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Gifford Soars As Monday Night Football Host

November 7, 1996

In television, it’s usually called the hook. But for Frank Gifford, it will be the ejection seat this weekend as he takes the Navy up on an offer to go flying for Veterans Day.

Gifford and his Monday night co-pilots, Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf, will be in San Diego next week as the Chargers present their annual salute to the armed forces before hosting the Detroit Lions.

So, the execs at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, Calif., thought it might be a good idea to invite Gifford up in an FA-18 Hornet fighter attack jet. Gifford said the invitation literally ``came out of the blue, no pun intended.″

He’ll go up with a Navy pilot Saturday after a couple hours of physiology training.

``I’m not sure if they’ll take him up in the air chamber or not, but I do know he is going through the ejection seat trainer,″ said Navy Lt. Jeff Weimann of the public information office at Lemoore. ``Then he’ll go up for an hour to a hour and a half.

``They’ll do maneuvers to see what it’s like to do air-to-air combat and air-to-ground. They might even let him fly the plane.″

Gifford is not a pilot, although he says he’s flown in the co-pilot’s seat with several of his buddies who have pilots licenses, like Dierdorf and Bruce Jenner.

``I asked Dan last week if he wanted to go along. He said, `I’m too big for that.′ Dan has his own plane. He’s a multi-engine pilot, and I think he would love to do it. In all honesty, I think he might be a little too big for it. Anyway, I’m not going to give him my seat.″

ABC currently plans to show some video from the flight on its Monday night game, and even if he gets ahold of the joystick, Gifford wants to make one thing clear: Don’t worry, Kathy Lee. He’ll be home on time.

``I’m sure they’ll take good care of me. They don’t want to lose me,″ Gifford said. ``I don’t think that would be too good for recruiting.″

OUT TAKES: Don’t expect to see a long driving contest between Tiger Woods and John Daly during the Skins Game on ABC the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1 from California’s La Quinta Country Club.

``It’s not about length. It’s about birdies,″ Woods said. ``And I’m going to go out there and try to make as many birdies as I possibly can and win some skins. That’s my goal.″

Woods, Daly, Tom Watson and Fred Couples, a pretty long hitter himself, will make up the Skins foursome, vying for $540,000 in prize money. Woods, who just turned pro this year, will be in his first Skins Game.

``One of the problems if I try to get that extra length, I lose my accuracy. I can hit 30 yards farther if I want to, but there’s really no point because I don’t know where it’s going. ... Occasionally I will stretch it out on a par-5, like No. 16 at Las Vegas, but most holes I won’t play more than 75-80 percent.″ ...

The producers promised Charlie Jones that it would not only feel like 1972 when they shot the Munich scenes for their movie project. They promised Jones he would look like he did in 1972.

``But all they did was dress me up like it was 1972,″ said NBC’s Jones, who turns 66 on Sunday. ``I guess there’s only so much Hollywood can do.″

Jones plays a small part in the Warner Brothers picture ``Pre,″ the life and times of distance runner Steve Prefontaine. The film still is in the shooting stage, but is tentatively set to come out in the spring. Jones did his part in the picture in one day.

Basically, he plays himself, a sportscaster, at the 1972 Games, even though he was with NBC then, and those games belonged to ABC. The movie traces the short but glorious life of Prefontaine, who died at age 21 in a car crash.

The producers are Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, while Jonathan (Elephant Man) Sanger is the executive producer. Robert (Chinatown) Towne is the director and co-writer along with former Prefontaine teammate Kenny Moore, who writes for Sports Illustrated now.

Appearing in the movie along with Jones will be Frank Shorter, who was first in the 1972 marathon, finishing just as Prefontaine was finishing fourth in the 5,000 meters.

``For 20 years, Frank and I did virtually all of NBC’s track and field together, but we hadn’t worked together for a while,″ Jones said. ``It took us about two hours off camera and about three hours to call the race in different sections. By the time we were halfway through, we really felt like it was 1972 and it was the Munich Olympics and the race had taken place and we were doing a voice layover later in the day.″

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