The story, we're told, is true. A star running back for a certain college football power was filling out a biographical form for his school's sports information department. Asked to provide the name of his hometown paper, he put down USA Today.
So you daydream about being the next Marv Albert or Phyllis George? This could be your big chance. The Continental Basketball Association is conducting a talent search for a color commentator for its game of the week telecasts during the coming season on the BET Cable Network, which reaches seven million households in 43 states. The only condition is that applicants have no broadcasting experience. "We don't want anybody who's covered high school basketball on a 50-watt station or once did the Toledo Mud Hens," says CBA commissioner Jim Drucker. "We're looking for a fresh face."
The CBA is also looking to save a few dollars. After signing with BET, which will air 15 taped-delay games on Saturday nights, the CBA hired Bob Lewandoski, who does have TV experience, to handle play-by-play. But the announcers and ex-jocks Drucker approached about doing color either wanted too much money or had schedule conflicts. That's when Drucker decided to go the Ted Mack route. "I'm sure there are guys who sit at home and watch the network announcers and say, 'I can do that,' " he says. "A lot of guys I talked to admitted that at times they've turned down the sound and fantasized by doing their own play-by-play. I'm sure that out of a population of 250 million, we can find one guy who's really good."
Applicants will be invited to first-round tryouts in Boston on Oct. 15, New York on Oct. 29 and Philadelphia on Nov. 5, and those surviving the cut will compete in finals in Philly on Nov. 6. Each hopeful will be provided with rosters and other information and then will be asked to do commentary on videotaped CBA action from last season. Judging will be based on such things as vocal clarity, enthusiasm, knowledge of basketball and "personal charisma." The pay is hardly Cosellian—just $1,500 for the season—but it's the kick of being on TV that counts, right? As Drucker puts it, "This is Walter Mitty come to life."
COUNTRY JOE, THE SINGING UMPIRE
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be umpires. That seems to be the message in Blue Cowboy, a ground-rule single written and sung by a man in blue, National League umpire Joe West (shown at right). The ballad, released by Colonial Records of Nashville, goes like this:
They call me a blue cowboy in some circles,
The cowboy's for the clothes I choose to wear,
But the blue has a touchin' sort of meaning,
It describes my heart when you're not there.
West, who's 31 and lives in Houston, came by his country ways naturally, having been born in western North Carolina. He became an umpire after quarterbacking the Elon College football team to three conference championships, and made it to the majors as an arbiter when he was 25. West has developed a reputation for on-field volatility, although this year he has ejected only one player and one coach. He earned some kind of award for originality earlier in the season when he threw two TV cameramen out of a game because they were showing replays to the Mets.
Blue Cowboy is also the title track on West's upcoming album, which features two other songs he wrote as well as a spirited country version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Some of the tunes were recorded at the legendary Gilley's in Houston. West also has done a music video of Blue Cowboy, created by NBC Sports for a telecast in July. The video isn't exactly Thriller, but it does have its moments: West mouths the words of the song while talking on a hotel phone, walking out of the hotel through a revolving door, boarding a plane (or, rather, a "silver horse") and looking wistfully out the airplane window. Three flight attendants sing background.