Baseball has not been very, very good to CBS
Poor CBS. Last year—the first of its four-year, $1.06 billion contract with the major leagues—the network lost more than $100 million on its baseball coverage. Ratings and advertising rates for its game-of-the-week telecasts were poor, and when the time came to reap the benefits of the postseason, CBS wound up having only 14 league championship and World Series games to broadcast instead of the 21 it would have had if the three series had gone the distance.
The way their luck is running, the folks at Black Rock can probably expect three sweeps in this year's postseason. None of the teams leading the four divisions as of Sunday—the Atlanta Braves, the Minnesota Twins, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Toronto Blue Jays—represent big-market cities, at least as far as U.S. television is concerned. One indication of the Blue Jays' lack of appeal below the border is that they are last in the American League in road attendance. Noting that the Braves are locked in a tight National League West race with the megamarket Los Angeles Dodgers and that the Blue Jays aren't home free in the American League East, CBS Sports vice-president Jay Rosenstein says, "It's not something we can control, but it would be naive to think that there aren't some people here who are rooting for the Dodgers and anybody but the Blue Jays."
September 22, 1991
While many of CBS's woes are beyond its control, the network has only itself to blame for its haphazard scheduling of games—CBS seems to stand for Covers Baseball Sporadically—and its failure to promote its telecasts, and baseball in general, as well as NBC did. For example, the 8:30 p.m. (EDT) weekday league championship series games will have no pre-game shows this year because CBS has chosen to air its commercial-rich 8:00 p.m. shows.
Last Saturday, CBS finally had its first compelling game of the season, Los Angeles at Atlanta (page 22). So what happened? A first-inning rain delay prompted the network to go to the backup game, Oakland at Toronto. That game turned out to be a 6-0 snoozer, and the Braves-Dodgers, which resumed after a one-hour-and-19-minute delay, was an 11-inning thriller. Yet CBS went back to full coverage of the Braves-Dodgers game only for its Atlanta affiliate.
The general impression among baseball fans is that CBS just doesn't care. But baseball doesn't seem to care either. Whereas the NFL and the NBA work in concert with their networks, baseball puts all sorts of restrictions on CBS. For instance, don't look for the big Dodgers-Braves game this Saturday on CBS. Seems the network has already used up its baseball-imposed quota of Dodger games.
The Europeans didn't seem up to par in Paree
"I'm not spying."
Those were Mark Calcavecchia's reassuring words to Europe's pro golfers at last week's Lanc‚Äö√†√∂¬¨•me Trophy tournament in St. Nom la Breteche, a suburb of Paris. With less than a fortnight to go before Calcavecchia and his American teammates take on a dozen of the best golfers from Europe and Britain in the biennial Ryder Cup, at Kiawah Island, S.C., Calcavecchia was the only member of the U.S. team to tune up alongside the Europeans. The entire European team was in Paris, while most of the American team was in the U.S., not playing in the Hardee's Classic in Coal Valley, Ill.
Well, Calcavecchia may not have been spying, but I was. And the Americans can rest easy.
The Europeans may have blundered badly by playing in Paris. Quelles distractions! The spectators at St. Nom la Breteche rarely ventured from the posh tented village behind the 18th green. Everywhere one turned, a tray of hors d'oeuvres was provided, a glass of champagne was offered. The ambiance was more that of a fashion show than of a golf tournament—linen napkins, spotless silver, plates of spinach-wrapped escargots, jazz pianists. A week in Paris can only dull a golfer's competitive edge. The Americans were better off preparing in their own individualistic ways.
French fans did little to inspire the European golfers. The French are not represented on the Ryder Cup team, and they seem to be immune from the Ryder Cup fever that grips most of Europe. The mischievous Scot, Sam Torrance, smacked a superb drive on Friday, and after hearing nothing from the gallery—not even a "Tu l'homme!" (You the man!)—he waved and shouted cheerily, "Merci!" The 25,000 spectators next week at Kiawah are bound to be more demonstrative and more partisan.
There are other significant indications of European torpor: Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer have not been playing their best of late, Josè-María Olazàbal admits that he has "not had the same will to play" since his one-stroke loss at the Masters, and the European golf writers covering the Lanc‚Äö√†√∂¬¨•me tournament offered fretful analyses full of foreboding. Nick Faldo remained optimistic, though: "I'm not worried about what the Ryder Cup team is doing here. The adrenaline will start flowing when we get there."
But can one recover quickly from a week in Paris, where the wine flows faster than the adrenaline? I think not. The prediction here is that the Ryder Cup will return to U.S. hands after six years abroad.
Ex-champ Mark Breland retires from the ring
Mark Breland was a Golden Gloves champion at 17. He was tall and handsome, and people sought him out. They flocked to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association in Brooklyn to watch him train. If they were training too, they would stand before the mirror the way he did, twisting their heads from side to side and shaking the stiffness from their arms.
Breland is now 28, and no one imitates him anymore. It has been seven years since the remarkable spring and summer of 1984, when he won his record fifth New York Golden Gloves championship and then, in Los Angeles, the Olympic welterweight gold medal. His Olympic victory represented not so much a championship as the coronation of the next "greatest fighter of his time."
But Breland never became that fighter. Last Friday night, on an undercard in Sacramento, Jorge Vaca of Mexico knocked out Breland in the sixth round of their junior middleweight bout, pummeling him with a series of 26 unanswered blows in the final round. After the fight, Breland announced that he was retiring from boxing. "It's over now," Breland said. "Don't feel sorry for me."
Breland fought 34 times as a professional, winning 30, losing three and drawing one. Besides losing to Vaca, he was knocked out by Marlon Starling and Aaron Davis, both underdogs. Although he won the WBA welterweight title twice, the losses to Starling and Davis branded Breland as a man who, when tested, would cave in. A couple of months ago, Breland's trainer, Emanuel Steward, said of his pupil, "Something is missing."
What Breland was missing was a need to fight. "There's nothing for him to fight against," says Carol Griffin, who taught Breland social studies and who still receives calls from him on Mother's Day. "His family is a truly nice family that cared. He has parents who struggled and worked to give six kids what they could. He's not angry at the world."
Nothing could remake Breland's past and fill him with the compelling rage that fight fans sensed was not within him. For most of his professional career, Breland heard boos from the spectators, primarily because he left lesser fighters standing. "They want from me what they can't have," Breland says of the people whose ardor had turned to disdain. "Greatness."
Plugs on Plugs
British jockeys may be able to rent out space on their pants
Racing purists can buck and snort all they want, but the notion of jockeys wearing advertising, rejected so far by tracks in the U.S., could soon become a reality in Great Britain. The Jockey Club, the sport's governing body in Britain, can still say neigh, but backers of the idea say they hope to see British jockeys displaying advertising logos on the legs of their breeches by early next year.
According to Peter Scudamore, one of Britain's top jockeys, copresident of the Jockeys' Association and a sponsor of the proposal, "The Jockey Club has stressed the need for racing to generate more money within the industry, and this seems an obvious way of achieving that goal." The association's plan calls for some of the profits to be divided among members of the group, but much of the money would be used to finance track improvements and educational programs for jockeys.
If this idea can catch on in stolid old England, how long will it be before it appears in the colonies? Gary Nutting, a writer for The Sporting Life, a British turf newspaper, says, "To be honest with you, it rather seems like something that would have been done in the States by now." With attendance at U.S. tracks dwindling, it may not be long before jockeys in the U.S. start wearing ads for Jockey underwear on their jockey outerwear.
[Thumb Up]To retired Boston Bruin defenseman Gord Kluzak, who, after studying off and on at Salem (Mass.) State for the last few years, begins classes this week as a sophomore at Harvard. The 27-year-old Kluzak, whose playing career was shortened by knee injuries, will take courses in French, math, expository writing and government—and will also help coach the Crimson hockey team.
[Thumb Up]To Doug Williams, the former Washington Redskins quarterback who is now the athletic director and football coach at Pointe Coupee Central High School in New Roads, La., for personally paying the hospitalization insurance fees for his players whose families cannot afford the $97 premiums.
[Thumb Down]To Cincinnati Reds pitcher Norm Charlton, for hitting the Los Angeles Dodgers' Mike Scioscia with a pitch because he thought Scioscia was trying to steal the Reds' signs, a charge Scioscia denied. Afterward, Charlton showed little remorse. "I threw at him," he said. "I hit him on the arm, but I didn't mean to hit him on the arm. He'll be lucky if I don't rip his head off the next time I'm pitching."
THEY SAID IT
Willie Wilson, Oakland A's outfielder, when told that the A's would be flying to Toronto on a commercial flight rather than on a charter: "You mean we got to go with people?"
Jim Ferree, Senior PGA golfer: "Fifty percent of the fairways we play on today are better than 90 percent of the greens we played on 30 years ago."
Making a List
Steve DeBerg, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, has played 15 NFL seasons, more than any other active quarterback. In that time, he has taken his share of hits, so we asked him to recall the 10 hardest. Here they are, with his comments about each.
1 through 5. I can't remember.
6. Free safety Vencie Glenn, San Diego Chargers, 1989. It was an all-out blitz on third down, and the pass fell incomplete. He came right up the gut, and his helmet hit me under my chin. He took me off my feet. I was knocked out for about 20 seconds, and later I had to have 13 stitches, but I didn't miss a snap.
7. Defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1979. Lee Roy squared up on me. The first thing that hit the ground was the back of my head. I was blind in my left eye for more than a half hour—and I didn't even know it. I went to the team doctor and he held up two fingers. I couldn't see the left sides of the fingers—the side Selmon had come from. I sat on the bench for a quarter.
8. Defensive end Fred Dean, Chargers, 1980 preseason game. The coach called a rollout on first down. Well, I thought Dean was split out too far to be blocked, so I audibled. On second down, he called the same rollout, and I audibled again. Finally, on third down he called the rollout again. So I said to myself, He obviously thinks we can block Dean. Wrong. I came off the field, and all I could do was whisper. I had to wear a voice box for six games. There was an off-on switch on my face mask, and sometimes I'd forget to turn it off. I'd call the play in the huddle, and the whole stadium would hear it.
9. Linebacker Charles Haley, San Francisco 49ers, 1986. Somehow during the hit I got a puncture wound on my right elbow. Blood was squirting everywhere. The cut must have been caused by a screw on Haley's helmet. Of course, my mom thinks he had a weapon with him—like he'd be carrying a screwdriver. You know mothers, they're convinced there's a conspiracy to get their sons. Anyway, I wound up throwing seven interceptions.
10. Defensive end Jacob Green, Seattle Seahawks, 1983. Green came in from the right and drove me into the turf. He was standing over me, taunting me, yelling at me, telling me that I was a big baby and a sissy. No way was I going to let him run me off the field. They had called pass interference on the play, and the ball was on the one. We made the touchdown on the second try. I came to the sideline and told the doctors that there was a problem. That's when I found out that my clavicle was sticking straight up.
Athletes of Iron
In a recent survey of professional dry cleaners (amateurs were excluded), Joe Montana and Chris Evert were voted the best-pressed athletes. John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova were selected as the worst-pressed. None of them, however, fold under pressure.
Replay 20 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
The multitalented Maury Wills appeared on our Sept. 27, 1971, cover after his Dodgers pulled to within one game of the Giants. One of the FACES IN THE CROWD in that issue was Walter Ray (Deadeye) Williams, 11, the youngest winner ever of the National Junior Horseshoe Pitching championship. Deadeye's prowess at flinging projectiles would be demonstrated anew in 1986, when he was named the Professional Bowlers Association's Bowler of the Year.