Come February, sports fans may get the feeling that some of the TV programming they most enjoyed in 1976 is missing. The thing missing most, of course, will be the Winter Olympics, which were the subject of perhaps the finest job of production, direction and announcing ever put on the air. In a year during which the three major networks presented 1,275 hours of sports, ABC's coverage of the Winter Games surpassed everything else, and of all the feathers in Roone Arledge's Tyrolean hat, none is any brighter than the one for those 43� hours from Innsbruck. In the second annual presentation of the Leggy Awards for sports broadcasting, ABC receives the prize for the Best Coverage of a Single Event.
The rest of 1976's sports telecasting was filled with lesser highs, a lot of lows and some notable absences. Mainly because of the lack of a network contract, the American Basketball Association died during the year, and CBS canceled soccer after only two games. Al DeRogatis packed up his Xs and Os this fall and left NBC and. thankfully, there was less seen of Evel Knievel than at anytime in recent memory. There were 33 boxing bouts on the networks, many of them horrendous mismatches, and tennis ratings got zapped by oversaturation. Ah, but Madison Avenue loves tennis and golf because, the admen contend, they appeal to the elite, and the elite must be served. Someplace at this very moment, some packager is probably developing a show entitled Inner Polo, starring Nelson Rockefeller, Paul Mellon and the ghost of J. Paul Getty.
The big TV Executive Suite story of the year is still developing in Moscow, where all three networks are bidding for the 1980 Summer Olympics. And how they are bidding. To obtain the rights to the Mexico City Games in 1968. ABC paid $4.5 million; the price shot up to $18 million for Munich in 1972 and to $25 million for Montreal. The figure for Moscow in 1980 is likely to be more than $60 million. Whoever gets that contract—and the lucky winner should be announced any day now—should be given a special "Diamond Jim" Brady Award, emblematic of a high place among 1976's other awardees:
WORST COVERAGE OF A MAJOR SPORT—ABC for undistinguished camera work and poor announcing on Monday Night Baseball.
TRUE GRIT AWARD—To General Manager James T. Lynagh of WTOP-TV in Washington for continuing to carry games of the NHL Washington Capitals, despite the Caps' rock-bottom ratings during the past two seasons and the team's 1-27-3 record in games that have been televised.
NIELSEN'S TOP IO (ranked by number of viewers)—Super Bowl X ( CBS); Muhammad Ali-Richard Dunn fight ( NBC); NFC championship, Dallas vs. Los Angeles ( CBS); AFC championship, Pittsburgh vs. Oakland ( NBC); Rose Bowl ( NBC); World Series, Game 4 ( NBC); World Series, Game 3 ( NBC); World Series, Game 2 ( NBC); Summer Olympics, July 27 (ABC); Orange Bowl ( NBC).
LEGGETT'S TOP 10 (ranked by personal preference)—Winter Olympics (ABC): World Series, Game 2 ( NBC); Olympic Track and Field Trials (ABC); NCAA Basketball Championship Game, Michigan vs. Indiana ( NBC); Super Bowl X ( CBS); World Series, Game 4 ( NBC); recap of the third Ali-Joe Frazier fight (ABC); The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola, Oct. 17, which portrayed umpires as opera singers ( NBC); Summer Olympics, afternoon of July 31 (ABC); Softball game between National and American League players to raise money for research on sickle-cell anemia ( CBS).
WRIEST OBSERVATION—NBC's Gene Shalit, on Man About Anything, discussing the proliferation of postseason college football games: "Remember when there was just the Rose Bowl? Now there are more than 20 bowl games. The Orange Bowl is played in Miami. If the Midshipmen from Annapolis had been good enough, it could have become the Naval Orange Bowl... Jacksonville has the Gator Bowl, which the loser calls a croc... Wichita Falls has a Pioneer Bowl. Before the game, the coaches psych up their players: 'We're in the Pioneer Bowl—go out there and fix their wagons'...How about two teams of cotton farmers playing in the Weevil Bowl?"
MOST OVEREXPOSED AND OVERSAID—Nadia Comaneci; shots from blimps; punt, pass and kick contests; Jim McKay; The Superstars; tennis; Renee Richards; "on the money"; "on the numbers"; "on the board"; "on the season"; Alex Karras; "at the top of the show"; Hilton Head; Leroy Nieman; Bruce Jenner; and descriptions of "the Wall" at Fenway Park, one more of which will have all of us ready to climb it.
DANCING BACKWARDS MADLY—CBS Radio for being bright enough to put a show called Women in Sports on the air five days a week, and being sharp enough to have Liz Shanov produce it, then being silly enough to have only male announcers on it.