The National Football League season has unleashed some real dog games on NBC, but maybe this weekend will take the bite off the poor matchups that have hounded the network.
With a division leader (the Los Angeles Raiders) facing a club with an outside shot at the playoffs (the Minnesota Vikings) tomorrow (channels 2, 4, 4 p.m.) and a battle for the American Football Conference East title Sunday (Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins, channels 2, 4, 1 p.m.), it could be a different tail, er, tale this time around.
Calling the Bills-Dolphins game will be the entertaining pair of Marv Albert and Paul Maguire. In speaking about the telecast yesterday, Albert threw a good-humored dig at his analyst partner.
After saying that Maguire had spent several days in Miami preparing a feature on the Dolphins for the "NFL Live" pre-game show, Albert added, "His [Maguire's] game may be off Sunday; he has too much information."
Actually, one might think too much information would be Albert's problem. With football, basketball, hockey, boxing and studio assignments, it's a wonder he doesn't introduce Maguire one Sunday as the Fight Doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, then turn to the action on the field and tell us that Patrick Ewing just completed a pass to John Vanbiesbrouck.
In addition to Sunday's game, Albert will reappear on Christmas, announcing NBC's Detroit Pistons-Chicago Bulls telecast (channels 2, 4, 3:30 p.m.), the network's second regular-season game in its inaugural year with the National Basketball Association.
For Albert, a longtime New York Knicks announcer, doing a network NBA telecast means filling in viewers on information that local fans might be expected to know.
"It's a little different, because the approach is a little different than the local broadcast," Albert said.
He cited an example from an NBC preseason game featuring the Knicks.
"Charles Oakley hit an outside shot early in the game, and I said that other teams like to see that, because it makes Oakley think he can shoot outside," Albert said. "That was something I might not have mentioned on a Knicks broadcast."
As for what will make NBC's NBA coverage distinctive from that of CBS, Albert said: "CBS did a solid job. Technically, NBC will be terrific, but I don't think people react to that, unless it's awful.
"People usually relate to the announcers. I have a style I've gone with, and I think it's probably a little lighter. I think there'll probably be more opinion."
And the opinion from the viewers should favor Albert's style over that of CBS' workmanlike Dick Stockton, who was CBS' play-by-play man.
That is, as long as Albert doesn't have Michael Jordan dropping back to throw an overhand right at Dan Marino.
Baltimore Orioles announcer Jon Miller has been nominated for an ACE award, cable television's Emmy, for his work on ESPN's baseball coverage. But Miller said he wasn't exactly waiting by the phone for word of his nomination.
"I had no knowledge I was even a candidate," he said. "I didn't realize they gave one for sports.
"I kept getting calls from ESPN congratulating me, and I didn't know what for."
Of course, there is a down side to his nomination.
"If I hadn't been nominated, I couldn't lose," Miller said.
Meanwhile, WBAL Radio appears to be close to finding a partner for Miller to replace Joe Angel, gone to New York. The announcement could come as early as today, station management said.
In 1992, WBAL again will be looking for another announcer -- someone to fill in when Miller is doing television games. Chuck Thompson has agreed to be that announcer in 1991, but that's it, he said. Hmm, maybe Ernie Harwell, just told by the Detroit Tigers that he's not coming back in 1992, would be interested in returning to Baltimore. And Harwell's Detroit colleague, Paul Carey, also said he won't return in 1992.
"I always talked to Paul Carey," Miller said, "and always tried to get him to come here whenever we had an opening."
How will Tim McCarver and Paula Zahn sound doing the 1992 Winter Olympics? Get a preview on Christmas at 3 p.m. (channels 11, 9) on "Olympic Winterfest: Countdown to Albertville." . . . CBS has announced part of its 1991 baseball schedule, and the Orioles are scheduled for a Sunday appearance July 14 against the Oakland Athletics. . . . The Bulls are in court trying to overturn an NBA ruling that limits the number of individual team telecasts on superstations. The number was cut from 25 to 20 this season, affecting the Bulls on WGN. . . . Sports News Network, a sort of CNN strictly for sports, shut down Monday, not that anyone around here would have noticed. SNN -- which didn't make it on to many cable systems, including those in the Baltimore area -- reportedly might be purchased from Mizlou by another company willing to give the channel one more shot.