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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

June 03, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "Of Mikes and Men: Broadcast Tales From the Pro Football Booth," by Curt Smith

Publisher: Diamond Communications

Price: $24.95

Curt Smith, who used to work in the White House as a speech writer for Ronald Reagan and George Bush, has a real passion for sports broadcasting. This is his seventh book, and his previous best-known work was "Voices of the Game," which dealt with baseball announcers.

For "Of Mikes and Men," Smith, a tireless worker, interviewed more than 75 announcers who work or have worked on pro football. This is a history of the NFL on television, as well as a history of the NFL, in the words of the announcers Smith interviewed.

There are well-known moments recounted in the book, such as the 1968 "Heidi" game, in which NBC cut away from an Oakland Raider-New York Jet game and missed the Raiders scoring twice to win the game.

But there are also many nuggets that even someone who has covered the TV-radio sports beat for 25 years wouldn't know about.

James Brown, the always humble and self-effacing Fox studio host, tells one on himself when he and Dan Jiggetts were doing a Tampa Bay-Atlanta game for CBS. "This was an historic first--the first regular all-black NFL announcing team," Brown says. "We'd kid people, 'Historic, yeah--the first all-Harvard team.' " Both are Harvard graduates.

Anyway, Brown notes, "On one play, Falcon quarterback Steve DeBerg dropped back, and I say, 'He's going to pass, no, he's going to run. He takes off, he's at the 45, the 50, the 55, the 60.' Dan looks at me, like, 'What in the world are you doing?' "

Then, moments later, Brown looks up at the clock, which is malfunctioning, and tells viewers, 'With 8:99 on the clock, we'll be back in a moment.' "

There are plenty of insights into the announcers interviewed. John Madden, generally considered the best football commentator in the business over the past two decades, says, "I don't think I've ever done anything that I'm satisfied with. I've never watched a tape of a game that I've done or listened to a tape, because I can't watch myself and I can't listen to myself. I know there are a lot of people that study tapes of themselves. I never have--and I won't. I mean, have you ever seen a picture of yourself you like? I don't like to look at pictures of myself. You never think you look like that. I don't like to listen to my voice on a radio because I don't think I sound like that."

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