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October 01, 1990 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-10-01

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 1, 1990 - Page 11

ABC sports anchor speaks out on college athletics,
coaches-turned-sportscasters, and life in his business

Mike Gill

__________________ 8


Brent Musberger was a broad-
caster for CBS Sports for as long as
aeny football fans can remember.
served as the host of "The NFL
Today," as well as the play-by-play
announcer for the NCAA Basket-
ball Championship, host of the NBA
Finals and other popular events.
On the eve of this year's college
basketball final, Musberger was
fired from CBS. However, he has
since assumed a job with ABC
Sports, and he visited Ann Arbor for
&it week's Michigan-UCLA foot-
ball game. Daily Sports Editor
Emeritus Steven Cohen and Daily
Sports Editor Jeff Sheran caught up
with Musberger at his hotel.,
Daily: Your firing from CBS
April 1st came as a shock to many
people. One reporter even made a
connection between your firing and
the Berlin Wall coming down. What
as the process of finding another
b like?
Musberger: Getting another job
was never a concern. That was the
easiest part of the equation, because I
knew what my reputation was
within the industry with the people
that mattered, with the exception of
one set of leaders.
D: How did you manage to keep
the whole situation from being
,own out of proportion?
M: I knew it wasn't going to be
kept out of the media, so when I met
with other networks, we did it in
private. When I met with Ted
Turner, someone in their organiza-
tion leaked it all over the country,
and as soon as I walked in I knew it
was a set up. I mean, it was in a
public luncheon-type setting. If I had
my druthers, the whole hiring busi--
,ss would have been kept quiet.
D: Where did the challenge lie in
the whole situation, if you were able
to handle the media and getting a
new job?
M: I had two choices. I could
have retired - I had made some
money at CBS, invested it well. I
could easily have gone back to Mon-
tana. The other alternative was to go
,ck to work, saddle up and go do it
again. I love the business. I love the
games, the people, the producers, the
directors, and all the athletes,
coaches. I mean I have a great rela-
tionship with all those people. And
I'm not close to retirement age, only
fifty years old. And Capitol Cities,
which owns ABC, has a tremendous
reputation for doing business in an
ical manner. It was a chance to go
ck to work for a good company,
and off you go.
D: It seemed resolved pretty
M: Yeah, and it probably could
have been quicker. When I went to
do the Duke-Vegas (NCAA Cham-
pionship) game that night, my
brother Todd, who is my agent, was
already meeting with ABC.
*D: What was that final broadcast
M: Oh, it was like the Twilight
Zone. I mean, you're going to do
your last broadcast for a company,
when you never fully expected to
work for another one. It was weird. I
was kind of drifting through. And I
didn't get a good game that night; it
was a horrendous game. If I had got-
ten something like a Michigan-Se-
n Hall game, I could have forgot-
ten my own situation.
D: Did you, and do you generally

find it difficult to do your job know-
ing that your work will be scruti-
nized so carefully by critics the next
M: I accept it. It's like being a
politician almost. In a way, it's like
a compliment that people pay that
, uch attention. I did not start out
wanting to be a broadcaster and a
public figure. I did not intend to be
in a position where my firing would

be on the front cover of all the
tabloids in New York. But once
you're cast in that role, you have to
be a big boy and deal with it. I think
you just stand up and say that's the
way it is. Probably coming out of
journalism school at Northwestern
helped a lot. I was not a trained
egomaniac out of broadcasting
D: Do you feel that there has
been a decline in the quality of tele-
vision sports, despite the greater
popularity of networks such as
M: I agree with that idea. There's
two reasons for it, the first being
economics. It costs less money to
pull down a signal from a satellite
and cut up some videotape and get it
on the air than it does to go out and
actually do a story. The other thing
is, and you have to be careful. If you
did research into what women
watched, my guess is that they are
generally less concerned with the in-
side of the games than the
D: What, then, do you feel is the
state of network sports?
M: I don't think the games have
ever been covered any better. You've
got to be careful with sports broad-
casting, because it's very subjective.
The real big issue is whether or not
the networks can afford to pay the
prices they are for the evens. The
leagues are now living off that
money, and if the networks can't pay
that money the next time around,
economic decline will set in with the
leagues. So the big issue in televi-
sion sports has nothing to do with
journalism, it has to do with eco-
nomics. There is serious doubt that
the networks can come anywhere
near the figures they posted for the
last baseball contract.
D: Do you then feel that because
that television revenue is already
locked into escalating players'
salaries, that the networks will be
forced to cover only what economics
dictate they can?
M: Absolutely. Let's take the
Canseco deal for instance. The A's
are paying him, what, $17 million
over four years? That's basically TV
money that's due them in four years;
it's already committed. Now
Canseco isn't coming back for less
than that next time, and if the net-
works can't put up enough money to
keep him satisfied, there's gonna be
a major, major falling out between
the players and the owners. I know
ABC and NBC, both obviously
committed to baseball, feel the dol-
lars are becoming ridiculous. And
it's not just baseball - pro football
figures are way up there, so is col-
lege basketball. CBS is paying $3
billion for the next few years. That's
big time money.
D: If the economy declines, and
people can no longer afford $120
Nike shoes, what will happen to the
television revenues?
M: Well, then Nike won't buy
the ads. But television contracts are
already committed for these con-
tracts. It's a little bit like Donald
Trump real estate - spend, spend,
spend, and wait for it to come back.
But if that happens, the money may
not come back. It happened in At-
lantic City.
It's unfortunate that sports has
taken this hard money turn. It's no
different than any other big business
nowadays. There's a little charm to

it, but let's say you're a Met fan.
You want your team to win, and
they're in a tight race. But the most
important thing hanging over the
Mets' head is whether or not they
can come up with enough money to
keep Darryl Strawberry in New York
next year, and I think there should be
more charm to it than that.
D: Then it's no coincidence that
contract problems and the like appear

on the back cover of the sports
M: Definitely not. The printed
media is far more obsessed with
money matters than is the broadcast
media. We as broadcasters tend to be
in the stratosphere about those is-
sues, while the writers who earn far
less tend to be upset with guys who
earn a lot of money. There's sort of
a friction there.
D: What about ABC hiring con-
troversial personalities such as Jim
M: I think it's blatantly unfair
that there is a controversy. It seems
to me that he paid the price for the
N.C. State incidents. We don't have
to put a scarlet letter on his forehead.
If Bobby Knight suddenly retired
from coaching, do you know how
many offers he'd have to be an ana-
lyst? Now here's a guy who threw
chairs, who pulled his team off the
floor, who's unbelievably profane.
Why are suddenly all the moralists
saying 'My God, the world is bad
because Jim Valvano's gonna ana-
lyze a basketball game?'
You can make the argument that
he should not be a spokesman, but
knowing Jimmy, I don't think he's
going to set himself up that way. I
think he's going to analyze a ball-
game, he's going to be entertaining,
and people are goint to get a kick
out of him.
D: Everybody seems to love
guys like Valvano, Dick Vitale,
Billy Packer, and Al McGuire, but
they set a couple of bad trends, first
of all, they are a member of the
'coaching fraternity,' so they tend to
overemphasize the importance of the
coaches, and secondly, they don't do
enough criticism of these coaches
when they deserve it. Shouldn't
these analysts be more into being
journalists than being promoters?
M: In an ideal world, you're
right. The world is not ideal. There's
no way that those guys are ever go-
ing to be good journalists. They op-
erate in a buddy system, and to claim
otherwise would be to deceive the
public. Now I would prefer that they
don't even bother. News divisions
should have sports seg-ments and
should do the inves-tigative work
and should look at the hard issues,
and the sports guys should never,
ever be involved. It has always been,
invariably, and it always will be, a
conflict of interest.
You're just not going to go out
and slam into your friends, and
you're not going to do the kind of
news job that needs to be done in
some instances. Listen, I think the
North Carolina State story is a hel-
luva story. Don't get me wrong. If
somebody came around and said they
were a major league journalist and
said, 'Brent, you were there the night
they won the Championship, and
you know Valvano,' I'd tell them I

couldn't shed any light on the story,
but I could certainly understand why
a big time journalist would move in
and do that story.
I mean there's a question of a kid
shaving points; that seems to me to
be a big-time story. So don't misun-
derstand what I'm saying. I'm say-
ing, yeah, there should be more
journalism, but not by guys like
Dick Vitale. They're not trained for
it, they've got too many friends. Vi-
tale's an entertainer. Jim Valvano's
an entertainer. Coaches are
D: Some of the things that came
out regarding these coaches was
pretty incriminating, and at the very
least, Valvano was guilty of bad
judgment. How much blame do you
attribute to the coaches for the ques-
tionable practices of their players?
M: Let's take John Thompson as
an example. I read the other day that
David Wingate was indicted on sev-
eral charges of rape. Now do we hold
Thompson responsible for Wingate?
How about the recruitment of
Patrick Ewing? He wouldn't have
gotten into Georgetown under the
Prop 48 ruling. But isn't it part of
the academic responsibility in this
country to take youngsters who
might be disadvantaged and give
them an opportunity?
I happen to believe that Ewing is
a better citizen as a result of coming
through Georgetown. David Wingate
is too, and this is a different kind of
problem. Terry Mills, Rumeal
Robinson - they were Prop 48
players, and they're better off be-
cause of Michigan. This whole
'Holier Than Thou' attitude about
college athletes, many of whom are
Black, just really leaves me cold.
The same problems exist in the rest
of American society, so why do
sports have to be above all of it? It's
business, and I don't know why
anybody is naive about that fact.
D: You mentioned John Thomp-
son. When he coached the Olympic
Team, you were pretty candid in ask-
ing him if he would ever take a
white player. He probably wasn't
too happy about that. What was that
M: He wasn't very happy about
it. But every time I was on a talk
show or sitting around a group like
this, the question came up. So I fig-
ure why not ask John Thompson? It
seemed to me that the fans wanted to
know the answer to that question,
and if I think the fans want to know
some answer, I'm gonna ask the
question. It seems to me, and I'm
not gonna make a big thing out of
it, but Howard Cosell always fea-
tured his question, while I prefer to
feature the answer. But usually I
won't hesitate to turn some heads
with a question like that.

Help our cheerleaders:
Return the big 'M' flag
The voice on the other end of the phone pleaded and wondered why a
team's own fans would knife their own school in the back.
"It is just a complete lack of respect," Annette Schmidt said.
Schmidt had read last week's column - which was not exactly kind to
Michigan fans. The column stated that maize and blue fans were boors with
no school spirit. But Schmidt, who is the varsity cheerleading coach, was
more upset at the things Michigan's student fans did, than didn't do, during
last week's game against UCLA.
Students stole the cheerleading crew's large 8x10-foot flag. That's the
one that was waved right before the team came through the tunnel. It's the
one that's waved at Crisler Arena in an attempt to stir some excitement
from thousands of sleepers.
So last week, while the cheerleaders cheered Michigan onto victory, I
some students jumped out of the stands and attempted to heist the giant flag. ;
They were caught. But when the Michigan cheerleaders returned from visit-
ing with the opponent's cheerleaders on the other side of the field, they
found the flag's pole on the other side of the wall, with the flag cut off and
no where to be found.
"It's just a lack of respect - not just towards the cheerleading team, but
to the University of Michigan," Schmidt said.
"What can anyone do with that flag anyhow?"
Well, as a student, I could name a number of things a flag would do.
It would look great hanging on a wall in someone's house, next to all
the street signs that students have swiped. And it would make a great toga
for a party. A tablecloth would not be out of the question either.
But it leaves the cheerleading crew hurting. They do their best every
week to create some excitement. And the flag has sentimental value to
them, too.
It was given to the crew down in Kentucky by Michigan basketball
coach Steve Fisher back in 1989 while the Wolverines surged towards a na-
tional championship. The team works on a limited budget, and they can-not
afford to replace it. You won't see a facsimile at football or basketball
games this year, or at the many fund-raising activities it was used for.
So, in the end, what exactly does this all mean?
This whole little incident reflects badly on Michigan's student body,
which is being blamed for this heist. It's one thing not to cheer at sporting
events. It's another thing to be a crook against one's own school.
The team's morale is down over the past few incidents. Schmidt asks for
a simple solution: Please return the flag.
Take it to the athletic department offices at 1000 State Street. Drop off
the flag. No questions asked. Or, you can drop the flag off at the Daily, at
420 Maynard. Again, no questions asked.
And maybe that action will help heal the wounds which have been build-
ing in the ranks of the cheerleading team. Maybe this can turn out to be a
happy ending. Maybe Schmidt's crew, come the next home game against
Michigan State, can truly smile when they look at the fans sitting in the
stands - instead of wondering which students double crossed them.
Stealing a team's flag makes for a great barroom story. It's one of those
man versus nature types of fight. You took on something that stands for an
entire institution, a huge machine, and won. Wow. You can laugh and joke
that it's a story you'll tell your grandkids years down the line.
In reality, though, it was all too easy. And it was cowardly.
Now, whoever took it, do the honest thing: Return The Flag.

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Find it in the Daily.
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