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Change for Tasker at CBS; Sully to Stay at News

2010 Buffalo Bills Schedule Wallpaper

Image by Hawk Eyes via Flickr

If anyone is going to miss the histrionics of former CBS play-by-play man Gus Johnson more than the average Buffalo Bills fan, it is analyst Steve Tasker.
The life of the former Bill is changing because his TV partner bolted CBS in the offseason to work for Fox.
CBS is expected to announce in a few weeks that Tasker will be teamed with play-by-play man Bill Macatee this coming NFL season.
In a telephone interview, Tasker said his schedule will be reduced from the 17 games he worked with Johnson last year to 12 with Macatee.
But the downgrade in his schedule won’t cost him any money (he has a contract and isn’t paid by the game) and his reduced schedule is expected to have the side benefit of giving him several weekends to watch one son, Luke play football at Cornell University and another son, Tap, play at St. Francis High.
He’ll miss working with Johnson, whose exuberant style has made him one of the more talked about announcers on TV.
“He’s a good friend,” said Tasker, who was aware that Johnson’s over-the-top style had its critics as well as its fans.
“Even at his most over-the-topness, he meant it,” defended Tasker. “He is real. He didn’t manufacture anything. People like that.”
Macatee couldn’t be more different than Johnson. He’s a low-key versatile announcer, who may have as many tennis fans as football fans.
“Bill is not as high profile as Gus,” said Tasker in one of the understatements of the year.
The departure of Johnson has led to CBS reshuffling its NFL lineup. It hired Marv Albert to replace Johnson’s spot on the roster and work some high profile games. He is expected to be paired with Rich Gannon, who has done his share of Bills games.
Tasker also will work Bills preseason games with another former Bill, Ray Bentley.
“I think they will be much improved, especially on the defensive side,” said Tasker.
But he adds the key to the season could be whether the Bills stay healthy since he is unsure of their depth.
* Buffalo News subscribers will be able read sports columnist Jerry Sullivan kicking around the Bills for another season. One doubts he’ll be as positive about the Bills as Tasker will be during the preseason.
Sullivan, who toyed with the idea of signing up for a new buyout offer, confirmed Monday that he is staying with the newspaper. According to sources, The News made Sullivan happy by giving him a raise, something that is in short supply at One News Plaza or any newspaper these days.
The loss of Sullivan would have been a big blow to The News, which needs to keep as many of its so-called “brands” as possible. Sullivan is arguably the biggest brand at the paper, with his frequent work on WGR radio making him a bigger personality.
In these days of diminishing readership, it is unlikely that anyone will ever again have the following of Sullivan or the lead sports columnists he followed — Larry Felser and Steve Weller.
Staffers at The News have until Friday to decide whether to sign up for the buyout and then they have to wait to see if they have enough seniority to be among those allowed to take it.
Some of those who qualify may return as part-timers, but taking the buyout does come with some additional risk since they will lose their seniority. Seniority would be especially valuable if The News ever decides to cut costs with layoffs.
News editor Margaret Sullivan has raised the possibility of layoffs in the last few weeks without being asked about them, which surprised staffers and may have made a few of them less likely to take the buyout.
According to sources, metro columnist Donn Esmonde and investigative reporter Jim Heaney haven’t decided whether to sign up for the buyout or not. Sources say those who have signed up include veteran reporters Dan Herbeck and Brian Meyer. It is uncertain if Meyer has enough seniority to get the buyout. Sources believe Herbeck is likely to be asked to come back to work part-time.
* While we’re on the sports beat, caddie Steve Williams has been taking a deserved beating for comments he directed at his former boss, Tiger Woods, Sunday after carrying the bag for Sunday’s golf winner, Adam Scott.
To their credit, CBS announcers Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz quickly noted that Williams’ claim that Scott’s win “was the biggest of his life” despite the 13 majors Woods won with him on the bag was “a dig” at Woods and would be talked about on the tour.
But CBS deserves some criticism, too. It spent more time interviewing Williams than Scott and almost made it seem like the caddy actually was the guy hitting the shots. Of course, I suppose CBS shouldn’t be blamed for staying with a guy making news by making a fool of himself rather than give us just another extended interview with a winning golfer talking about his putting.
Williams has since distanced himself from his absurd claim that Sunday’s win was the biggest of his life. Now he should go back to doing what caddies are supposed to do – stay out of the limelight.
* Overexposure: Had to laugh when I read this from Maryalice Demler via Facebook: “I anchored five newscasts (Monday). Lev (Scott Levin) called in sick. Even my own parents don’t want to see me on TV that much. Sorry, folks.”

pergament@msn.com

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