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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

On Second Thought, Packer Plays It Safe

March 27, 1998|LARRY STEWART

Because of all the media requests for interviews during a major event such as the Final Four, the way it usually works in this business is for the network televising the event to put its announcers on a conference call with reporters.

Billy Packer and Jim Nantz, who will call Saturday's semifinals and Monday night's championship game for CBS, did a conference call on Thursday with a couple of dozen reporters.

The first question, asked by the Washington Post's Leonard Shapiro, concerned Packer's quotes in this space last week, where Packer called "60 Minutes," the Emmy Award-winning CBS news show, "a cancer in our organization" because of its negative treatment of his beloved college basketball.

What had set Packer off was a "60 Minutes" segment on the criminal-laden Fresno State program.

Packer's attack only drew a "no comment" from CBS, but the public relations people told Packer to cool it.

So Packer, in response to Shapiro's question, said, "That's a topic for another day."

Packer didn't back off or claim he had been quoted out of context, going out of his way to say the quotes were accurate.

Later in the conference call, Packer was asked about Mike Wallace, who did the "60 Minutes" piece on Fresno State, and the fact that Wallace had attended Fresno State's NIT semifinal loss to Minnesota at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

"My beef isn't with Mike Wallace," Packer said. "He's just doing what he's supposed to do. And I thought Jerry [Tarkanian] was wrong for inviting him to the game and then calling him out and embarrassing him. I'm not changing my stance, but Jerry could have found a better time and place."

Packer was more upset about it than Wallace.

"I had a great time," Wallace said. "It was a great game and we should have won. I mean Fresno State should have won."

Yes, Wallace was rooting for Fresno State, which lost in overtime.

"Jerry invited me to the game without telling me he was going to bust my chops," Wallace said. "But that's OK. After that he was fine and his wife, Lois, was great. What a sweetheart."

Wallace said he also enjoyed talking to some of the Fresno State players and their parents.

As for his pregame conversation with Tarkanian, Wallace said, "He was upset because he claims I told him the piece would be fair. That's not quite what I told him because I think we're always fair. What I actually told him is, he wouldn't be disappointed.

"Well, as I told you last week, I told him that early on before the story developed."

Meanwhile, CBS has added UCLA's Steve Lavin, Valparaiso's Homer Drew and George Washington's Mike Jarvis to its Final Four crew. They'll join Clark Kellogg, Dean Smith and former U.S. senator (1979-96), New York Knick and Princeton All-American Bill Bradley in the CBS studio. Bradley was added earlier in the week.

Question: Why Lavin instead of Jim Harrick, who did a fine job for CBS at last year's Final Four and went farther in this year's tournament than Lavin?

13 FOR CHANNEL 13

Probably no other independent television station in the country puts the kind of effort into a single event than Channel 13 does in televising the Los Angeles Marathon. Sunday's will be the 13th and the station has televised all 12 previous races.

Channel 13, which has won local Emmys for its coverage twice in the last three years, will use 31 camera positions, 12 announcers and five helicopters in covering the race. The coverage will again be anchored by Barry Tompkins and Larry Rawson.

Producer Dave Goetz, who came to Channel 13 in 1991 to do the Clippers, says that because this year's race "has the best field ever," the station will concentrate more on the race itself than in past years during coverage that runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

SHORT WAVES

The Angels open the regular season in their new stadium next Wednesday, but guess what: New flagship station KRLA will be carrying the Mighty Ducks that night. Not a good plan. . . . The Angels this week had to add KIK-FM (94.3) in Anaheim so that their games could be heard in southern Orange County. . . . Fox will televise about 1,400 baseball games this season. That includes about 1,200 on 22 regional cable networks such as Fox Sports West and Fox Sports West 2. Fox Sports Net, which includes Fox West and West 2, will do Thursday games of the week and FX will do Saturday night games. The Fox network doesn't begin doing Saturday games until May 30.

Former KABC sportscaster Eric Tracy has been hired by the One-on-One radio network to do West Coast baseball reports that can be heard daily on AM 1540. He'll also be doing reports for KFWB, his full-time employer. . . . One-on-One's Papa Joe Chevalier will do his show from Anaheim next Wednesday. . . . Doug Collins makes his NBC debut Sunday, joining Bob Costas and Isiah Thomas for San Antonio-Indiana. . . . Baseball's opening-day lineup has the Dodgers on Channel 5 from St. Louis at 1 p.m., an ESPN tripleheader beginning at noon and the Atlanta Braves' opener on TBS.

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