Yes, it was absolutely fabulous that NBC and HBO carried Wimbledon simultaneously from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, but flipping between them could get you unstuck in time, endeavoring to discover what’s live, almost live or taped.
To their credit, the networks chose not to compete when both were on. So NBC was on tape at noon EDT with Pete Sampras-Greg Rusedski while HBO focused live on Goran Ivanisevic playing Todd Martin.
But by 2 p.m., the gears came off the clock; NBC and HBO took surfers on an excursion through a strange dimension, which wasn’t Greenwich mean time.
On tape, NBC reported a bomb scare, showed Tirade Jeff Tarango leaving Wimbledon (without his wife, Benedicte), and noted that Murphy Jensen had not showed up for his mixed doubles match.
HBO was still live with Ivanisevic-Martin, but reported none of NBC’s news, then switched to the taped ending of the Boris Becker-Dick Norman match, from Becker leading by 5-4 in the third set. Within seconds, NBC joined Becker-Norman, at 2-0 in the third set.
Thus were shown, simultaneously, two taped versions of the same event, which was over when HBO’s earlier version kicked in. Perhaps Bud Collins’ tailor can explain it all to us. To addle us further, HBO’s Jim Lampley preceded the HBO tape of the match by saying, “We will call it as if live.”
Lampley was better at saying when we were watching taped tennis; NBC rarely said a word or put up explanatory graphics.
By 2:23, with NBC’s Becker-Norman still running, HBO’s version ended, so it reported on Jensen going AWOL (but not on the bomb scare, which NBC eventually discovered was not a bomb at all, but a smoke alarm that had gone off from too many Croatian media people smoking too much).
Soon after, HBO, perhaps live, showed Collins, on tape, interviewing Tarango as he was rushing along a street outside Wimbledon, trying to avoid talking but chattering anyway about being a prisoner in his temporary residence.
Then the cable network ran tape of the Gabriela Sabatini-Lisa Raymond match, which ran hours before on NBC. Was it on tape? I don’t know.
On NBC, John McEnroe showed again why his ungoverned candor is a hoot.
Calling the Sampras match, he actually agreed with utterances by Chris Evert, a woman - nay, a woman champion - calling a men’s match. He, Evert and Dick Enberg constituted an amusing threesome.
But McEnroe being McEnroe is often enough as he ripped Rusedski, the Canadian now playing for Britain. “He has no business playing Davis Cup for Britain,” he said. “That certainly doesn’t mean he can’t live here.”
McEnroe scorned chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh, who set off Tarango’s tantrum, for iffy overrules that hurt Rusedski. “Jeff Tarango is not appearing as nuts as he was a few hours ago,” he said. “You know you have a good official when you don’t see him. You have problems with someone like Rebeuh.”
McEnroe said Rebeuh should not have been put back to work so soon after Tarango’s charges that he favors players and suggested correctly that Rebeuh should have been punished for incorrectly penalizing Tarango for obscenity when he only told the crowd, “Shut up.”
While HBO’s Billie Jean King is the best at discussing tennis technique, she is not elevated by her bland partnership with Barry MacKay… . HBO’s Martina Navratilova coined something new: a “pastrami slice volley,” to describe an Alexander Mronz shot… . Lampley on Andre Agassi’s domination of Becker: “He treats him like a lap dog.” … NBC blanketed the Murphy Jensen story, concluding with a chat with his brother, Luke, who didn’t seem overly worried, suggesting his brother might have gone fishing in Alaska… . HBO’s Wimbledon ratings are up 78 percent, NBC’s are up 43 percent.
Out of the goodness of its heart, S.E.T.
Pay-Per-View will sell you Mike Tyson’s Aug. 19 comeback bout against Peter McNeeley for $39.95 until midnight Aug. 17 (and for $46 to $60 after that). That’s a minute concession from the original plan to sell it from $46 to $55, but still egregious. Imagine what grotesque price S.E.T. will charge for a bout that is not an exhibition.
ABC’s All-Star Game selection special Sunday was ably produced (but lacked statistics when players were interviewed). But it was bizarre, 60 games into the season, to see a broadcast network covering baseball. Blame The Baseball Network, which will die after the World Series. Long live its demise!