Rump Roast Influential USA Today TV critic Rudy Martzke was the butt of jokes at a dinner in his honor

July 02, 2000

To hear people in sports TV tell it, USA Today columnist Rudy
Martzke is to broadcasters what Nero was to gladiators. "We turn
to page 2 of USA Today, sometimes cringing, to read this man who
holds our careers in his hands," says Vince Cellini of CNN's
Sports Tonight. "Why, I don't know."

While it may be argued that Rudy Martzke is to journalism what
Rudy Ruettiger was to football, there is no denying that his
Sports on TV column has influenced the fate of many a talking
head. "Network executives, every one of them, don't breathe
until they read him in the morning," says CBS college basketball
analyst Billy Packer. "They'll never admit it, though."

On Sunday night in Biloxi, Miss., Cellini, Packer and nearly a
dozen other on-air personalities convened for the first, and
most likely last, Rudy Martzke Celebrity Roast. For 18 years
sportscasters have been graded and degraded and, more than
anything else, badgered by the erstwhile Wisconsin Badger. On
this evening, though, at a $100-a-plate affair, the proceeds of
which were divided among the Mississippi Make-A-Wish Foundation
and other charities, the tables were turned on Martzke. (Note to
Red Buttons: That's one less person who never got a dinner.)

Roast highs and lows:

Information Award
ESPN basketball analyst Jack Ramsay, who met Martzke in the
early 1970s when both were employed by the NBA Buffalo Braves,
provided the roastee's real name: "Bruce Lee Martzke. That's his
name. He's no karate king, though."

Oops Award
CBS NFL Today analyst Randy Cross's saying, "I love when Rudy
calls my house and asks for Irv."

Top (Bottom) Picture
A photo of an au naturel Martzke emerging from the Atlantic surf
that was projected onto two giant screens at opposite ends of
the dais, briefly turning the affair into a rump roast.

Hype Award
Oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, noting that all 13 roasters on the
dais had made the pilgrimage to Biloxi solely "for the
opportunity to do something for charity."

Candor Award
ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso, responding to
Sheridan's claim by saying, "That's bulls---! We're all here
because we're afraid of that little s.o.b. That's the truth."

File This
Cellini's Sports Tonight partner Fred Hickman's telling Martzke,
"When it comes time for you to be considered for the
Sportswriting Hall of Fame, I want you to know you can count on
my vote. Not that it means very much."

Top Observations
1) TNT's and NBC's Craig Sager's noting that in 1993, "Rudy
named me second-best NFL reporter--behind O.J." 2) ABC's Brent
Musburger's pointing out that "the smartest guys I know in the
business--Bob Costas, Al Michaels, John Madden and Chris
Berman--are not here tonight." 3) Fox Sports' Cris
Collinsworth's refuting the notion that Martzke is two-faced:
"If he had another face, don't you think he'd use it?"

Dreaded Glitch
Martzke's rebuttal was a demonstration of the perils of public
speaking. He called Collinsworth a loser, citing the fact that
his mother had omitted an h from his first name. After five
minutes of Martzke's tortured rhetoric, Cross approached the
mike. "Can you appreciate now why this guy's a writer?" Cross
said. "How the hell can he criticize people who talk for a
living?"

Timing Award
Cross, who euthanatized the affair by leading his colleagues off
the dais. The kingpin of sports TV critics should be grateful
that his roast was not televised.

--John Walters

COLOR PHOTO: SEAN LOFTIN All smiles afterward were (from left) Spencer Tillman, Martzke, Tim Brando, Jeff Dahl of host Beau Rivage, Ramsay and Sheridan.

WEBWORDS

"Just before the turn of the millennium, a friend suggested I
seek out my father.... So I called my dad and invited him to our
series in Minnesota. He showed up! It was the first time he'd
seen me play in the Major Leagues in person."
--Mariners shortstop ALEX RODRIGUEZ, on arod.com., describing
his reconciliation with his father, Victor, whom A-Rod hadn't
seen since he was in the fourth grade

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