To hear people in sports TV tell it, USA Today columnist Rudy Martzke is to broadcasters what Nero was to gladiators. "We turn to page 2 of USA Today, sometimes cringing, to read this man who holds our careers in his hands," says Vince Cellini of CNN's Sports Tonight. "Why, I don't know."
While it may be argued that Rudy Martzke is to journalism what Rudy Ruettiger was to football, there is no denying that his Sports on TV column has influenced the fate of many a talking head. "Network executives, every one of them, don't breathe until they read him in the morning," says CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer. "They'll never admit it, though."
On Sunday night in Biloxi, Miss., Cellini, Packer and nearly a dozen other on-air personalities convened for the first, and most likely last, Rudy Martzke Celebrity Roast. For 18 years sportscasters have been graded and degraded and, more than anything else, badgered by the erstwhile Wisconsin Badger. On this evening, though, at a $100-a-plate affair, the proceeds of which were divided among the Mississippi Make-A-Wish Foundation and other charities, the tables were turned on Martzke. (Note to Red Buttons: That's one less person who never got a dinner.)
Roast highs and lows:
ESPN basketball analyst Jack Ramsay, who met Martzke in the early 1970s when both were employed by the NBA Buffalo Braves, provided the roastee's real name: " Bruce Lee Martzke. That's his name. He's no karate king, though."
CBS NFL Today analyst Randy Cross's saying, "I love when Rudy calls my house and asks for Irv."
Top (Bottom) Picture
A photo of an au naturel Martzke emerging from the Atlantic surf that was projected onto two giant screens at opposite ends of the dais, briefly turning the affair into a rump roast.
Oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, noting that all 13 roasters on the dais had made the pilgrimage to Biloxi solely "for the opportunity to do something for charity."
ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso, responding to Sheridan's claim by saying, "That's bulls—-! We're all here because we're afraid of that little s.o.b. That's the truth."
Cellini's Sports Tonight partner Fred Hickman's telling Martzke, "When it comes time for you to be considered for the Sportswriting Hall of Fame, I want you to know you can count on my vote. Not that it means very much."