The passing of legendary coach and color commentator Al McGuire last week brought back memories of the day he visited his mother, Winifred, in East Aurora.
It was on Mother's Day in 1977, a few months after McGuire's team, Marquette, won the national basketball title and he retired from coaching.
I saw a different Al McGuire that day than the one who ranted at officials, timekeepers and his own players during games. McGuire was a quiet, deep-thinking, down-to-earth charmer.
"I'm probably deeper," McGuire said. "People see me as arrogant, obnoxious, surly. When it becomes post time I only know how to do it in gladiator form. It's curtain time when the ball goes up."
Post time or curtain time, it was always McGuire time. He knew when it was time to quit coaching and never looked back, even when the pros came with cash.
"I'm not reachable by money," McGuire said back then. "I think owners and I would have had a difficult time. I never wanted anyone that played for me to get more money than me. If I asked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to jump and he said "no,' I'd have to say "fake it.' "
McGuire didn't fake anything. He was the genuine article. That's why he was so successful in his second career as a broadcaster, first with the legendary NBC team with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer and then with CBS. He might not have always known the names of the players in the game, but he had an instant feel for who could play and what they could do.
Nowadays, networks are hiring comedians as analysts, feeling the entertainment they provide is needed to make sports interesting. McGuire not only knew what he was talking about, but he was more entertaining than all the Dennis Millers, Jay Mohrs and Jimmy Kimmels of the world, who strain to deliver laughs because they know they have nothing to say.
McGuire had plenty to say and in his own language. He called halftime "flush time" for obvious reasons. When teams got tough draws in a tournament, he said that they hit "the minus pool." A star big player who could carry a team was "an aircraft carrier."
One of the pictures that hung on the wall of his mother's bedroom was a testament to her son's sense of humor. It showed McGuire standing next to two of his players, near a lake. The picture was taken shortly after a sportswriter suggested that McGuire's team couldn't put the ball in the lake. Of course, McGuire had his team throw the ball in the lake.
McGuire also could throw quite a tantrum when he didn't like a referee's call.
"He's an actor," said his mother in defense. "He's got to do something."
His last act has played out, but no one will ever say that Al McGuire hit the "minus pool."
Jumping the gun
What do the Buffalo Bills and the CBS series, "Survivor" have in common? Web site surprises.
A year ago, a CBS web site eliminated one of the "Survivor" castaways hours before an episode of the program ran.
On Thursday, the Bills web site briefly put out a release announcing the hiring of Gregg Williams as the team's new coach several hours before the team officially announced his hiring. What happened?
According to Bills spokesperson Scott Berchtold, the release was put on the web site for four minutes because the wrong button was pushed. That was long enough for it to catch the attention of WGR-AM.
The writer of the release, said Berchtold, didn't know if Williams was the actual choice and was just trying to get a jump on any announcement. He chose Williams because of media reports speculating on his hiring, said Berchtold.
"It was an honest mistake," said Berchtold.
Around the dials
For a brief time Wednesday, on WGR-AM anyway, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis was the Bills' coach. During a regular sports report, the station used Associated Press in Baltimore as its source. One problem. There was no such report. AP in Buffalo was told that WGR got the report from a fax, apparently from some prankster. WGR apparently reported it without checking.
A week after the boring Super Bowl, it's time for Vince McMahon's new football league, the XFL. As the league opens this weekend with games on NBC and UPN, the big questions are 1) will anybody take this league seriously? 2) why would NBC let itself be dragged down to the level of UPN by carrying games from a league that promotes violence and views cheerleaders as sex objects?
The answer to the first question is it really doesn't matter as long as the games get a 4 rating and attract younger male viewers on Saturday nights, when NBC has been bribing viewers to watch movies by running Internet contests.
NBC is willing to hit the low road because NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol has a previous relationship with McMahon's wrestling arm, wants to get back at the NFL after losing rights to the AFC, and knows that there isn't much downside to carrying the XFL, unless you count all the editorials condemning it.
The NHL All-Star game Sunday airs at 2:30 p.m. on Channel 7. In ABC's continuing quest to annoy sports purists, actor-comedian Denis Leary will be in the broadcast booth with Gary Thorne and Bill Clement for two periods to promote his upcoming ABC series, "The Job." Leary plays hockey and is a fan.
During the game, ABC is going to use a new technology that allows viewers to see the actual speed, distance and position of Ray Bourque, Theo Fleury, Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Bure.
ESPN, ABC's sister network, carries NHL All-Star Saturday tonight at 7. It includes the SuperSkills competition.
While ABC's ratings for Monday Night Football declined, the radio broadcasts by Westwood One/CBS Sports had a 15 percent increase.
The documentary,"Do You Believe in Miracles?: The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team," makes its premier nationally on HBO at 10 p.m. Monday. It will run several other times.