Prestige Cable Television has made great strides since it began broadcasting area sporting events in 1988.
The production is sharper, the announcers better and the breadth of events broadcast improved. The cable network even has added a sports segment to its regular Monday through Friday night newscasts.
But one major element is missing in the coverage of local sports -- diversity of high school coverage.
Basically, Prestige event coverage has been limited to a handful of high school events -- football, boys basketball and the state wrestling tournament.
Aside from the wrestling event -- which is in Westminster and is a showcase for some of our top athletes -- the selections of football and basketballhardly spotlight the top performances. The shortcomings of Carroll'sfootball and boys basketball programs have been chronicled often in this space, and there is no reason to rehash them now.
But, exceptfor South Carroll's 1989 appearance in the state boys basketball finals, recent history has been pretty dismal in those sports.
Meanwhile, our field hockey, cross country, volleyball, wrestling and trackteams have excelled. And we've had some teams do well in other sports, too.
But their games don't wind up on television.
Bryan McLean, sports director at Prestige and a long-time follower of county athletics, says the reason is fan interest. And, at least as far as fall sports are concerned, he has a point -- football by far outdraws the others.
But what about the winter offerings? Crowds at intra-county wrestling matches involving Francis Scott Key, North Carroll or Westminster often have larger and noisier crowds than some basketball games.
And why doesn't Prestige cover any spring games? Lacrosse games of importance sometimes draw several hundred fans, rivaling someof the smaller crowds at basketball games Prestige broadcasts.
Infact, broadcasting some of the more important baseball and softball games would be a big public service to parents who are not able to make those afternoon contests.
McLean noted, though, that last spring's schedule was filled with a variety of non-scholastic events -- a major kick-boxing match, an assortment of recreation softball and early South Penn League games. Squeezing spring high school events in would have been difficult, he said.
Let's get one thing straight -- Prestige does a good job of showcasing local sports.
Aside from their high school productions, they've also broadcast South Penn League, American Legion and Babe Ruth Baseball, men's and women's softball,kick-boxing, summer swimming, a variety of motor sports, a soap box derby and youth football.
And the regular sports reports, which started as a weekly production in June 1990 and expanded to a nightly segment in December, does give athletes in other sports a shot at the spotlight.
McLean, who does both the nightly sports report and much of the play-by-play announcing, has become more polished and informative, as have most of the other announcers, led by Jeff Haugh and Bruce Main.
Sure, there are some rough spots. The production work is, at times, inconsistent, game graphics sometimes leave a bit to be desired and camera placement occasionally could be better.
But those problems are minor and should disappear as the station and its staff matures.
The most pressing issue in my mind, though, is the expansion of game coverage to include the occasional soccer, field hockey, volleyball or lacrosse game. Those kids practice every bit as hard,and it would be nice to see their games on the tube, too.
And McLean does hold out some hope -- if our teams advance into the state playoffs. That might not happen in soccer, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see some Carroll field hockey and volleyball teams on televisionlater this fall.
What's your opinion? Please fill out the sports question coupon in Sunday's Carroll County Sun, explaining what othersports, if any, you would like broadcast. Send your comments to Sports editor, The Carroll County Sun, 15 East Main St., Westminster, Md.21157-5052; FAX: to 876-0233.