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A GOLDEN BOY GETS AXED
William Taaffe
July 13, 1987
Jim Lampley has done his last telecast for ABC
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July 13, 1987

A Golden Boy Gets Axed

Jim Lampley has done his last telecast for ABC

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? Jim Lampley, who as recently as 1985 was considered Jim McKay's heir apparent at ABC, has worked his last telecast for the network. Lampley had become the No. 1 cur in sports president Dennis Swanson's doghouse. In a meeting that apparently didn't clear the air last week, Swanson agreed to pay Lampley for the 18 months remaining on his $700,000-a-year contract and to allow him to hunt for another job immediately.

Lampley joined ABC in 1974 and quickly became a golden boy. But after taking charge last year, Swanson removed Lampley as host of Wide World of Sports and limited his exposure primarily to auto racing, boxing and the college football scoreboard show. Swanson considered Lampley a solid reporter but felt he was not a good-enough schmoozer with the audience. The ultimate insult, however, came during the spring, when Swanson told Lampley that he considered him a "cold disseminator of information."

?With apologies to Pat Cash, whose victory climb into the gallery was the most memorable sports TV celebration of the year, Bud Collins was the matinee idol of NBC's Wimbledon coverage. Collins reined himself in to the point where he didn't once mention his legendary Uncle Studley. And his points about Ivan Lendl appearing to be dazzled by Cash, about Lendl serving too often to Cash's backhand and not being able to chip forehands at Cash's toenails neatly summed up the day.

NBC double-faulted, though, after the Martina Navratilova- Steffi Graf match on Saturday. Instead of showing the men's doubles final in its entirety, the network filled time with a 17-year-old tape of Margaret Court beating Billie Jean King for the Wimbledon crown. And Collins and Dick Enberg voiced over the tape, making it seem as if they were calling the match live.

Another unforced error: Both NBC and HBO failed to give any perspective on the draws. By not knowing where the top players had been placed in the draw, viewers had no way of knowing what potential matchups loomed a day or two down the line. For at least a week, watching Wimbledon was like driving in the fog.

? ESPN's arena football has gotten surprisingly healthy ratings for cable (2.2 through two weeks of play), and the sport seems to have potential as a made-for-TV event. Somebody at ESPN, however, had better start providing some perspective. The games have been put on the air after the rodeo hour and with virtually no discussion of the rules. Commentators have provided no assessment of the eight-man formations, and nobody's asking questions about the rash of injuries in the sport.

?Most common sports TV euphemism of the year: "A little extracurricular activity," which is regularly trotted out when two or more players engage in a slugfest. Announcers shouldn't dignify hooliganism by calling it anything other than what it is.

?With the British Open only a week away and the PGA less than a month off, ABC has got to do something to improve on its woeful performance at last month's U.S. Open. Some people didn't do their homework. Jim McKay said Keith Clearwater had never won a tournament when, in fact, Clearwater had won the Colonial in May. Dave Marr credited Scott Simpson with two tour victories, forgetting his Greensboro win in April. And ABC wasn't immediately sure that Clearwater had tied for the lead when he shot his 64 on Saturday.

Further, will ABC continue to divide up the commentators' duties until people are tripping over each other as they climb into the booth? At the Open, McKay and Jack Whitaker had one-third of the airtime, Peter Alliss and Al Trautwig one-sixth and Jack Nicklaus 1/144. Last winter, fearing that ABC's golf coverage was looking "old," Swanson decided to drop Alliss. However, after former USGA president Sandy Tatum, USGA executive director Frank Hannigan and Allis's agent, Mark McCormack, all protested, Allis was not only brought back but was awarded a long-term contract as well.

?Before the political situation in South Korea calmed down, one NBC executive said privately that the violence in the streets might help the network's ratings during the 1988 Olympics. When asked about these remarks, NBC Olympics chief Michael Eskridge said, "I hope that didn't come from any of our top people. What a sick way to make a living."

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