The Washington sportscasting corps has swooped down on this Super Bowl like a huge flock of birds chasing a small trail of crumbs. At last count the capital radio and television personnel on the left coast outnumbered the Redskins and were closing in on the combined forces of NATO. We are beyond media blitz and into media sack.
On radio you can hear Morrie Siegel (WRC), Frank Daly (WTOP), Dave Foxx (WPGC), Greg Mosso (WHUR), Joe Zanger (WASH) and WMAL's contingent of Johnny Holliday, Sam Huff, Frank Herzog, Sonny Jurgensen and Trumbull and Core; Ken Beatrice stayed in town, presumably because he couldn't fit all his decimal points into his luggage and have room for clothing. On television you can see George Michael, Scott Clark and Larry Shainman (Channel 4), Bernie Smilovitz (Channel 5), Tim Brant (Channel 7) and Glenn Brenner, Herzog, Jurgensen and Mike Buchanan (Channel 9).
Since Saturday, when the Redskins beat Dallas, almost every television newscast has led with a Super Bowl story. This reached its zenith Tuesday night when Channel 4 opened with Michael from the Redskins' hotel in Costa Mesa, bumping Ronald Reagan's State of the Union Address down to second spot. Many television newscasts have devoted nearly one-third of their programming to Super Bowl-related stories, ranging from player and coach interviews to feature pieces on charter flights, ticket prices, gambling trends, fans, Hogs T-shirts, the Redskins' band and Pasadena weather. Joe Theismann has already gotten more air time than Ourisman Dodge.
Gold stars go to Siegel on radio and Brenner on television.
Siegel, who covered about a zillion Super Bowls as a newspaper reporter, knows that most news coming out of the Super Bowl is so soft you can sleep on it and has treated it accordingly; he has disdained predictable interviews in favor of pointed commentary. Brenner, who must have graduated with honors from The Perry Como School for the Perpetually Laid-Back, is tailor-made for Southern California. (His tailor, by the way, seems to be Vitas Gerulaitis.) While his humor behind the desk in Washington often seems forced, his live stand-ups this week have been instinctively and attractively jocular; wisely, he has left the jockular to Herzog and Jurgensen.
Before the combined media coverage (including the 91 daily pages of Super Bowl news in this newspaper) renders us comatose for Stupor Sunday, a partial score is in order. Herewith, the television highs and lows. Let's go to the videotape:
Channel 4: Michael was first on the air with the story that two NFL teams had sought permission to talk to the Redskins' assistant head coach, Dan Henning, about their head coaching vacancies. Another plus was putting Art Monk behind a microphone. Monk introduced a piece with Alvin Garrett on Wednesday by saying, "Garrett's become a star basically because I broke my foot." Then, during the interview, Garrett said to Monk, "Hey Art, you're pretty good. Where'd you learn this stuff?"
Good stuff. Michael's style is breathless enthusiasm. It was evident on his Sunday night Sports Final show when he said things like, "Look out, Danny White, here comes a runaway freight train named Dexter Manley"; "This is the 10-yard line. It's a yard line Darryl Grant will remember the rest of his life"; "What a great game. What a great team. " All season Michael has presented excellent video packages of the Redskins; his musical "Dirt Band" pieces have been extraordinary. If the Redskins win the Super Bowl, they ought to make him an honorary Hog.
Channel 5: Smilovitz has had considerably less air time than the others, owing to 5's one hour of news compared to two and 2 1/2 hours for the other stations. His best work came Tuesday night in live interviews with Mark Murphy and the peripatetic Theismann. Murphy offered that "you'll see a better game than you normally would," because this year's Super Bowl will be played just one week after the conference championships, instead of the usual two.
Later, sitting on a couch in a suit and tie a la Johnny Carson, Smilovitz gave Theismann the Bob Hope treatment, thanking him "for stopping by; I know you're busy." With Redskins fans shouting behind him, Smilovitz cracked, "I feel like I'm selling war bonds."
Channel 7: Brant scored big on Wednesday with a smart reaction feature to the death of Bear Bryant. Brant's worthy piece, taped at the Dolphins' practice site with Don Shula and former Alabama players Bob Baumhower and Tony Nathan, made the 6 p.m. news, hours ahead of the other stations. But Brant has been outmanned in California by 4 and 9, and has suffered in comparison.
He is better at hard news than personality journalism. Monday night he giddily announced, "The Dolphins are favored by three. Folks, I'm telling you, bet the ranch on the Redskins." That same night he had a feature on the Redskins' practice site in which he showed pictures of empty classrooms and said, "These rooms you are seeing now exclusively on Channel 7 will be closed to the media later in the week."
Channel 9: Brenner and anchorman Gordon Peterson have been almost flawless. Tuesday afternoon, seeing Brenner in a Dior sweater, no shirt, gold chain, Peterson zinged, "Hope the airline finds your luggage." Wednesday afternoon, with the California sun shining brightly, Brenner opened his segment saying, "Boy, this rain out here is brutal, isn't it?"
Herzog did a good light piece on Manley's desire to be the Super Bowl MVP as reported in The Washington Post, intercutting Manley's exuberance and the understandably nervous reaction of his coaches and teammates. Jurgensen was effective on Xs and Os, but his protectionism toward the Redskins' players showed, especially when he claimed Manley's printed comments were taken out of context. Best sidebar feature: Ron Sarro's local report on Purcellville's Sam Legard, a major league fan who was driving cross-country to give the Redskins his homemade barbecued ribs they so dearly crave.