Let's raise a cup of ice-cold soda to the Chicago Bears and their concessionaire, ARA Services, for establishing a designated-driver program at Bears home games. Any fan with a driver's license can go to one of three booths at Soldier Field before the kickoff and sign a statement that he will not be consuming any alcohol during the game because he will be driving others home after it. In return for this pledge, he receives a ticket and a button good for two free soft drinks at any concession stand. The fan also gets his hand stamped. No one with a stamped hand is allowed to purchase beer in the stadium.
So far this year, about 1,200 fans per game have signed up as designated drivers, with a high of 2,000 at the Oct. 2 Monday-night game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Only a handful have been caught attempting to buy beer. The program costs the Bears, ARA and the Chicago Park District (which owns Soldier Field) a few thousand dollars a game in lost soft-drink revenues. If it prevents even one serious accident, that's a small price to pay.
Even before the Giants and Athletics took the field for Game 1 of the World Series last Saturday in Oakland (page 34), baseball had come to overshadow other cultural pursuits in the Bay Area. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen noted that back on Oct. 4—while the Cubs and Giants were in Chicago, playing the first game of the National League playoffs—the San Francisco Symphony was in Sacramento performing Nielsen's Symphony No. 2. After the third movement, conductor Herbert Blomstedt turned to the audience and passed along a bit of news that had been flashed to him from the wings. "Even in the midst of this melancholic music, there are happy moments." said Blomstedt. "I must interrupt this concert to tell you that the Giants have won 11-3."
Thereupon associate principal horn player Bob Ward loudly stage-whispered, "The maestro must be slipping. He used to be able to conduct the Nielsen without a score."
THE OLYMPIC MAGAZINE RACK
Earlier this month CBS sold a chunk of its U.S. rights to the 1992 and '94 Winter Olympics to Turner Network Television for $50 million. The deal lets CBS lay off some of the $543 million it spent to acquire rights to the two Games and gives cable viewers access to an additional 50 hours of programming in '92 and again in '94.
Everyone seems to benefit from the deal: CBS recoups some of its investment, TNT enhances its prestige, and the public—at least that portion with access to cable—gets to see some otherwise overlooked events.
But where might cable's entry into the Olympics lead? Former CBS president and TBS executive vice-president Robert Wussler, now president and chief executive of COMSAT Video Enterprises, a Washington, D.C.-based pay-per-view system, foresees a day when viewers will be able to tailor their Olympic viewing by purchasing only the events they want to see. That would be possible if several pay-per-view cable outlets such as his own combined forces to buy Olympic rights, then divvied up the events.
"Think of it as a big magazine rack," says Wussler. "You'll purchase only the magazines that interest you." It's an intriguing arrangement—and, alas, one that would raise the cost of watching the Games on TV.