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    Monday, February 23, 1998

    CBC's MacLean out of place

    By ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

      At some point, CBC's Ron MacLean must realize that when he speaks during an event as important as the Olympic Games, he's looking a nation in the eye.
     So, did he expect Canadians to take him seriously in an interview Saturday when he told men's hockey coach Marc Crawford that he had done "a great, great job."
      Without debating Crawford's role in Canada's loss to the Czech Republic, it's difficult to find a way to equate a fourth-place finish in the tournament with the word great.
     The fact is, MacLean has gone so soft he hurts his network's credibility at times. On the rare occasions he asks a tough question -- often after a long preamble -- he won't follow it up. Case in point was a Saturday interview with NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow. When Goodenow tried to downplay the Americans trashing rooms in the Olympic village, MacLean let it slide.
     The wimpy role works when he is alongside Don Cherry, but when MacLean is conducting interviews under the guise of a journalist, it's a different story. Unfortunately, MacLean too often gives the appearance that he just wants to be one of the guys.
     MEDAL TIME: With the Games over, it's time for the TV medal presentation recognizing the highs and lows from the past two weeks:
     GOLD: CBC's overall coverage. Complaints about the Canadian network are mere quibbles. All the Canadian stories were followed with horizons expanded to other countries ... Harry Neale. Before the tournament began, the CBC analyst didn't buy into the theory that it was an automatic Canada-U.S. final. His blend of perspective and analysis make him one of the best going ... Brian Williams. Proved again he is the best Olympic host in either Canada or the U.S. ... CBC ratings. Up by close to 20% over CTV's performance in Lillehammer despite the debilitating time differences.
     SILVER: CBC veteran Don Wittman was his usual strong self on curling but also was to the point with strong post-game questions during medal-round hockey ... CBC's Chris Cuthbert with some honest commentary on figure skating ... John Davidson. CBS hockey analyst has a different approach than Neale because of his need to educate an American audience. But his commentary was relevant and opinionated enough to entertain Canadian fans as well ... Jim Nantz. The CBS studio host was in a no-win situation with his network insisting on ridiculous tape delays. He would have added to his network's credibility if it had any to begin with ... John Garrett. Gave some needed perspective on CBC's women's hockey coverage.
     BRONZE: Bob Cole. It would be difficult to award the voice of Hockey Night in Canada a gold or silver because he often misidentifies players. But in the last 10 minutes, overtime and shootout of the Canada-Czech Republic game, you wouldn't want anybody else calling it ... Cherry. Was a little more disjointed than usual, but was a welcome antidote to MacLean. Putting the bronze-medal game into perspective, Cherry said: "What can you do if you get a bronze medal? Hang it up and say this is where we lost? A bronze to me is nothing." ... Sean McDonough. Solid work on CBS hockey play-by-play.
     OFF THE PODIUM: CBS tape delays. The network waited 22 hours to show Picabo Street's gold-medal run. Enough said ... MacLean. Once a bright talent, needs a harder edge ... CBC's Steve Armitage for confusing Catriona Le May Doan and Susan Auch during their gold-silver run in the women's 500-metre speed skating ... Snowboard coverage on both CBS and CBC where commentary virtually was unintelligible.
     QUICK CUTS: CBC has once again received rave reviews in U.S. border cities where viewers have access to both signals. Writes Kay McFadden of the Seattle Times. "In U.S. markets such as Seattle, Buffalo and Detroit, viewers with access to CBC have abandoned CBS ... they're pretty ticked off." McFadden quoted CBC executive producer Doug Sellars as saying he had seen some of CBS' prime-time coverage. "We'd be dead in Canada if we did that. The audience would kill us." ... How brutal was CBS' coverage? So bad that Bob Knowles, the managing editor of CBS affiliate WHNT in Huntsville, Ala., apologized on air to viewers. "Here at Newschannel 19, we had hoped the coverage would live up to the hyped expectations. There's not much that has really done that."