There are a few things you probably won't be seeing on television anytime soon. You decide which you'll miss most:
* Interviews with Jack Donlan, Ed Garvey and Gene Upshaw on either CBS' "NFL Today," NBC's "NFL '82" and possibly even ABC's "Sportsbeat" (although the last vehicle, piloted by Howard Cosell and so far the only real weekly sports journalism outlet on network television, is more likely to stick with labor issues than assessments of secondary strength).
But despite Cosell, whose strike reporting has been by far the most pointed among the networks, and despite Brent Musburger on CBS, which finally yanked its non-NFL "NFL Today" off the air two weeks ago, the Sunday shows turned out to be ready-made soap boxes for strike-related rhetoric better left to the bargaining table.
"Every week at our meetings, somebody would say--or we all would say -- let's not have Donlan and Garvey parrying on the air again," said Pete Axthelm of "NFL '82. "But then, if you didn't do them one week, they'd show up somewhere else, and somebody'd say, 'Why didn't we get that?' You really couldn't win."
* Interviews such as George Michael's encounter with Dave Butz last Tuesday on WRC-TV-4, wherein Butz concluded his live comments with the casual observation that the newly ballyhooed NFL settlement would probably be voted down by the player reps.
"I watched a tape of it later," said Michael, who reacted first by pleading on the air for more time and then asking Butz just what he meant. Butz then repeated himself, but allowed as how the agreement probably would be eventually ratified. "Before the tape even started, I knew I was going to see myself caught there with my mouth wide open, and that's just what happened," Michael said.
"If I had known he was going to say it, I would've led the show with it."
The night before, Michael also raised some eyebrows when he reported at 11 that a source had assured him there would be no settlement. This followed NBC network reports to the contrary, of course, during which Tom Brokaw even gave this weekend's schedule of games.
Michael's strike coverage has been the most complete in the city (although Channel 9's writing and producing has had a definite edge, particularly anything touched by Frank Herzog). Michael stands by his Monday report, though.
"When you are positive in your own mind, and everybody else is telling you you're wrong, you just have to go and do what you do," Michael said. "I knew this source would not lie to me."
* Alternative programming. Division III football, Canadian football, tennis, billiards competitions, scheduled (and rescheduled) college basketball games and similar substitutes earned CBS a 6.5 and NBC a 4.4 average rating over the eight-Sunday duration. Based on ratings of 12 to 17 last year, CBS had been ready to charge advertisers $120,000 for 30 seconds on a Sunday afternoon; that dwindled to $40,000. ABC's price for 30 seconds of time on "Monday Night Football" -- $150,000 and up -- dropped to about $90,000 during its Monday night venture into Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds movies.
Network financial executives are now scrambling to balance the raw costs of the strike -- the price of alternative programming itself, of lost or deferred advertising revenue and of less easily defined shifts in viewership -- with the profits realized from reduced NFL rights payments. For programming executives, however, life is about to become much simpler.
"It means I can now start spending my Sundays in the NFL studio rather than with my family," said CBS Sports President Neal Pilson, who laughed, then groaned.
"I would dearly love to go 30 minutes without mentioning the strike," said Musburger of this Sunday's show. "I would like to cover the tournament format, the schedule, what coaches think, but . . .I want to return to the game, the competition. I don't think the fan wants to hear what the players and owners want anymore. I will raise all kinds of hell if they suggest that we put Garvey, Donlan, Upshaw or any of those guys on the air."