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The Big Picture: Talk-radio host fouls out in naming alleged victim

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The case of Kobe Bryant and the unnamed Colorado woman reached its absolute media nadir this week when a nationally syndicated radio host had the amoral, unethical, insensitive temerity to name her on the air.

Alleged victims of sexual assault -- and can we stop slapping the scarlet "A" of Accuser on her -- are normally protected by the mainstream media and allowed to remain anonymous. If not, who would ever step forward and file such charges? A public outing such as this has happened only a few times in recent memory, both in the early 1990s: NBC News with the alleged victim of William Kennedy Smith and assorted New York media amid the trial of the Central Park Jogger, Upper St. Clair native Trisha Meili, who only recently revealed her identity in a book about her comeback from the horror.

Then along came this shocking jock supposedly heard on 60 stations in Canada and the United States, Tom Leykis. On his Tuesday show, he began publicly invoking the 19-year-old's name and later told the Reuter's news service that he didn't plan to stop. He also called Bryant the "real victim."

Look, all you need to know about this Leykis character is this: He has "Flash Fridays" when female fans undress on his show; he has been profiled in May's Hustler Magazine and he has been described, according to his Web site, as "a foul defender of the male libido." That explains a lot. That and the fact this 51-year-old aims for a young male, guy-talk audience and the gutter, which often is redundant.

Oh, Leykis may fall back on the it's-on-the-Internet hollow argument. Designs for bombs and terroristic screeds and child pornography are online, too, so does that make them journalistically correct to quote? In fact, friends of the alleged victim told ESPN that it isn't the alleged victim in some of those Internet-circulated photos..

It's about time the public and the media clammed up. Let a Colorado jury decide, not the court of public opinion. Bryant, 24, has denied attacking her, calling it consensual sex, and I can't begin to tell you how out of place it feels to type "consensual sex" on the sports pages.

If we've learned anything over the past decade, being fleet of foot or physically blessed doesn't put any athlete beyond the possible eventuality of police custody. This is a case of an internationally famed basketball player vs. a private citizen. Bryant has as much right to presumed innocence as she does to anonymity.

Tour de manual

Everybody in American sports television ought to be strapped into a Barcalounger and forced to watch Outdoor Life Network's compelling coverage of the Tour de France.

Every announcer needs to hear the understated, analytical and lyrical approach of co-hosts Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

Every network wonk, producer and director should take heed of the pace, flow and -- imagine this -- live drama of a sporting event twice as long as the network's cable time allows.

Every camera person ought to study not just the riders' pained faces captured by the French photographers aboard speeding motorcycles, but the views they provide of pedals and riders' interplay and roads ahead and too-close crowds, all far more telling than the standard, cheesy cheerleader shots.

Every advertising person has to see the dollar signs of a sponsor buying a half-hour block of commercial-free broadcast, earning both an occasional corner graphic and the unending thanks of the viewers.

And every technical type should have to witness the wonder of the unadulterated screen, with graphics disappearing after just 10 seconds.

Watch. Learn. Emulate. Repeat as necessary.

Outdoor Life Network (OLN), thanks to its BBC crew of announcers and French production team, this week has shown the way TV sports should look. It aired a limited supply of replays, such as Armstrong's tumble and the peloton's amazing sportsmanship waiting for him to return Monday. It stayed on task and on course, leaving for no longer than a few seconds to profile a rider. It used no telestrators or gizmos like, uh, Seat Cam. It played no John Tesh music. It made bicycle racing a must see.

You don't have to be an aficionado to enjoy it. In my case, you don't even have to know how to ride a bike (my pro-Rush e-mailers will undoubtedly ascribe that inability to the notion I instinctively lean to the Left).

Just yesterday, the articulate announcers conveyed both their shock and admiration for the daring surge by Stage 16 winner Tyler Hamilton, he of the broken collarbone since Stage 2. "This has been without doubt one of the boldest attacks we've seen in years," Liggett said. "One of the bravest escapades," Sherwen added. Can you imagine such banter between ABC's Al Michaels and John Madden?

Which reminds me of another thing. OLN doesn't dress up its broadcast with cheap frills, as others feel a need to do. They have former rider Frankie Andreu knowledgeably interview riders and Kirsten Gum (of Fox Sports Net auto racing ) serve as desk co-anchor while -- imagine that -- fully clothed.

Remote notes

Between Bob Errey vacationing in Canada and Fox Sports Net negotiators being otherwise occupied, talks have bogged down on a contract to name him Eddie Olczyk's Penguins-TV successor. An announcement could come by July's end. Then the Penguins expect to officially begin work on hiring a radio replacement for Errey, likely, as reported, deciding between Phil Bourque and Rob Brown.

Dan Patrick was so livid about the Pirates' fire sale, he was off the air and still felt compelled to call into his own ESPN Radio show to complain about it. He feels that you Pirates fans are getting the shaft.

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