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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

A Place Where Sports Are Still Special

July 31, 1998|LARRY STEWART

Every day television gives us a heavy dose of what big-time sports have become. We're unfazed when we see Mike Tyson blurt out an expletive in front of TV cameras while trying to convince a boxing commission he can control himself.

Just another day in sports.

A drug scandal in the Tour de France? Not really shocking.

But when you see what's going on with our youth sports, that's when it gets scary.

If you saw Peter Jennings' report on Little League baseball on ABC Thursday night, you saw ill-tempered athletes, coaches who take the winning- is-the-only-thing approach, and out-of-control, abusive parents who have visions of their little Johnny someday signing one of those big contract.

You ask, is there is any sanity left in sports, where athletes compete simply to compete, where winning is simply a residue of trying, where the biggest bonuses are hugs and pats on the back?

The answer is yes. Just check out Fox Sports West Sunday night at 8. What you'll see is a one-hour special on the Southern California Special Olympics' Summer Games, held June 26-28 at UCLA. Bill Macdonald and "Baywatch" star Brooke Burns serve as co-hosts, and the special includes an interview with SCSO chairman Rafer Johnson.

If you need a lift, this show will provide it.

"The achievements of these mentally and physically challenged athletes are extraordinary," Fox Sports West General Manager Kitty Cohen said. "Their stories are inspirational and will touch a special place in your heart."

Dick Van Kirk, president of the Southern California Special Olympics, points out that Fox Sports West has been a major contributor to Special Olympics, having helped raise nearly $1 million in recent years. A golf tournament in June at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake raised about $170,000.

FOOTBALL IS HERE

ABC sent to the media a tape of Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf rehearsing with newcomer Boomer Esiason. The reason: ABC wanted reporters to see just how well these three are going to work together.

The new "Monday Night Football" team makes its debut Saturday at 4 p.m. with the Hall of Fame game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

ESPN2 will televise the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday at 9 a.m., with Mike Tirico and Tom Jackson serving as hosts. ESPN's new three-man announcing team, with Paul Maguire joining Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann, makes its debut with Green Bay-Kansas City from Tokyo on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Recommended viewing: ESPN2's new show, "NFL 2Night," which made its debut this week, is a winner. . . . One of the best sports shows on television is "NFL Films Presents," but the problem in the past was finding it. Stations carried it at odd times. It was usually on Channel 11 Sundays at 7:30 a.m. Now the show has a new home--ESPN and ESPN2. It makes its debut on ESPN2 Aug. 11 and premieres on ESPN Aug. 17. Air times generally will be 10:15 p.m. Mondays on ESPN and 5 p.m. Tuesdays on ESPN2.

JUST THE TICKET

DirecTV launches a major advertising campaign next week for its NFL Sunday Ticket package. The campaign, featuring John Elway, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman and Jerry Rice, includes an offer of more than $200 of free DirecTV programming over a four-month period. The cost of NFL Sunday Ticket is $159.

A plus for Southern Californians is that with no NFL team here, subscribers to NFL Sunday Ticket get every game; there are no blackouts.

OBVIOUS MOVE FOR NBC

It hardly comes as a surprise that NBC is moving Isiah Thomas into its NBA studio, allowing Bob Costas and Doug Collins to work as a two-man team next season. When NBC hired Collins in midseason, the writing was on the wall. Thomas will replace John Salley in the studio.

SHORT WAVES

A massive launch party was held on the 20th Century Fox lot Thursday night for Fox Sports Net's "The Last Word" with Jim Rome. Athletes and entertainment celebrities were among the crowd of more than 1,200. The reason for the party was that, beginning Monday, the show will have a daily segment with a live audience from the Official All-Star Cafe in New York. "The idea is to have an interactive, bicoastal production," said Fox Sports Net executive producer John Terenzio. A similar party was held in New York on Tuesday. . . . "The Big Show," with Steve Mason and John Ireland, will no longer be simulcast on Fox Sports West 2 and XTRA 1150. Thursday's show was the last for Fox Sports West 2. "It was a mutual decision," said XTRA operations manager Bill Pugh. "The show had a good year-and-a-half run on Fox Sports West 2."

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