Norv Turner has plenty to be concerned about in the final days of preparation for the start of his sixth season as the Redskins' head coach, not the least of which is his long-term job security. Maybe that's why no local television station has offered him the chance to do a coach's show.
Turner has appeared on his own weekly show hosted by Channel 7 sports anchor Rene Knott on WJLA-TV for the last five years, earning $150,000 last season to do a show that never did have a permanent date and time. The station was prepared to do it again, until Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder decided to shift the team's four preseason games to Channel 4 for the next three years.
"The show is dead in the water and I certainly don't see it reviving at Channel 7," said WJLA sports executive producer Rich Daniel. "If it goes somewhere else, I'd be very surprised."
It is certainly not going to Channel 4, now the so-called "official" station of the Redskins, even if the NBC-owned-and-operated station will only air the four preseason games. NBC no longer carries the NFL under terms of the league's TV contract, and likely will be out of the NFL picture for at least another six years when the current pact expires.
Turner will appear with sports anchor George Michael in the 5 o'clock segment of Channel 4's news on Mondays, but his fee will be a fraction of his earnings at Channel 7. At the moment, that will be his only scheduled appearance to talk about the team on a regular basis, though Turner will still be available for interviews by all the stations.
There has been some talk that Channel 20, trying to upgrade its sports inventory, might be interested in a Turner show, but station general manager John Long said that is not the case. Long said he has had several preliminary talks with the team about some Redskins programming, including a children's show, "but I don't think anything is going to happen right away. Maybe next season."
There are several reasons for the decided lack of interest in a Turner show. Though Channel 7 did its very best to put some pizzazz in the production, like most shows in the genre, it was hardly must-see TV. The shows also are not great moneymakers for anyone save for the head coach. And Snyder's win-or-else philosophy would not preclude a coaching change if the Redskins got off to another dreadful start. "Who wants to get involved with that kind of show in his situation," one local broadcasting executive said this week.
Turner also will not be doing a regular coach's show on WJFK, the tam's flagship radio station this year, a gig that earned him about $75,000 last season.
Turner declined to comment on his broadcasting possibilities, saying "it's something I'm not even thinking about."
ESPN's SportsCentury series of 30-minute profiles on the top 50 athletes of the 20th century is winding down to the final 20, and it appears as if Sugar Ray Leonard, an Olympic gold medalist and longtime world champion boxer from Palmer Park, will not make the list.
ESPN picked a top 100, releasing Nos. 51-100 before the 30-minute shows started airing this year. Leonard was not among those names, and only one boxer so far has been in the top 50, Sugar Ray Robinson at No. 24. Rocky Marciano was 51 and Jack Dempsey 52. Two top 20 shoo-ins are Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, but Leonard will not be included.
Viewers also haven't seen Leonard interviewed on camera about his career or about any other boxer. That's because Leonard's business manager, Los Angeles-based Bjorn Redney, informed coordinating producer Mark Shapiro that unless ESPN guaranteed in writing that only Ali would be ranked ahead of Leonard among boxers, Leonard would not make himself available for an interview.
"It's absolutely the strangest thing, and I know it's not Sugar Ray," said Shapiro, adding Redney told him Leonard would not accept being ranked lower than any women's tennis player. "I couldn't believe it."
Leonard, who is under contract to the ESPN-owned Classic Sports network, was not left out of the top 100 athletes selected because he would not agree to be interviewed. The list -- selected by a panel of journalists, broadcasters and sports executives -- was compiled before taping even began, according to ESPN.
Redney insisted he made no demands of ESPN or Shapiro, and that Leonard's non-appearance mostly had to do with what he described as "a personality clash" with Shapiro.
"They asked us to do it, we said he'd love to do it," Redney said. "But in a subsequent conversation with someone at ESPN [he would not name], I was made aware of how some athletes were being placed based on their accessibility. I called Mr. Shapiro and told him I didn't believe what I was hearing was true. He exploded over the telephone, used profane language and hung up."
Shapiro (no relation), a whiz-kid producer of what has been some extraordinary programming, said he was definitely not happy when Leonard's representative canceled a shoot 13 hours before Leonard was scheduled to be interviewed. A camera crew and producer flew across the country and came back empty-handed, with a loss of about $8,000.
But he said he simply refused to give Redney, or anyone else, any assurances of where Leonard would be on the list. Not a single athlete among the total of 1,200-plus interviews conducted had made a similar demand.
So far, even usually reluctant interview subjects such as Sandy Koufax and Ted Williams have agreed to appear on camera. Leonard and Boston Celtics great Bill Russell are the only two who have declined, and Shapiro said Russell is reconsidering.