Quick Takes

    Congratulations to the city of Los Angeles. L.A. has a pro football team again. Unfortunately, that team, the Trojans, doesn’t play in the NFL. If USC played in the NFC of the NFL, they’d be going to the Super Bowl next month.

    A Vancouver judge recently let Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver  Canucks off the hook with probation and community service in his attempted ice-murder of Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche last March. So what if the incident took place during a NHL game! It’s deadly assault, pure and simple. Oh, by the way, Moore may never be able to play again due to the blind-sided-from-behind attack that caused paragraph-long injuries. I don’t want to receive any e-mails that defend the fact that it happened during a hockey game. In addition to being the greatest hockey player of all time, Gordie Howe was the toughest guy ever to play the game, but he didn’t play cheap and dirty. Judge Herb Weitzel should be removed from the legal bench before any ice has a chance to melt. And NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman should continue Bertuzzi’s suspension until Moore can play again, if he ever can play again. I hope Moore is going after Bertuzzi in a civil suit; maybe his civil suit victory will mean more than the one O. J. lost.

Story of the Week


    Monday Night Football is a television phenomenon, a sensation in the television ratings and certainly in financial terms. It has influenced all walks of business, both good and bad. There isn’t a bar or a sports book in the U.S. that has ever voiced a complaint about it. Of course, other businesses might conceivably shut down on Monday nights during the NFL season.

    In the middle of the whole thing was the invisible but brilliant Roone Arledge. And the recipient of the biggest publicity wave (good and bad) any sportscaster has ever received was Howard Cosell. And this is how it all began.

    In the spring of 1970, Howard was doing a local New York t.v. show. He got an urgent call asking that he come right over to the NFL office. He was told that ABC had purchased the rights to telecast pro football in prime entertainment time on Monday nights. Howard was to meet with NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, and ABC’s Roone Arledge. Rozelle felt the isolated exposure would be highly successful, and he found a most willing listener in Arledge.

    A series of meetings ensued. Then one night after Rozelle appeared on Cosell’s tv show, Pete told Howard that he wanted him to do the color commentary on Monday Night Football. Cosell, if you can imagine this, was actually surprised that he had been chosen. Why? Because he didn’t fit the mold of either a vanilla-flavored traditional sports announcer or an ex-jock. Both Rozelle and Arledge felt that every sports telecast sounded like every other, and Monday Night Football would be different. They wanted to capture a new type of audience, and they felt Howard was just the ticket.

    The deal with Howard Cosell was sealed. So, in fact, Cosell was the first piece of the booth puzzle in place, and, as history would prove, by far the most important. And from that point on, Cosell played an active role in the selection of the rest of the announcing team for Monday Night Football.

    They evaluated possible play-by-play announcers. It never became public knowledge, but Vin Scully was approached. Because of his baseball commitments, he had no interest. Tom Harmon was also considered. So were ABC’s Chris Schenkel and Keith Jackson. The choice was Keith Jackson.

    Arledge wanted a third man in the booth, ostensibly for replays, but also to provide candor as a former player. At the time, Frank Gifford was the first choice, but his contract with CBS then prevented it. It was Gifford who recommended Don Meredith for the job, and Meredith eventually got it.

    Chet Forte was named producer-director of the telecasts. He was an ideal choice as he knew the business as well as anyone in the industry, and he knew sports inside-out.

    And there they were that first breakthrough year of 1970. As fate would have it, it didn’t take long for the bombastic Cosell and the down-home Meredith to steal the show as color commentators. Intended or not, they openly went after each other during the telecasts, and fans couldn’t get enough of it. That first regular season telecast matched the Jets and Browns at Cleveland. The highlight of that event was Meredith’s rather humorous reference to Cleveland’s rookie receiver, "Fair Hooker." That night, a star, Monday Night Football, was born.

    Monday Night Football has seen so many changes, a major one after just one season. It was Frank Gifford leaving CBS and replacing Jackson for play-by-play, fortunately for my ears. It didn’t matter what two teams played on Monday nights. Humble Howard, Dandy Don and Faultless Frank made Monday Night Football television sports entertainment history.

Last Week’s Trivia

    How many intra-state Super Bowls have we had? The answer is not TWO as most of you answered; the answer is ONE. It was the California Super Bowl XXIX in 1995, San Francisco vs San Diego. So what happened to the Giants vs Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV in 1991? That one was NOT intra-state; call ‘em whatever, but it "ain’t" New York. The Giants have been a tenant of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NEW JERSEY, since October 10, 1976.

Trivia Question of the Week

    Who was the first MVP of the NBA? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.