"There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sportscasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable."

NBC newsman Edwin Newman, in his book "Strictly Speaking"

"If there is one adjective that describes the Pittsburgh linebackers, it is opportunism."

NBC's Mike Adamle, on the Super Bowl pregame show

"Fran (Tarkenton) and I talked to a lot of players this week, as did our buddy Mike Adamle, but he also hobnobbed with the hoi polloi -- including the commissioner, Pete Rozelle ...."

NBC's Bryant Gumbel, ibid.

"Hoi polloi -- ordinary people. The general populace. The multitude, masses."

Webster's Third New International Dictionary

"You look at the suppleness of the man, when a guy hits you, and one man downstairs already got a hold, and you're still able to get out of there with your bones intact, you have some ability to handle the situation."

NBC's John Brodie, on the Super Bowl telecast

"Let's not, Curt, let us lull ourselves into the same viewpoint that I'm sure Pittsburgh won't. I've seen Roger Stau-bach come back and beat a team that I was involved with in the last two minutes score 14 points before we even got the ball back. So this baby is far from over."

John Brodie, ibid.

"The hitting on the field has continued at a rapid pace, has left a lot of people layin' on the ground. You wonder if those are cheap shots. No, they're not. The straight shot from Laidlaw to Lambert. I didn't see this one take place, but the hitting down on the field is just a crescendo of noise up here."

NBC's Merlin Olsen, ibid.

"Boy, I have to pinch myself to see if I'm awake. This is the most amazing time I ever been involved in. It is my pleasure to introduce the commissioner of the entire National Football League, Mr. Pete Rozelle, and he's got a very spressel -- uh, special -- presentation to make."

A wide-eyed Mike Adamle, in the Pittsburgh Steelers' dressing room, on the Super Bowl postgame show

"Coach. Congratulations, sir. It's my pleasure to work in the locker room."

A still wide-eyed Mike Adamle, on the rare privilege of interviewing Steeler Coach Chuck Noll after the Super Bowl

From the opening fanfare of the pregame show to Mike Adamle's last "golly-gee-whiz, it sure is a thrill to be here" blabbering in the locker room after the game, NBC's television coverage of Super Bowl 13 was a visual delight and a verbal atrocity.

The camerawork was splendid, the replays well-chosen and revealing. Director Ted Nathanson used his 15 cameras and two production crews flawlessly to show us everything we could reasonably want to know about a memorable game, including the most important moves and collisions that took place away from the ball.

Visually, the game was covered superbly, without distractions from the stands or the clutter of meaningless graphics flashed on the screen.

It was only if one listened to the accompanying commentary that he or she was likely to be confused. Pardon me, but have The Three Stooges been revived?

The once-towering Curt Gowdy, flanked by John Brodie and Merlin Oslen, turned the broadcast booth into a latter-day Tower of Babble.

Brodie, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, was the chief offender. If anyone could ever be accused of oral turpitude, it is he.He is affable, his smile dazzling as he sits like a frog with his mouth open, but surely he must be the most inarticulate man let loose with an open microphone.

Listen to him in midassault on the English language:

After Rocky Bleier of the Steelers caught a touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw: "I am not believing', Curt, the way that Bradshaw not only laid the ball up, but the movement of Bleier to get to the ball. Terry gave him every chance. However, instead of throwin' it just all over the ballpark, he just tried to touch the ball out there. I think it's the biggest improvement in his play over the last couple of years."

At halftime, after Olsen had opined that we were seeing a great football game because both teams had been able to "fight through distractions and keep their concentration intact": "You know, when Merlin says that, in specifics -- the Lynn Swann keeping his poise, the Terry Bradshaw and the Roger Staubach doing the things with all kinds of chaos breakin's loose that it takes a man who is aware of the plan to do. He's done it. Both offenses have done it consistently. The defenses are scramblin, man. And I think next half -- it's the kind of football I love. We expected a highscorin' game only because great offenses on both sides, great defenses got 'em here."

Also at halftime, when asked what strategic changes might be forthcoming: "When you talk about strategy in the second half, you go into the locker room and I'm sure that Staubach isn't concerned. He'll take whatever Landry gives him. But I know Bradshaw wants to define what he's going to do. A couple of things on offense, a couple on defense. I'm sitting in Landry's dressing room, give the ball to Tony Dorsett. He's averaged about 6.7 a carry. And then start throwing it."

If these were isolated examples, aberrations, it would not be fair to cite them. But, appalling as it seems, these verbatim excerpts of Brodie's "analysis" are fairly representative. He seldom utters a grammatical sentence. His syntax is not fractured, it is irreparably, almost surrealistically shattered.

And what of Gowdy, who indisputably was a giant of his industry? He was a boyhood idol of mine, the messenger of the gods of my youth as play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox in the late '50s and early '60s. But he sadly cannot rise to the occasion anymore.

I think he is still competent -- others, I know, disagree -- but certainly he is uninspired. He can no longer remember that Steeler fans wave "Terrible Towels" and not "Dirty Towels." as he called them. He emphasizes the schools players came from, because he doesn't know much more about them than what is written on the flip cards in front of him. It is sad, because he is a sweet man who is tarnishing a sterling reputation earned in better years.

Brodie? Olsen? The ridiculous Mike Adamle? They are not journalists, nor even commentators, but merely former professional football players whose pronouncements are at best forgettable, at worst an attack on our linguistic sensibilities.

They make people who respect the English language long for announcers who glorify rather than debase the spoken word. Or that the futuristic vision of one producer-director, ABC Sports' Chet Forte, eventually comes true. He told The Washington Post's Leonard Shapiro last week that he hopes to televise a football game some day with all the most modern cameras and technical equipment, and no commentators.