Aircheck: ABC/Reagan Library, 5/23/1984

In posting this, I’m unsure of two things.

First, I’m assuming ABC aired this interview at some point, though I can’t remember off-hand whether or not ABC News or ABC Sports aired this. Conceivably, either department could have aired the interview – or both could have.

Secondly, could this have been the last time Howard Cosell had the chance to interview Reagan? I don’t know. Cosell was yanked off of ABC television (but stayed on to do his radio work) the following year when his book, I Never Played The Game, was released. Off hand, I’d have to think Howard probably got the chance to interview him in the intervening year – perhaps during that year’s Olympics in Los Angeles.

Their respective styles seem to play well off of each other here. In today’s political climate where anything “Blue” seems to hate everything “Red” that Cosell, who was a staunch Democrat (and bandied the idea of running for Senate in the 70’s) and Reagan were respectful and complimentary of each other.

The Legend Of PPD

Photo by Vlad Kovriga on Pexels.com

Let me share with you one of my personal quirks – which has been happening a lot as of late watching the Tampa Bay Rays get three of their away games rained out in a nine day span.

You know how some sportscasters (Howard Cosell immediately comes to mind) would call a run batted in (RBI) a “ribbie” for short? I do the same thing when a baseball game is postponed due to bad weather or a circumstance makes playing a game impossible.

Back in the era of newspapers and back when they actually had sports anchors on newscasts on the varying local network affiliates, if a game was rained out – it’d often be listed as “PPD” which is sort for postponed. Once when I was a child upon seeing such an acronym – I asked someone, what does “pipped” mean? (For the purposes of this point, I’m pronouncing “pipped” like the basketball player Scottie Pippen – except there’s a “d” on the end as opposed to an “n” there.)

Ever since, when I tell someone a game’s been cancelled, postponed, what have you – I tend to say “pip-ped” for short. Of course, then I have to explain what I mean by that – and that usually takes a while.

Aircheck: ABC-TV, 1/26/1974

I haven’t done one of these “airchecks” in a while. But when I find something that I think is worth sharing – I figure, why not share it with you all?

It should be noted that most of this episode of Wide World Of Sports (a sports anthology ABC used to have in the days before the proliferation of cable TV) was taped on January 23, 1974, for air three days later. (I saw promos on this footage for shows that aired on Sunday – so I’m assuming this aired on Saturday, 1/26/1974.)

This was also back in an era where professional boxing commanded attention. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were a few days away from their second fight on January 28th – but neither man was the reigning champion, fighting for a lesser title instead. George Foreman was the reigning World champ, so this upcoming fight would basically decide who would fight him. Ali lost to Frazier the first time they met in 1971, and Howard Cosell and ABC had arranged for both men to view film footage of that initial bout a few days before their second bout.

Frazier was then the recognized champ, but Ali also had the distinction of never losing his title in the ring – being stripped of the crown for refusing to join the military in 1967, thus the first fight would produce a truly undisputed champion if a winner were found. Both men also went into the ring for that first fight undefeated, but that night produced a Frazier decision victory, benefiting from a 15th round knockdown of Muhammad.

In what always struck me as an odd decision – Ali and Frazier sat by side-by-side. Why not have Howard in between them? I guess it’s easy to say in retrospect, considering what happened as the trio viewed the tenth round of the first fight. The verbal sparring between the two men deteriorated into an actual fight – while they were watching the original fight! Cosell sat there, not moving a muscle, telling the audience, “Well, we’re having a scene, as you can see…”

Ali was probably not as serious, knowing that such an altercation would probably increase interest in the fight to come – a page taken from the stagecraft of professional wrestling, maybe. Frazier seemed decidedly annoyed as the men wrestled to the floor. As Cosell notes in the opening of the footage, the New York State Athletic Commission fined each of the fighters $5,000 – with the prominent broadcaster pointing out that the commission failed to view any of the tapes, which ABC would have allowed them to view. Thus, they made their ruling on hearsay evidence, with Cosell, the former lawyer – pointing that out in spades.

The studio scuffle wound up being more interesting than the fight was a few days later – Ali won a 12-round decision. They’d met again in Manilla, with Ali winning the title away from Foreman later in 1974 – and this time, Ali won by knockout after the 14th round when Frazier’s corner stopped the fight due to fears Joe couldn’t see out of at least one of his eyes. Ali also wanted to quit after that 14th round. Had the referee, Carlos Padilla had the wherewithal to check Ali’s corner – the fight could have wound up a draw, or a rarely seen double TKO, in which case Ali would have retained his championship.

With boxing out of the sporting limelight and television broke down into hundreds of pieces with the proliferation of cable TV – I doubt if the sport ever returns to such prominence. There was a welterweight title fight on ESPN this past weekend between two fighters I’d never heard of. At the weigh-in before the fight, one fighter had the audacity to take a swing at the other fighter, a punch the targeted fighter easily evaded. The incident barely got any media attention outside of ESPN.

Yep, we’re a long way away from 1974.

 

Aircheck: WABC Radio (New York), 7/13/1971

With some added computer hobby time with my newfound exclusion of Facebook, I thought it’d be a good time to bring back the Saturday “Aircheck” feature.

Howard Cosell would have turned 100 on Sunday.

Not too much tape exists of his “Speaking Of Sports” broadcasts that aired several times daily over the ABC radio network. Here is one such clip of the “The Gifted One” the day of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game of that year, famous for Reggie Jackson’s bodacious home run blast that hit Tiger Stadium’s roof.

Aircheck: “Speaking Of Everything”, 3/13/1988

I’d really be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of comedian Jerry Lewis last week at the age of 91. You see, I was born in Largo, Florida on the morning of September 6, 1971, which that year Labor Day. On TV that morning on one of the Tampa Bay area stations was the 1971 Labor Day telethon out of New York. Yes, I looked it up the local TV listings in the St. Pete Times archives one day. Hey, the Google can be a wonderful thing more often than not.

The telethon was its own brand of Jerry’s schmaltz on display for most of the 21 1/2 hours or so they’d occupy on Labor Day, beginning with the previous night. It did bring an iconic moment in 1976 when Lewis had a surprise guest in his former comedic partner of a generation past, Dean Martin. But most years, the telethon consisted of the story line of a chase: for MDA to raise a buck more than they did the year before. Unlike Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Jerry was often successful, barring a bad economy, or a hurricane hitting or threatening a major area in the United States.

Thirty nine years later, it was another day where September 6th was a Labor Day Monday. I just had a feeling about seeing Jerry on TV the night before when the telethon started that this particular showing in 2010 was going to be his last one, and I made a donation. Not a big one, but what can I say? I had to respect someone who did good work as I came into the world. My hunch turned out to be a premonition, as he was replaced before the next Labor Day came around. The Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon went on a few more years, but without Lewis there it just wasn’t and couldn’t be the same.

This video is from Howard Cosell’s short lived syndicated talk program, Speaking of Everything, which was also the name of Howard’s weekend radio show of days gone by where he spoke of things beyond the sports world. If you’ve ever wondered if Howard and Jerry talked to each other, here’s some documentation of that.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

 

By Authority Of The NFL

miketirico
ESPN turned NBC sportscaster Mike Tirico…

I’ve never been a big fan of Mike Tirico’s work, but I have to admit that a recent decision by the NFL regarding who broadcasts their games gave the Syracuse grad a lot of garden hose up his keister, without benefit of lubricant.

CBS and NBC are splitting the series of Thursday night games this season and next. CBS will simulcast the first five games with the NFL Network, then do three games on NFLN. The second half of the games goes to NBC, three strictly on NFLN, then the remaining five simulcast on NBC. If your local team has a game on NFLN only, it will be simulcast on a local station in your market. Got all of that?

Four months ago, Tirico, who had called Monday night games for ESPN going back to when they received the package from ABC, was hired by the Peacock to spell Al Michaels for the Thursday night games they had the rights to. Al turns 72 in November, and is actually older now than when Howard Cosell was terminated for ABC in 1985 at the age of 67.

It would make sense to lighten Al’s workload right? But no! (The author says in a Cosell impersonation.)  The NFL reportedly vetoed Tirico doing the TNF games with Cris “Turkey Neck” Collinsworth (that’s my nickname for him anyways, been calling him that since he was a Florida Gator back in the early 1980’s), and thus wants Brother Al doing the whole kit and caboodle, citing that CBS uses their “A” team of Jim Nantz (57 years old) and Phil Simms for their package.

Just one of those “jerky” things the NFL does, I guess. No wonder why some fans think they’ve become the “evil empire” these days.

Conflict Of Interest At Wimbledon?

Yesterday, I watched the men’s final of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, with Andy Murray once again reigning supreme as he did in 2013. This time, Milos Raonic of Canada was the victim in straight but tough sets, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6.

In the pre-match coverage, ESPN made note of the fact that John McEnroe was a “grass court consultant” of the Canadian player as well as a match commentator. While he didn’t commentate on Raonic’s semifinal win over Roger Federer, he did sit in the ESPN booth and gave analysis in the Murray-Raonic final.

Don’t get me wrong. As an at least 75% Irish-American, I admired McEnroe as a player. He often argued with the stuffy “old boy network” that ran tennis back in the 1980’s, famously commenting on a call that didn’t go his way in 1981 at Wimbledon: “You cannot be serious!

McEnroe’s done well in his post playing days as a commentator, and has called several Grand Slam matches over the years for US networks and others worldwide. But all that time, he’s never been in the position (that I can remember) where he was both a commentator and a consultant for a player he’s commentating on.

ESPN didn’t have a problem with McEnroe serving both masters, but I think they blundered in doing so. With all the coverage and commentators they had on the payroll, I think the best thing to have done was to have John’s brother Patrick McEnroe serve as the sole analyst to Chris Fowler, or bring another analyst in to supplement the pair.

John Madden was a great NFL coach, but he was never a coach and a commentator at the same time. I don’t think it’s the best ethics to let experts also serve as coaches or consultants. Somewhere, Howard Cosell turns again in his grave.