The most exciting sports event I ever saw on television was the eighth game of the Team Canade-Russia hockey series in 1972, when Paul Henderson scored in the final minute to pull it out for Canada. I watched it late at night, half a day after it was actually played, but by keeping TV set and radio silenced earlier I was isolated from the result.
A.J. Foyt's fourth Indianapolis 500 victory could have been exciting, too. Once again I avoided the newscasts that could have spoiled it and flipped on Channel 7 just as "Six Million Dollar Man" was ending.
But wait - here's something called "ABC News Briefs" and, oh, yes, in case you missed it, A.J. Foyt won at Indy and Janet Guthrie didn't finish. And some TV people actually wonder why it's called the boob tube!
Removing the question of victory 30 seconds before the 500 came on the air left only one element of suspense. How many commercials could ABC cram into the two-hour segment? The answer was 43, with some slippage in the last 30 minutes after a 50-flack program seemed possible.
One could only sympathize with Jackie Stewart, appearing moments after "New Briefs" to reveal his personal selection - Mario Andretti. In fact, one could only sympathize with Stewart thoughout the program. There are a lot of complains about jocks replacing professional bradcasters, but Stewart certainly exhibited more professionism than his colleagues Sunday night.
It's a tossup as to the prize for boobery among the announcing conglormerate. The likely winner seems the "Did the heat bother you?" question directed at Gordon Jahncock, who had just jumped into a pond to try to cool off.
But wait - here comes a late challenge. Foyt is in victory lane, his helmet still in place, and there is a mike thrust in his face - well, his visor. "Can you hear us, A.J.?" Well, yes, but it might be easier if I took my helmet off.
And there was poor Janet Guthrie, spending the afternoon in the pits, and the cameras returning to her so often that finally even the sympathetic Stewart had to laugh.
And on a condensed show with 43 commercials, further trimming race time, we are treated to interminable instant replays of a bit stop, a personality sketch of Janet Guthrie in New York City, Stewart's walk around a deserted track. All of these puffs could fill a half-hour prerace show. They have no business intruding on the main event.
In fact, ABC really has no business intruding on the 500, either. Let's get Chris Economaki back on the radio side to tell it like it is, as it happens, with rundowns of the leaders every 20 miles. With ABC, one never knew speeds, or positions behind fifth place, or the stage of the race. And, to be sure, it didn't really matter.