If the peacock is as proud as NBC has insisted throughout the first five games of the 1980 World Series, it also is vain.
Networks and peacocks just naturally strut their stuff.
It was along about the sixth inning of Saturday's game and Tony Kubek just couldn't contain himself anymore. "We're not being self-serving," he began self-servingly. "But we've got to compliment our guys. They've been giving us great pictures here."
One waited in vain for the logical rejoinder: "Beautifully said, Tony."
The irony of all this is that NBC, making its 32nd appearance in the World Series, has a right to be proud of its coverage. Now, if it only realized that it doesn't have to tell us how good it is.
But networks are, by definition, insecure, one might even say defensive, institutions. When a slight controversy developed during Friday night's game and before Saturday's about the placement of a camera on the field, Jolting Joe Garagiola turned to umpire in residence Ron Luciano and prompted: "Now, Ron, talk real slow like all umpires do and tell us whose camera it is."
Slightly embarrassed, Luciano replied, "It's not NBC's. It's somebody else's."
It's the Phillies," said Garagiola, triumphant.
There are no words to describe Garagiola, a man for whom no amount of words is sufficient. Joe just keeps them coming. The only thing that seems to inhibit him is a home run. At least, he lets the hitter circle the bases in peace and quiet.
Garagiola's gift of gab makes it all the more difficult for Kubek and his sidekick, Tom Seaver, to get a word inedgewise. They may not be Billy Martin and Jim Palmer, ABC's answer to Burns and Allen, but they do have something to say.
Kubek actually works at his job. He attended the National League playoffs, even though he wasn't covering them. He also has displayed a sensitivity uncharacteristic of television journalism. At the start of Sunday's game, when Willie Mays Aikens was introduced, Kubek said, "This is a touching story. Willie has a speech impediment, a stutter, you might have heard it. This really has helped him come out, getting a lot of interviews."
Kubek is not as sensitive when it comes to criticizing ball players. He got on Larry Bowa for "evading a play" at shortstop, and on Willie Wilson for his failure to throw a man out at the plate. And when K.C. pitcher Rich Gale threw to first with the bases loaded in Game 3, Kubek said, "He just pulled a rock." Fine. But, later, Kubek felt moved to apologize to Gale, his inexperience and all. Seaver was more emphatic. "Without a doubt, he should have been going home," Seaver said. "There was no other play."
The most noticeable lapse occurred in Sunday's game, when first baseman Aikens evaded Del Unser's double down the right field line, allowing the Phillies to tie the game. Aikens waved at the ball like a traffic cop, directing it into the right field corner. There was not one mention in the booth of his statuesque posture on the play.
Seavers knows his pitchers. Before the second game in Philadelphia, he conferred with former teammate Tug McGraw as to the condition of his arm. h"Give me thumbs up or down late in the game," Seaver said. "I'll try to catch your eye," Tug replied.
But Seaver was more on the ball than connections. When the shadows began creeping across the diamond in Game 4, making it difficult for the batters to see, Seaver said, "Leonard must try to keep the ball down. It's easier to hit it up high in the shadows."
Manny Trillo then doubled on a high, breaking ball and Seaver added, "Leonard's thrown 75 pitches, which is a terrific number for seven innings."
The only regret about Tom Terrific is that he hasn't been more outspoken.
NBC has made its reputation in baseball on the strength of its technical expertise and on the experience of Harry Coyle, directing his 32nd World Series broadcast. Coyle and his camera have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. When Mike Chmidt, lined a single off George Brett's glove in the top of the ninth Sunday, the camera lingered on Brett sprawled in the dirt, the ball and the game dribbling away from him.
In the bottom of the ninth, when McRae's long foul finally hooked, the camera found McGraw, as he patted his heart in a reliever's gesture of exquisite relief.
When Bake McBride caught (trapped?) Hal McRae's drive against the right field foul wall, there were replays and rewinds of replays. Kubek insisted the ball had been trapped; Garagiola thought, "Replays can fool you." Kubek said, "Replays lie."
Coyle has made his reputation as one of the best by not fooling around too much, by remembering that the game's the thing. The new inset picture technique, showing the runner at third base in the lower left hand part of the screen, and the flight of the ball in the rest has added immeasurably to television's ability to focus on the many things that go on simutaneously on a baseball field.
NBC brought one peacock, $5.5 million in equipment, a production crew of 115 people and approximately the same number of wives to this World Series. We have met Mrs. Fred Sivlerman, Mrs. Bowie Kuhn, Mrs. Dan Quisenberry, Mrs. Tug McGraw and Willie Mays Aiken's mother. The only wife Merle Harmon has not introduced us to is Mrs. George Brett, and that's only because he hasn't met her yet.
No doubt about it, Joe, that would be a beautiful shot.