Gentlemen, start your billboards. Jerry Seinfeld once observed
that because pro athletes switch franchises so often, fans are
actually cheering for laundry. At last year's invasion of
sponsor-splattered Winston Cup cars at the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway, folks were cheering not for laundry but for laundry
detergent--specifically, winner Ricky Rudd (above), in the
number 10 Tide Ford (roll, Tide!). Indy's low-banked turns (12
degrees) make passing chancy, yet the Brickyard 400 is among the
most popular NASCAR races. Last year's 160-lap chase drew
330,000 prospective consumers.
ABC, 1 PM
Steelers vs. Buccaneers
Packers vs. Chiefs
"Are you ready for some...?" Hey, yo, it's been six months of
nothing but the Frankfurt Galaxies and the Houston Thunderbears
of the pigskin netherworld. Time to kick off! The question mark
in the opener--the Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio--will be
two-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott (right) of Tampa Bay,
who's recovering from a sprained left hip. The nightcap, the
American Bowl from Tokyo, pits 1997 league co-MVP Brett Favre
against a Kansas City defense that, with newly acquired linemen
Chester McGlockton and Leslie O'Neal, may be the NFL's best. An
extra point possibly worth staying up late for: Each team
expects to use one or both of the Japanese players from its
practice squad for this game.
ABC, 7 PM; ESPN, 10:15 PM
Du Maurier Classic, Final Round
Say you, Se Ri, say it together, naturally! Say what? South
Korea native Se Ri Pak has already won two majors this year (the
McDonald's LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open) and
could become the first woman to win three since Pat Bradley in
1986. The No. 1 player ($768,211) on the LPGA money list, Pak
will be making her inaugural visit to the Essex course in
Windsor, Ont., for the season's final major. In some ways Pak's
stunning success 38th-parallels that of Tiger Woods. Both are
Orlando residents of Asian descent. (Woods is part Thai.) Woods
became the youngest champ of the Masters last year and Pak the
youngest of the ladies' Open last month. However, Pak, 20, did
not take up the game until she was 14; Woods, 22, was making
trick shots on The Mike Douglas Show at age three.
ESPN, 2 PM
MLS All-Star Game
The first two Major League Soccer All-Star fests featured an
East-versus-West conference setup and midfielder Carlos
Valderrama, currently of the Miami Fusion, as the MVP. This
year's match, from Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl, pits the U.S.
(we're No. 32!) against the rest of the world, including
Valderrama and D.C. United midfielder Marco Etcheverry of
Colombia, and goalie Jorge Campos of Mexico and the Chicago
Fire. At week's end Etcheverry topped MLS with 15 assists, three
of them on tallies by U.S. All-Star Roy Lassiter, his D.C.
teammate. Lassiter led the league in goals (15) and, maybe,
being slighted: Coach Steve Sampson didn't pick him for the
World Cup team, and the fans who voted did not select him as a
starter in today's game.
ABC, 2:30 PM
Comets vs. Shock
Detroit's front office claims that Shock is an automotive
reference. Really. Then again, who among us wants to root for
the Gas? The expansion franchise, 11-10 at week's end, has
surprised, even shocked, the WNBA by finding itself in the thick
of the playoff hunt two thirds of the way through its inaugural
season. Sport-utility-vehicle-sized forward Cindy Brown, the
team's best rebounder (9.6 average), is a made-in-the-U.S.A.
model surrounded by spiffy imports such as leading scorer Korie
Hlede (left) of Croatia (14.6 points average) and assists leader
Sandy Brondello of Australia (3.9 average). Defending champion
Houston (18-1), winner of 13 straight games, is on cruise
control as it anticipates the playoffs. Guard Cynthia Cooper,
the 1997 league MVP, was leading the WNBA in scoring (22.8). The
first time these two teams met, in Houston on July 9, the Shock
absorbed a 96-66 loss.
LIFETIME, 8 PM
COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN [Ricky Rudd holding trophy]
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO [Mike Alstott]
COLOR PHOTO: MITCHELL LAYTON/WNBA PHOTOS [Korie Hlede and opponent in game]
THE ! ZAPPER
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol knows timing. Last Thursday, as
the Chicago Bulls were monopolizing the sports news with their
hiring of Tim Floyd, Ebersol announced he was dropping former
Detroit Piston John Salley from the network's NBA studio show.
Ebersol was also able to remove Salley's former teammate, Isiah
Thomas, from the game telecast with much less fanfare than had
heralded Thomas's arrival last December. Thomas will assume
Salley's role; Doug Collins will now be the sole analyst for
play-by-play man Bob Costas.
ALL TIMES EASTERN. SCHEDULES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.