The Michigan Daily- Sports Monday - March 30, 1992 - Page 3
Michigan graduate talks of life
in TV sports production world
George Finkel has been at the
top of his field for years. Following
his 1958 graduation from the
University of Michigan, Finkel em-
barked on a career of television pro-
duction. Since that time, he has pro-
duced - among other events -
seven Super Bowls, six World Series,
two Stanley Cups, six NCAA basket-
ball Final Fours, six Orange Bowls,
and the 1988 Olympic Games.
In his nineteen years at NBC,
Finkel has produced more network
0baseball games than anyone else. He
has garnered three Emmy awards
for his work -for the 1982 World
Series, 1988 Seoul Olympics, and
the only Emmy ever won for a Super
Bowl - for Super Bowl XIII.
Recently, Daily Sports Writer Brett
Forrest spoke with Finkel about his
Daily: How did you ever get into
Finkel: Well, I graduated in radio
and TV - speech - from
Michigan. I had wanted to be in
television. I had played sports. I was
all-fraternity at Michigan, playing
football, as a matter of fact.
D: How did you end up behind
the camera as a producer?
F: The funny part was, my first
television job was working for
Playboy Magazine in Chicago, not in
television - although I ended up
syndicating their TV show. I got out
in '58 and there weren't many jobs
around at that point. The first job I
got, which was in '60, in television,
was as an announcer/director out in
So I got into both sides. The
more I got into it, the more I felt I
was much better in production than I
was in front of the camera. So, I
drifted in that direction. I did station
management, like production man-
ager and what not. And when I put
Channel 17 (WPHL) on the air here
inPhilly in '65, I became Director of
Sports Operations and did a lot of
sports because the station had all the
Palestra games (Big 5 college bas-
ketball), plus the 76ers. We used to
do Temple football live. So I really
got into sports.
D: Did you ever meet Hugh
Hefner while you were working for
F: Yes, as a matter of fact, one
time we were both dating the same
girl. He won. But I knew Hef. I
mean, when I was there, it was a
pretty small organization.
D: Was he a good guy?
F: Well, he went through a very
big change while I was there. He
went from drinking Cokes and
wearing V-neck sweaters and white
socks to wearing tweeds and driving
the Mercedes, and the pipe, and ev-
orything else. That was the image.
D: After Channel 17, did you
start working at NBC in New York?
F: In 71 I walked in' off the
street. Somebody gave me Scotty
tonnel's (former Executive
Producer for NBC Sports) name. I
4idn't know him from the man on
the moon. I called, made an ap-
pointment with him, and went into
see him before the '71 football sea-
son. And he hired me as a free-
lancer to do the football season that
Back then it was still a twelve-
game season in the NFL - I can
remember when he said: "Now don't
look at this as something permanent.
You're gonna do a few games this
season, and that's it." Well, I did ten
of the twelve games and the Senior
Bowl in the post-season. At that
point, the only college basketball
was the tournament. I did one of the
early-round games - they only did
three weeks of the tournament back
And then, when baseball season
came around, the '72 baseball sea-
son, two of us did almost every
backup game, and at that point NBC
had the Saturday afternoon and
Monday night games. And so we
were doing two games a week and
pretty much living on the road most
of the time. That's when I really got
into the swing.
At the end of the '72 season I did
the League Championship Series
(LCS). I started out with the
Pittsburgh-Cincinnati series, which
opened up in Pittsburgh. Then I went
to Detroit and did the last three
games of the Oakland-Tigers series.
We. got them when they had come
back to Detroit after Campaneris had
thrown the bat and all that crazy
stuff had gone on.
D: So had NBC hired you full-
time by then?
F: Well, it just kept building. I
did all the baseball. They got hockey
and I produced the last two years
hockey was on the network - the
game of the week with Peter Puck.
And it just kept building. I was do-
ing the LCS's all those years. Then,
strangely, somebody got drunk at a
Christmas party and told somebody
If there's a perfect
sport for television,
it's football. The ball is
big. There are a lot of
individual stories you
can do. They stop after
every bit of action to
let you talk about it
and show it again.
else off, and I walked in assuming I
was doing the East-West Shrine
I had been out on the coast to do
a football game. I came back be-
cause I had some meetings for
hockey. I left a suitcase on the West
coast in San Francisco because we
were going back to shoot the players
in the lineup in different places
around San Francisco.
I walk in the office that morning
for the hockey meeting and they said
"Oh we're going to change your as-
signment. You're doing the Super
Bowl." That was Super Bowl IX.
Somebody finally retrieved my suit-
case a couple of weeks later.
D: What is your favorite sport to
F: That's a hard question. If
there's a perfect sport for television,
it's football. The ball is big. There
are a lot of individual stories you can
do. They stop after every bit of ac-
tion to let you talk about it and show
it again. Baseball is very difficult
because things happen in so many
CBS cannot keep
losing $100 million on
baseball. I think the
time has come when
there are going to have
to be some changes
with these rights fees.
I don't think they can
go on like this forever.
Some of the greatest thrills I've
had have been in the World Series
- the '86 World Series, them '82
one. In '84 I was scared to death that
the whole city of Detroit was going
to blow up, which it came close to
doing. Baseball is a fascinating sport
in television because there are so
many things that can be done, and
must be done, and there are so many
places to shore up holes.
Hockey is frustrating, and bas-
ketball is the same way, because
there are so many things you get that
you don't ever get a chance to show.
There are no whistles.
D: This is the worst financial
time television has ever seen. Is it
justifiable to be paying so much for
rights fees? What is the future in that
respect, now that more restraints
might be put on spending?
F: I wish I knew what the future
was. I don't think the rights can keep
going in the direction they are going.
I think you are seeing that now in
football where they are asking for
paybacks and re-negotiations. In
baseball they asked for some money
back. They didn't get it.
CBS cannot keep losing $100
million on baseball. I think the time
has come when there are going to
have to be some changes with these
rights fees. I don't think they can go
on like this forever. You are going to
get a lot of resistance to pay-per-
view on a steady basis, saying that's
the way to solve it. These things that
have been free forever - the Super
Bowl and World Series - are sud-
denly going to be on pay and that's
where they're going to get their
I don't think Congress is going to
let them do that. They're doing it in
boxing. But in boxing, nobody really
cares. Boxing has gone through an-
other one of its ups and downs.
There are so many bad things in-
volved with the sport that I don't
think anybody is all that upset that
there is not a lot of boxing on free
TV. It's a limited audience. That's
one area where it is not a monumen-
tal problem. It's not going to get a
lot of hue and cry.
I think if you try and do that for
other sports, you are going to have
problems. I don't think the rights
payments can keep going the direc-
tion they are. Where the answer is,
God only knows. They can't keep
paying $27 million contracts, not if
they start pulling back the dollars
from television. The fans are not
going to pay $100 a ticket to sit in
D: Who are your favorite and
least-favorite television personali-
F: I would say the man from
Michigan, with whom I worked on
many things, (Dick) Enberg is cer-
tainly one of my favorite analysts
who I have worked with. The two
Maguires, Paul and Al, certainly
have been pleasures. Both are a little
crazy but that makes it fun some-
times. Enberg is just the ultimate
pro. Dick went to Central. He's from
a town near Flint. He is just a plea-
sure to work with.
The worst, I don't know. I hate to
throw barbs at somebody like
Cosell. He did a lot for the journal-
ism of sports. I never worked with
him. Strangely, in the mid-eighties,
suddenly Howard became very
friendly to me. I don't quite know
He was doing the LCS in Detroit
when I was doing the World Series
following it. We were next door in
the hotel during the LCS. All of a
sudden Howard was my best friend.
I just thought Howard tried to be
bigger than life. I thought, at times,
he tried to create the story as op-
posed to reporting it.
I think journalism is certainly an
important part of what we do. I am a
firm believer that there is more to
doing a game than just what's be-
tween the lines. I think there are sto-
ries on the fringes that need telling.
Particularly in professional sports
when you are doing a Game of the
Week, you are telling a story of the
sport, not just the specific game.
When there are drug things going
on, even though it may not be di-
rectly your game, it's still a story
you need to relate to. When there are
clubhouse problems and manager
firings I think these are all stories
that when you are doing a Game of
the Week, you don't just bury them
and just go with ball three, strike
two, or first and ten. I think you need
to stay with the journalism, but I
think at times, you can go overboard.
I thought at times, Howard went
overboard. I'm all for standing up
for what you believe. I thought at
times, Howard did it just for effect. I
don't necessarily agree with that ei-
ther. He did a great deal to push
sports into more than just first and
ten. There is no question that he was
the first big journalist in sports. But,
you can go too far at times too. I
thought he did.
D: What is the fondest memory
of your career so far?
F: One of the greatest memories I
have is when I walked onto the field
at Tiger Stadium. Having gone there
as a kid and then working the '72
league championship was one of the
big moments. All of a sudden you
can just walk out on all that grass
and you are allowed to do it. It was
Don't expect much
from athletic heroes
Just when the smoke is clearing from the Mike Tyson rape case, the
State of Florida is deciding whether or not to file rape charges against
New York Mets Daryl Boston, Dwight Gooden, and Vince Coleman. In
addition, Mets pitcher David Cone faces a lawsuit filed by three women
who claim Cone masturbated in front of them in the Shea Stadium
Incidents like these, in which celebrities face allegations of sexually
deviant behavior, dishearten the public. Last weekend I heard a man say
he'd "rather not know about this crap," that it "ruins the game" for him.
To this man, whom I did not know well but whose appearance at least
categorized him in the mainstream public, I said,"yeah, it's disappoint-
ing," and walked away.
I was neither referring to the athletes' alleged misconduct nor the medi-
a's decision to expose it.
I have no problem with people wanting their heroes unscathed; every
blemish makes heroes less heroic, and they're difficult to replace. I can
even understand people forgiving celebrities more readily than everyday
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is led to prison by sheriff's
deputies. He will serve six years for rape and deviant conduct
criminals; a baseball player, for instance, has given something to the pub-
lic - maybe a good mood, maybe a lifetime of memories. It's natural
that people are willing to reciprocate this gift with forgiveness.
But the acquiescence of wrongdoing, the near encouragement of getting
away with as much as possible, is intolerable. To this day, I wonder what
people think - not say, but really think -about Tyson's six-year jail
sentence. We know what Donald Trump thinks, that Tyson's ability to
generate wealth is reason enough to keep him out of jail. And I bet a lot
more people believe it's just not right for Tyson to go to jail.
These people allow him the latitude in making excuses that they don't
allow others. They're the boxing fans who have compassion for the
young ex-champ, this powerful man who came from a broken home and a
childhood of street violence, but who convict in their minds every hand-
cuffed youth they see on the 6 o'clock news being arrested for shoplifting.
I'm upset about these incidents, but I can't say I'm disappointed. Dis-
appointment requires expectation, and I've learned as a sports fan not to
expect anything from athletes outside the realm of athletics.
It's not that athletes are less capable of being responsible, decent hu-
man beings, but we must avoid the tendency to think they are more capa-
ble. Most athletes are strangers. Parents who don't let their children talk
to strangers shouldn't let their children make strangers their role models.
Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander makes a frank and long-awaited
realization when he writes that athletes are the last people in the world we
should make our role models, because the games in which they compete
for a living inherently keep them removed from reality.
Aa person's profession, not to mention a person's skill at this profes-
sion, is not a foolproof indicator of the person's character. We should be
no more surprised to see an outfielder in court as we should a sports
If a sports writer were to commit a crime, especially a sex crime, the
public would demand justice. This demand for justice ought to be the
same for an athlete.
And if it "ruins the game," for people, then they never understood what
the game was all about.
Thomas leads Pistons to
victory over Spurs, 107-103
by Dan Linna
Daily Sports Writer
After his team's perfect run
through pool play Friday, Michigan
men's volleyball coach Tom
Johengen said he cringed when he
learned Purdue would be his team's
;irst round opponent.
It was this same Boilermaker
team that ushered the Wolverines to
*0'a disappointing sixth place finish
,three weeks ago at the Big Ten
Championships. Purdue had also
"iefeated Michigan in their regular
season meeting in February.
"They are a gritty team with a lot
of heart," Johengen said of the
Boilermakers. "They were confident
even when we were crushing
2 The "crushing" of which
*Johengen spoke, occurred when
1Urirhioan i m tpd not tn early 11-
the game, 15-13.
Michigan shook off the defeat
and came back to take the second
The third and deciding game was
played in a rally scoring format and
the Wolverines looked to be back on
track. Unfortunately for Michigan,
the Boilermakers were on that same
course and derailed the Wolverines,
"We've tried to talk about it but
we haven't come to any conclusion,"
middle hitter Tim Werner said. "We
still have confidence in ourselves.
We know we can beat them. It's just
been that Purdue has become our
The defeat left the Wolverines
with a ninth place finish in the 24-
team field. Graceland College went
on to win the tournament over
Mirhicaan CtntP.in twnn a tVS
till can't kill Purdue
Michigan had earned the number
three seed and their match-up with
Purdue on Friday by going a perfect
6-0 in pool play versus Tri-State,
Ball State, and Ferris State.
"It wasn't a real strong pool but
we were playing really well,"
Johengen said. "We played very
well against teams we should have
The Wolverines were once again
without the services of outside hitter
Chris Peirce who has a knee injury.
Sophomore Justin MacLaurin did
not make the trip, neither did senior
While Peirce and MacLaurin are
expect to be in action Friday against
Western Michigan, Baar is not ex-
pected to return this season.
"We were missing some key
people," Johengen said. "But, I don't
want t i no that ac ann ence_ The
searching for answers all season, but
they are confident they will put
things together in time for the
Collegiate Club Nationals on April
"When we went out there we
were still trying to find the balance
of sustaining our momentum,
Michigan co-captain Rico Latham
said. "We were physically ready.
We just need to get our mental game
together. Once we do that we'll
come back roarin' and ready to go at
"We know we can hang with
anybody. It's just a matter of putting
it together consistently."
Johengen was pleased with his
team's play for the weekend and
also that of rookie Stan Lee.
"Stan has returned to the form we
saw earlier in the season," Johengen
said. "He had a really strmn week-
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)
- Darrell Walker's driving layup
with 1:10 left broke a tie and led the
Detroit Pistons to a 107-103 victory
over the San Antonio Spurs on
The victory ended Detroit's four-
around a Dumars free throw, making
it 105-103 with 11 seconds
Dumars was fouled again and
made both free throws, completing
The Pistons led 51-44 at
halftm- l k. t enn hi t e nf