Hbo Welcomes Martina’s Views, And Gets Them

How in the world can Ben Wright putt? That’s what Martina Navratilova wants to know.

Remember Ben? Amazingly, he still works for CBS as its golf analyst.

Before the LPGA Championship last week, he was quoted as saying the LPGA was in danger of losing major sponsorships because there were too many lesbians on tour. Then, he was quoted as saying women have trouble swinging a golf club because their bosoms get in the way.

“The whole thing is so bizarre because everybody’s denying that anything happened,” said Navratilova, who is open about her own lesbianism.

“The LPGA wants it to go away. Ben Wright denies he said it. CBS wants it to go away. Now, they can’t even find the writer who wrote it,” Navratilova said.

“If he said it, all I want to know is: How in the world does he putt with that big stomach?”

Navratilova was at an HBO news conference Monday so the cable network could announce she will be an analyst for its Wimbledon coverage this year. If all goes well, she hinted she might join CBS for its coverage of the U.S. Open - that’s U.S. Open tennis, not golf.

“I’m sure there are some lesbians out there on the LPGA tour,” Navratilova said, “just like I’m sure there are some gay men golfers on tour.”

And so what! Nobody watches the LPGA to compare coifs or check out hemlines, anyway. It’s the golf that matters.

“And women don’t watch the PGA because John Daly is so good looking. They watch it because he hits the ball 350,000 yards,” Navratilova said.

“But somehow, they talk about there being a problem as though lesbianism is something negative,” Navratilova said. “If there are corporations out there that haven’t signed with the LPGA because they fear lesbianism, then maybe we should examine that.”

Out takes

Navratilova says she hopes to be critical without being negative as a TV analyst. And HBO’s Wimbledon anchor, Jim Lampley, says players won’t dare question her.

“I think Martina will find she won’t get a lot of flak because of her stature in the sport. Players will say to themselves, ‘If she said it, it must be true.’ And, I expect her to be candid because that’s her personality,” Lampley said.

Adds Martina: “I think you can be honest and blunt without insulting anybody.” Which, of course, takes half the fun out of it.

Navratilova will play doubles at Wimbledon this year with Steffi Graf, but she will not play singles. Tournament dates are June 26-July 9… .

NBC’s two-game weekend Nielsen overnight average was 10.0 with a 26 share, an increase of 15 percent over last year, and that was without Michael Jordan and his alreadyeliminated Chicago Bulls.

Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals between Houston and Phoenix earned an 8.6-24, while Game 7 of the Eastern Conference between Indiana and New York was 11.4-28.

By the way, if you’re inclined to feel sorry for NBC because the big market cities of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are out of the playoffs, stow it. Local ratings for the weekend games were 32.1 in Houston, 30.7 in Phoenix, 31.6 in Indianapolis and 17.9 in New York… .

Hillary Smith, who plays Nora Gannon on the ABC soap opera “One Life To Live,” is making good her invitation to sports talk show host Kathleen Murphy of Madison Square Garden Network.

On Thursday, Murphy will play a Logan’s department store clerk in the fictional town of Llanview, scene of the Emmy Awardwinning soap. She got the part because of an invitation Smith made when she appeared recently on Murphy’s sports talk show, “Live from the Play-By-Play.”

Smith also stars on the NBC sitcom “Something Wilder.”

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