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Bishop laughs at the recollection of the time Decker was quoted as saying that no matter how pretty she was, she'd better get the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey score right. "If there's anything I'm sure of," she says, "it's the RPI hockey score."
But her assignments aren't only minor league. She has interviewed O.J. Simpson, B.J. King, Larry Brown and Red Auerbach, who took a look at her stacked heels and exclaimed, "What are you doing on stilts?" When Curt Gowdy met Bishop at a local speaking engagement, he said, "If this is what the new wave of announcers looks like, get out the white flag." That Curt, he sure is a smoothie.
In fact, Bishop is not sure which talent she should exploit. A junior at Albany State University, she affects a pleasant whimsy in her written work that enables her to refer to Tom Dempsey's record 63-yard field goal as "winning the game single-footedly"; to San Diego Padres Owner Ray Kroc, the McDonald's hamburger king, as "McSilly"; and to his public chastisement of his team as a "McStake." She also took former Providence College basketball star Marvin Barnes to task for his statement that he preferred working in a factory to signing a pro contract for less than a million dollars. "It might be fun to observe Marvin slaving in an assembly line," she wrote. "One hopes he could get some overtime."
"Half the fun of covering sports is being irreverent," she says. "In the column, I can let loose and nail people, really let them have it. I don't know, though, if Albany TV is ready for opinion or funny commentary."
On the air Bishop once failed to pronounce the "r" in the second word of "Grand Prix," and she referred to Forest Hills as "Forest Lawn" because she was preoccupied with "lawn" tennis. Such faux pas only have made it harder for Bishop to hide from her public, even when she puts on old jeans and a flannel shirt for a trip to the grocery. "That's always the time someone will recognize me and say, 'Aren't you Liz?' " she says. "I say 'No.' I've denied I was me to a lot of people."
One day Bishop was at lunch with WRGB's weather girl when a sophisticated patron approached and congratulated the weather girl on her show. "Oh, I know you, too," the stranger said, looking toward Liz. "You're the football."
"I often wonder if men think I'm equipped to deal with anything but sports," Liz says. "I can't cook or sew except in a pinch, and I'd just as soon not be pinched. But I read a lot. My namesake, Elizabeth Bishop, the poetess, wrote The Roosters about birds who crowed at the Crucifixion. It's really symbolic, deep, heavy."
What bothers Bishop most about TV sports are program notes. "On ABC football Cosell must have mentioned Roone Arledge presents Frank Sinatra eight times a minute," she says. "Also, I get tired of Gowdy telling Kubek he should be sure and watch the NBC movie that week. I hope these are my future employers, but I wish they would discover me soon."
Bishop lives at home with her parents and two brothers. She says, "Do you know what size market this is? It's 42nd out of 158 listed. You got to get me out of here. I've been to Montreal and to Boston a couple of times, but let's face it, I've led a sheltered life. That's going to change. You can bet this isn't my last stop."
Anybody would be McSilly to take that bet.