"Baltimore is classified as a peripheral market," the letter started. It was from Channel 11, which, for maybe the thousandth time, found itself a target for irate pro football fans.
The cause celebre arose a couple of Sunday afternoons ago when the early CBS game found Atlanta and Green Bay engaged in a super-duper, please-don't-end game. The Pack took the lead, 31-28, on a field goal with 3:20 remaining, but you could sense the Falcs weren't done.
One of those studio voices from up in New York -- you know, one of those voices you love to hate -- came on and warned, "In just a few minutes, we will be leaving this game to bring you coverage of the Washington Redskins-Los Angeles Rams game [at 4 p.m.]"
Now back to that peripheral market business. Baltimore is classified thusly for Washington as a home market and, as such, the mandatory (opening) kickoff rule applies. The rule has been in effect for years and, unfortunately, as Washington goes, so goes Baltimore.
The switching is handled by CBS. WBAL director of broadcast operations Emerson Coleman reminds, "It is not our option locally to remain with the first game." In other words, don't blame Channel 11.
What really boiled the masses here was CBS snatched us away from the excitement of seeing Atlanta win, 35-31, on a touchdown pass with 41 seconds remaining to feed us endless commercials and program notes, thence to a typically tiresome pre-game opening by Dick Stockton, who told us Anaheim Stadium was sold out when we could clearly see a couple of guys hunting pheasant in the upper deck.
It doesn't help that the network promises to "keep us fully hTC updated" on the game being stolen from us, but rules are rules. OK, camera one, cue Heidi.
* A must watch next Tuesday (10:30 p.m.) is ESPN's "Outside the Lines," a study of the ever-growing problem of steroid use. Host Bob Ley promises folks will be surprised at the magnitude of the problem, "fully documented by stories that were previously only hinted at."
The biggest problem, Ley continued, "is steroids work, increasing size and muscle. But no one really has any idea what the short- or long-term effects of the drug are." Experts on the subject forecast we will never see the day world competitions are drug-free because the (monetary) rewards will always be out there for winners.
The show stresses that steroid use is much more than a sports problem, but is rampant throughout society.
* Given the opportunity, NBC would probably splash up its Peacock on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Not that the Heisman Trophy telecast is a work of art, understand, but for tomorrow's show (7 p.m.), the net is robbing expected winner Desmond Howard of his 30 minutes of fame, by having him share the spotlight with past trophy winners, a few of which just so happen to be NBC employees.
* If there's $20 burning a hole in your pocket (we're kidding, of course), there's a pretty fair fight on TVKO tonight (10): James Toney (28-0) vs. Mike McCallum (42-1), middleweights . . . Tagging along on the card is Riddick Bowe vs. Elijah Tillery, who promise to behave this time. Six weeks ago, they "fought" in Washington and the foolishness was stopped after one round amid kicking, tumbling out of the ring and general pandemonium.
Meanwhile, over on ESPN (8 p.m.), Terry Norris (29-2) battles Jorge Castro (55-2) in a tape of a fight staged today in Paris.
* Make way for college hoops on CBS tomorrow (3:45 p.m.) with seemingly invulnerable Duke taking on Michigan with its class of recruits called second to none in the last decade or so. It figures to be much better watch than Georgetown's tiptoe through the tulips, the Hoyas going against the University of the District of Columbia on HTS at 2 p.m.
* All-sports WIP (610) in Philadelphia had Charles Barkley on as a guest yesterday shilling for his autobiography "Outrageous." Shilling might be the wrong word, Sir Charles stating he hates the title and he was misquoted throughout.
* If the Orioles -- or anybody with knots in their purse strings for that matter -- want a good excuse for not spending big money to improve their teams, they've got it. Commissioner Fay Vincent says the clubs are going to be taking a $5 million hit on their payments from the network contract down the road. And TV says that figure is conservative.
* Don't expect an all-sports radio station to spring up in the Baltimore market any decade soon despite the fact all-Sports WFAN just sold for $70 million this week. A station in Boston went for the format, is bleeding profusely and if around-the-clock sports chatter doesn't make it there, forget it.
* Indiana law will prohibit the presence of TV cameras at the Mike Tyson rape trial in January. Phew!