So how come CBS, having paid $1 billion to cover baseball, didn't televise either the Toronto Blue Jay- Seattle Mariner game or the New York Yankee- Kansas City Royal game last Saturday? After all, it doesn't get any better in baseball than this: The Blue Jays and Yankees were in a dogfight for first in the American League East (page 14), while the Mariners and Royals were contending in the West. A call to CBS elicited the explanation that contractual obligations tied the network's hands. O.K., but why did CBS—and baseball—allow its hands to get tied?
P.S. The network carried an NFL exhibition game instead.
Circle Aug. 6, 1994, on your calendars, auto racing fans. That's the date of the inaugural Brickyard 400, the NASCAR event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that looks as if it will rival the Indianapolis 500 for excitement. Any doubt that the good ol' boys would prosper at Indy was dispelled last week when a two-day test of the Speedway by 32 NASCAR drivers drew an astonishing 150,000 fans, who paid $5 each to watch the stock cars take practice laps.
Asked to compare NASCAR to Indy racing, spectators kept saying the same things: The stock guys are friendlier, and you can pronounce their names. Their cars are slower, but the action is hot. The day after the tests ended, Speedway officials moved to cut off mail orders for tickets; because of overwhelming ticket demand, a turnout of 350,000-plus already seems assured. Credit goes to the Speedway's 33-year-old president, Tony George, who boldly opened the track to the stockers; his grandfather Tony Hulman, who owned the brickyard from 1945 until his death in 1977, insisted that it be used only for the Indy 500. But that, of course, was before NASCAR got popular enough to take even the bastion of Indy Car racing by storm.
In a documentary about an athlete at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, filmmaker Bud Greenspan struck a basic but beautiful chord. People loved watching the Olympics, he realized, but didn't fully grasp the pain and uncertainty the athletes endure. If he could capture their struggle, Greenspan felt, he could evoke a second, even stronger wave of emotion than that inspired by the spectacle itself.
Greenspan has since made dozens of films on the Olympics, repeatedly playing that same chord. In Barcelona '92: Sixteen Days of Glory, now airing on the Disney Channel, his approach is still lovely, still capable of clouding the eyes with tears. The Barcelona film consists of the stories of 10 Olympians. For example, there is cyclist Erika Salumae, from Estonia, fighting Soviet repression and then the chaos that followed the U.S.S.R.'s breakup. And there is British 400-meter runner Derek Redmond confronting the agony and despair of a torn hamstring to limp the last 250 meters of his semifinal supported by his tearful father.
Those hungry for deeper psychological nuances, more complicated chords, won't find them here. And different kinds of Olympic stories, such as the role that Barcelona itself came to play in the Games, are lacking as well. Perhaps Greenspan simply can't reach those notes. Then again, if he listens carefully to the chord he plays so well—the one having to do with individuals who throw themselves against all odds—there is always hope for Atlanta in 1996.