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Lampley Finds Peace in New Role

July 30, 1998

Jim Lampley has spent the first seven months of the year bouncing around from a mountain in Japan to a boat around Manhattan to ringside in Las Vegas and courtside at Wimbledon.

Pretty good gigs for a TV sports anchor, but not exactly what Lampley had in mind 11 years ago when he was the golden boy at ABC.

Since being forced out at ABC in a political battle with then-ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson, Lampley has worked at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, WFAN radio in New York, CBS Sports, HBO and NBC.

It took time, but Lampley finally is content, settling into his role at Time Warner-owned HBO and Turner Sports calling boxing, tennis, the Olympics and Goodwill Games.

``When I was kicked out of ABC in 1987, for what I believe were irrational reasons, I spent the next few years wanting to get back on the same professional track I was on at ABC,″ Lampley said. ``But I am happy with how it ended up. The only reason to get back on that track now would be for the prestige. Ten years ago, that was what I wanted. But now I don’t mind.″

With the change in attitude toward his career has come a change in attitude on television. The arrogant air that might have held back his career in years past has been replaced by a smart, edgy approach.

Never has that been more true than in Lampley’s two roles this year for Turner _ the host jobs for the Olympics and Goodwill Games. In Nagano, Lampley used biting criticism and humor to carry the audience through a five-hour broadcast of taped events.

At the Goodwill Games, Lampley has balanced events coverage with the accident of 17-year-old gymnast Sang Lan, an Iranian protest at wrestling and a missing Cuban cyclist.

``He knows how to handle problems on the air and he is very adept at bailing you out when he has a problem,″ Turner Sports executive producer Mike Pearl said. ``He has a special ability in his interview technique to have people feel comfortable.″

But it is Sang’s injury that has shown a new side of the normally cool Lampley, who was visibly choked up on numerous occasions Monday night during and after an interview with her parents.

``When it is all said and done, what I most want is for us to have dealt with the Sang Lan story properly,″ he said. ``It is more important than anything else here. No one’s life will change as much from these games as her’s will.″

While Lampley has covered death at auto races, bike races, earthquakes and plane crashes, it’s not easy to control his emotions.

``I walked a tight line being controlled and informative,″ Lampley said. ``I have children of my own. I can only imagine what it’s like for her parents to come around the world to see their daughter in circumstances like this.″


ROME’S SHOW NOT BUILT IN A DAY: To many people outside southern California, Jim Rome is still the guy who baited Jim Everett into a fight on the air.

But the host of Fox Sports Net’s ``The Last Word″ is hoping people will focus on his whole body of work rather than just one night four years ago.

``If people watch the show a few times, they will see that I am not afraid to ask the tough questions and that I ask the questions they want answered,″ Rome said this week at the All-Star Cafe in New York, which will provide an interactive studio audience for the show beginning next week.

The show, which struggled at first, has improved in recent weeks now that Rome is the sole host. But it still has a long way to go before it will reach his goal of being the sports version of ``Nightline.″


TUBE BITS: The CBS-owned Nashville Network will televise the rescheduled Pepsi 400 from Daytona International Speedway Oct. 17. The speedway’s first night race originally was to be televised July 4 by CBS, but was postponed because of the fires in Florida. CBS decided not to show the race in October, the beginning of the new prime-time season. ... ESPN’s three-man NFL announcing team makes its debut Saturday when Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire team up on the network’s coverage of the Tokyo Bowl between Green Bay and Kansas City. ... ABC and ESPN will cover the MLS All-Star game this weekend with ESPN covering the skills competition Saturday and ABC airing the game Sunday. ... With most of NBC’s football announcers having left since the network lost the NFL, Dick Enberg and Pat Haden will call Notre Dame games this fall. ... Summer Sanders will replace Willow Bay as co-host on ``NBA Inside Stuff.″

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