursday he could talk only about Sunday's game, boss' orders.

Collinsworth, who has a law degree from the University of Cincinnati, is known for his dour, blunt approach. So how will he fit in at Fox?

"He'll kill all the happiness on that show," one NBC insider quipped.

Actually, Collinsworth's candor is refreshing and he should fit in well.

As for Gumbel, it seems he is more suited to be a studio host, but it's assumed that Jim Nantz has dibs on that. Nantz, because he stayed at CBS when it lost the NFL four years ago, gets first choice, and it's known he would rather stay close to home in New York than travel.

Simms is a game commentator, through and through.

"If I had to go into the studio, I'd find another way to make a living," Simms said.

The No. 2 CBS team could be the college team of Sean McDonough and Terry Donahue, if Donahue doesn't end up as the Dallas Cowboys' coach. Randy Cross or Jim Kelly could end up with McDonough, but TNT's Pat Haden may have an edge there.

"I don't think CBS is going to want to just move everyone over from NBC," Simms said. "They're going to want their own identity. It's not like four years ago, when Fox started from scratch."

It may help that Haden used to work at CBS.

Paul Maguire's best bet might be ESPN, where he worked USFL games in the mid-1980s.

As for longtime NBC insider Will McDonough, Sean's dad, CBS might try to find a spot for him, but there's also Jim Gray, another former CBS staffer, to think about.

CBS needs about four new play-by-play announcers. Candidates include Verne Lundquist, Charlie Jones and Joel Meyers, who is coming off a good year at NBC.

Then there are broadcasting newcomer Sam Wyche and his pregame partner Joe Gibbs. Gibbs was absent from the pregame festivities here this week, but Wyche was around.

"I'm imminently unemployed," Wyche said. "I'd like to stay in broadcasting, but if it doesn't work out, maybe I'll try dentistry next. I know a few people's mouths I'd like to wire shut."

Of all the NBC guys around the Super Bowl media center this week, the most upset about the network's losing the AFC package to CBS seemed to be Bob Trumpy, who will be part of the pregame show.

"Any way you look at it, it's a sad week," he said. "You can't sugarcoat it. It's heartbreaking."


Although Dick Ebersol, the president of NBC Sports, likes to say Bob Costas is the spirit of the department, if you were to ask the public to name the first NBC announcer to come to mind, that probably would be Dick Enberg.

Enberg's name even popped up on a "Jeopardy" show recently. In the category of "Dick and Jane," the answer was: "A gold-medal figure skater who went on to prominence as a sports broadcaster."

The first contestant's response: "Who is Dick Enberg?"

The image of Enberg on skates drew a pretty good laugh from the audience. Of course, the correct question was: "Who is Dick Button?"

It's important for NBC to hang onto Enberg.

"I looked at my contract, and it says that NBC can either renegotiate or terminate me," he said. "I didn't like that word 'terminate.' "

Enberg said he simply doesn't know what he is going to do, but he would still like to announce pro football. And what about baseball, his first love?

"Someday, I will do baseball again," he said.

It was pointed out the Angels, his former team, have an opening, because Bob Starr is retiring.

Enberg only smiled.

He worked 40 games part-time in 1986 but said that really didn't pan out.

"You still have to keep records every day," he said. "You can't leave two weeks blank. When I went to the Autrys and asked to cut back, their idea was to go the other way."


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