In a little-publicized 1983 federal government study, 100 laboratory rats were exposed to four hours of sports television a day for six consecutive weeks. Half of the rats died by the end of the experimental period. The other half were assigned to daily newspapers as sports television critics.
As one of the survivors, I am proud to report the following recent developments in the up-and-down world of sports broadcasting: For the Protection of Society as a Whole, All Tapes of This Program Were Destroyed Immediately After It Aired: ESPN yesterday aired the "Computerland Corporate Sports Battle" -- 17 companies (including Arthur Andersen & Co. of Washington, D.C.) vying for athletic supremacy. The telecast featured corporate executives participating in several events, including volleyball, basketball, tug of war and a "dress for success" swimming relay.
But I'm Not So Nostalgic That I Miss Phyllis George, Too: Call me a corny, wide-eyed sentimentalist, but I sort of miss the Punt, Pass and Kick competitions that used to be televised at halftime of NFL games.
Sure, the Guy Said Hextall Would Score 'Someday,' but He Didn't Say It Would Happen Tonight: Here is the amazingly prophetic play-by-play call Fred Cusick of Boston's WSBK-TV made Dec. 8 as the Flyers' Ron Hextall, against the Bruins, became only the second NHL goaltender to score a goal: "1:28 left, and Hextall able to clear it out. Boy, he could score a goal someday in a situation like this. Hextall is so strong in clearing. Trapped it. Here he goes bidding for one. Here's the clear. Here it is. He scores!! Hextall scored a goal on the empty net!!"
Now, These Fellows Don't Know Who's Going to Score Until After It Happens, but They're Pretty Good, Anyway: The addition of Charlie Slowes to Bullets radio broadcasts -- he's in his second season -- gives this area one of its strongest set of professional sports play-by-play announcers in recent memory. The quality voices include Mike Fornes (Capitals TV), Jon Miller (Orioles radio), Mel Proctor (Orioles and Bullets TV) and Frank Herzog (Redskins radio).
It Kind of Makes You Wish Chamberlain and Russell Were Out There Jumping Center: Veteran Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn and veteran Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most will share play-by-play duties for ABC's broadcast of the Feb. 7 NBA All-Star Game.
Maybe ABC and NBC Should Rethink Their Golf Coverage (Part I): Golf Digest recently surveyed its readers on TV golf coverage, and 18,000 people responded. CBS was by far the network of choice among viewers (62.5 percent), followed by ESPN (17.5 percent), ABC (11.5) and NBC (8.5). When readers were asked which network never should cover golf again, ABC (40.8 percent) and NBC (38) were the big losers.
Maybe ABC and NBC Should Rethink Their Golf Coverage (Part II): In the Golf Digest poll, CBS' Pat Summerall (30.8 percent) edged CBS' Gary McCord (25) for best TV golf commentator. ABC's Jim McKay (29.0 percent) and NBC's Vin Scully (14) received the most votes as worst TV golf commentator. Best TV golf analyst: CBS' Ken Venturi (50.7). Worst TV golf analysts: ESPN's Bruce Devlin (33.2) and ABC's Dave Marr (30.8). And those responding apparently abhor Brent Musburger's once-a-year appearance on CBS' Masters coverage; he got nearly half of the total votes for worst special commentator.
Here's One Sportscaster Who Understands the Real Business of Sports: In the final minutes of ABC's Dec. 14 "Monday Night Football" telecast, with the 49ers leading the Bears, 41-0, play-by-play broadcaster Al Michaels offered: "There is some drama in this one -- if you bet the overs and unders. It's 45."
It's a Far Cry From Edward R. Murrow, but It's Fairly Enjoyable, Anyway (Part I): WUSA-TV-9 sportscaster Glenn Brenner, creator of the Tuesday "Weenie of the Week," has added "Encore Wednesday" -- a weekly look back at some interesting or significant highlights from the past. "We have all this good tape laying around. Why use it just once?" he said. "So we've got guys in the archives now for months at a time. We just keep slipping them food under the door."
It's a Far Cry From Edward R. Murrow, but It's Fairly Enjoyable, Anyway (Part II): WTTG-TV-5 sportscaster Steve Buckhantz keeps tabs on the Calgary Flames' Hakan Loob with a "Hakan Watch" during which he updates viewers on the right wing's scoring production after each game. Buckhantz does it because Loob has "hands down the greatest name in professional hockey and one of the greatest names in all of sports."
If ABC Would Like to Counterpunch, We Can Be Reached at The Washington Post Sports Department at 202-334-7350: The newest breeding ground for network sportscasters apparently is The Boston Globe. Lesley Visser, whose husband is CBS sportscaster Dick Stockton, recently became The Globe's third sportswriter to make broadcasting a hobby when CBS hired her. Will McDonough also works at CBS and Bud Collins works at NBC.
If a Man Comes to Your Front Door, Rings the Bell, Identifies Himself as ABC/ESPN Analyst Dick Vitale and Asks If He Can Come In for a Bit to Talk College Basketball While the Game's on the TV . . . Don't let him in.