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Airborne Camera Gives Coverage A Lift

Amid all that rain and all those yellow caution flags that delayed the Daytona 500, a new CBS star was born, and, rest assured, this promising newcomer won’t pull a temper tantrum or petulantly demand air time.

However, FlyCam, a small camera mounted on a radio-controlled helicopter, which flew above the Daytona International Speedway Sunday, made an interesting enough debut that it may actually command more time in a number of CBS racing telecasts.

The 4-foot-long, 30-pound camera, which cost $400,000, hovered about 30 feet above the course, providing perspectives from Pit Road and other vantage points.

CBS received permission from NASCAR officials to use the camera on Friday and experimented with it on an empty track first before trying it out while racers were practicing, with two men - a cameraman and a ground pilot - operating the machinery. The shots from FlyCam weren’t always great, but with some practice, they will be.

Save for the 1-hour, 45-minute rain delay, the telecast actually went smoothly, although the network was precluded from using its five on-board cameras for the first half of the race, because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations that kept a support helicopter from taking off.

The pictures, courtesy of producer Eric Mann, director Bob Fishman and 26 cameras, were mostly interesting, especially the low-angle cameras near the turns that gave the sensation of the speed of the action.

Lead announcer Ken Squier was particularly effective at getting concise and clear information out of broadcasting newcomer Richard Petty while calling a solid race. Ned Jarrett seemed overly hyped to start, but settled down a bit after the rain delay. The threesome were sharp in the final 10 laps, letting the viewer know that Dale Earnhardt would make a charge at leader Sterling Marlin, who gamely held off Earnhardt for his second consecutive Daytona win.

The delay gave CBS and its capable pit reporters a chance to humanize the racers by getting inside their helmets. Mike Joy was the best of the pit guys, though David Hobbs and Dick Berggren were solid.

Show man

That Bob Costas has got a real solid future in this here business.

As “NBA Showtime” was ending Sunday, Costas, the consummate sports broadcaster of his day, dropped in what appeared to be an insignificant factoid: Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, a devout Muslim, had to get up at 5:30 Sunday morning to eat breakfast and would not be able to consume anything, including water or Gatorade, during the game, because of his observance of the festival of Ramadan, a high holy period of his faith.

Bill Walton appeared to chuckle at Costas’ observation, but Olajuwon shot four for 13 in the first half of the Rockets’ loss to the New York Knicks, though he did shoot six for eight in the second half after resting. In a nutshell, there’s the reason Costas has won five National Sportscaster of the Year awards in voting conducted among his peers: He provides timely and pertinent information in an entertaining fashion.


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