- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

For a bit last week, it appeared that Telly Savalas, best known for his work on television as feisty detective Kojak, had risen from the dead to promote ESPN's Bobby Knight biopic, "A Season on the Brink."
Producers for the film published posters recruiting extras for game footage being shot in the toasty confines of Winnipeg Arena today and Dec. 17. The film sessions will "be hosted by Telly Savalas, with special musical guests," reads the poster, which was distributed throughout Winnipeg and appears on the Web site for the film.
The only problem is that Savalas/Kojak died in 1994, lollipops and all. This makes you wonder who the "special musical guests" are, maybe Frank Sinatra, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix?
Washington Times business reporter Tim Lemke, sniffing perhaps the best story of this or any other century, called ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., for details on how Savalas had been resurrected in the middle of Manitoba. Unfortunately, it all turned out to be a mistake.
"We're pretty sure he's dead, so he won't be a very lively host," said Rob Tobias, head PR man for the film, spinning his own brand of graveyard humor.
Apparently, those making the poster simply forgot to delete Savalas' name after using it simply to mark where the actual host's name would be placed. Tobias said he didn't know who the real host would be, but that it was likely a local celebrity unknown to the rest of us. Too bad.

Phil Wood 'available'
Even though he's job hunting, longtime Washington-Baltimore sportscaster Phil Wood hasn't lost his sense of holiday cheer.
"Every time I've ever been fired, it's this time of year, and I've finally figured out why," Wood said the other day. "It's because you can't walk a block without seeing piles of logs with signs that say "fire Wood."
Hardee har har.
OK, so Jerry Seinfeld he ain't. But considering the way Wood has been treated this year by the lunkheads who operate WTEM-AM, it's remarkable that Phil can smile, much less crack bad jokes.
Wood, 50, is widely recognized and respected as a baseball analyst and historian, so naturally the so-called all-sports station took him off the air in January after landing D.C. rights to Baltimore Orioles games. There has been speculation that Orioles owner Peter Angelos requested that Wood be sidelined because he is a very vocal advocate of baseball in Washington, but this has never been substantiated.
Oddly, WTEM kept Wood on the payroll for 11 months while using him very little, principally on John Thompson's afternoon talk show. Finally, the station let him go a couple of weeks ago.
"At one point, Bennett Zier [general manager of the ClearChannel conglomerate that owns WTEM] told me, 'We're going to get you involved,' but I never heard from him [again]," Wood said. "I don't carry any grudges, and I don't blame Bennett; it was nothing personal. He has eight stations to run, and a lot of bigger things to worry about."
A charter member of WTEM's staff in 1992, Wood is now working on a freelance basis and running a music store in Bethesda. That's fine, but when and if Washington gets a baseball team, I've got a pretty good suggestion for its lead broadcaster.

Those Christmas Bells
Another veteran D.C. sportscaster who should be on the air a lot more than he is, Harold Bell, will join his wife, Hattie, in staging their 33rd Kids In Trouble Inc. Christmas Toy Drive from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday at "The Dream" entertainment complex, 1350 Okie St. NE. Guests are asked to bring a toy for a child and a can of food for the homeless.
Bell, whose "Inside Sports" program was the first and hardest-hitting sports talk show in the area, will end the toy drive with a Christmas toy party for children Dec. 22 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Alexandria. When it comes to giving back to the community, the Bells always ring very loudly.

Ali and Coke
Muhammad Ali has a new PR gig. The former heavyweight champion has been hired by the Coca-Cola Co. to become involved in community and marketing initiatives to promote Coke products worldwide. The company also wouldn't mind if the move improved its image among blacks.
In June, a federal judge approved a record $192.5 million settlement of a highly publicized lawsuit that accused Coke of denying black workers fair pay, promotions, raises and performance reviews. The settlement called for each black employee to receive about $38,000. A year earlier, the company said it would spend $1 billion over five years to boost opportunities for minorities and women, partly by increasing its business with minority and female-owned financial institutions, suppliers and other companies. Even as a figurehead, the charismatic Ali obviously will attract attention to the effort.

Saban stays put
Lou Saban, one of college football's great movers if not necessarily shakers, has no plans to retire at the untender age of 80. Instead, he'll remain on the sideline at little Chowan.
Saban, whose career has taken him to more than two dozen programs including one season (1966) as Maryland's main man started the season as an assistant at Chowan but became interim head coach after Steve Lee resigned Oct. 9. Last week school president Stan Lott removed "interim" from Saban's title.
How long will he stay at the Division III school? Who knows, but Saban's players can take comfort from this fact: At his age, it isn't that easy to move around.

Eminently quotable
Baltimore Ravens safety Rod Woodson, on the Super Bowl champions' season: "We haven't played good football yet and we're 8-4. Hopefully, these last four games, we'll play well. If that happens, we can get back to where we were last year."

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