CBS-TV responded to objections over the title of its "Pepsi Grand Slam of Tennis" telecasts from Boca Raton, Fla., last weekend with on-air clarification of the term "Grand Slam" as it historically has been applied to tennis.
Pat Summerall, the play-by-play commentator who worked the telecast with U.S. Davis Cup Captain Tony Trabert, noted that the four-man (Jimmy Conners, Bjorn Borg, Vitos Gerulaitis and Brain Gottfried, subbing for the injured Guillermo Vilas) Pepsi event "should not be confused with" the traditional Grand Slam - winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. championships in one year.
Philippe Chatrier, president of the international Tennis Federation, Had cabled CBS Sports President Robert Nussler from Paris three days before the event, charging the title would "mislead the American public and do harm to the credibility of the sport."
CBS officials - confident of their legal ground and pointing out that this was the third year they were carrying the made-for-TV event with the same title - first indicated they would politely ignore Chatrier's cable. But Summerall's explanation came across as an honest effort to be above board with the viewing public.
Perhaps the most telling comment on the affair came from Rep. Lional Van Deerlin (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, which chided CBS in hearings last fall for careless deception of the public in its broadcasts of "Heavyweight Championship of Tennis" challenge matches incorrectly billed as "winner-take-all."
"The thing that appalls me is that it doesn't make a quarter of a point difference in their ratings whether they call it 'Grand Slam' or not," said Van Deerlin, on receipt of a copy of Chatrier's protest. "If they have players like Connors and Borg, the public doesn't care what they call it. So why do they go on pushing the limits like this? I just don't get it."
Van Deerlin's point is borne out by the ratings for CBS's telecasts of the Colgate Grand Prix Masters, Jan. 7-8, and the Pepsi Slam last weekend.
The Masters drew only a poor 3.8 rating (3.8 percent of all TV homes were watching during an average minute) for the Saturday semifinals (portions of Borg vs. Vilas and Connors vs. Gottfried), but received a 10.2 one of the best ratings ever fro tennis - one of the best ratings ever from tennis - for live coverage of Connors' victory over Borg in the final Sunday.
Similarly, the Pepsi Slam got a 5.0 rating Saturday (Connors vs. Gerulaitis, with some taped highlights of Berg vs. Gottfried) and a 10.1 for Sunday's finale, as Berg gained revenge on Connors in another thriller of nearly three hours.
Don Ohlmeyer, executive producer of NBC's "Sports World," which premiered Sunday, on the "fan violence" segment that constituted the first of the weekly "magazine-type" pieces on the new anthology series:
"Basically, we were asking if we're coming to the point in America that they have reached at the soccer World Cup in Argentina, where they will have no alcohol allowed in the stadium and the fans will be seperated from the field by a barbed wire fence, guard dogs, policemen with guns and a moat.
"Interestingly enough, Bowie Kuhn (commissioner of baseball) said, 'No, I don't think we'll ever come to that here,' and Pete Rozelle (commissioner of the National Football League) said, 'If we ever get to the point where we have clear replays on screens in a stadium, and a call was blown in a key game, I might be for the moat concept."
Violence on the field is the subject of a follow-up segment scheduled on "Sports World" at 2:30 Sunday (WRC-TV-4).
While NBC and ABC are thinking up ways to "scoop" each other, the Public Broadcasting Service may also enter the TV "sports magazine" scene. WGBH-TV in Boston, which originates so much of the national sports programming on PBS, is today taping the pilot of a half-hour show conceived as a kind of "60 Minutes" of sports. It is tentatively entitled, not very imaginatively, "Sports Weekly." How about "30 Minutes" instead.