It was a dark and stormy night. I sat down on the couch to watch ESPNnnnnnnnughhhhhhh . . .
Greetings. This is the Michelangelo computer virus. I have taken over this column. Michelangelo does not like radio-television sports columns with long, involved items. So Michelangelo's will be short and punchy.
Mr. Frager will be returned unharmed when Michelangelo is through. For now, he has been placed inside the No. 2 disk drive of a PC used by a Jacuzzi distributor in Carson City, Nev.
* Voice of an Angel: Joe Angel returns to Orioles radio broadcasts today with the first exhibition game on WBAL (1090 AM). He and Jon Miller will call the game against the St. Louis Cardinals, starting at 1:05 p.m. WBAL also has games Sunday and Monday, both at 12:35 p.m.
* Mondays will never be the same: ESPN has altered its baseball schedule for this season. Instead of a Tuesday doubleheader, the cable network has added single games on Monday nights, starting at 7, 7:30 or 8. Tuesday nights will have just late games, beginning at 10 or 10:30.
ESPN also had added three former major-leaguers as backup game analysts -- Buck Martinez, Lary Sorensen and John Stearns. In addition, "SportsCenter" anchor Tom Mees will become a play-by-play man, working some Friday primary games and Monday backups.
For those of you with short memories -- or one that has been eaten by Michelangelo -- the ESPN weekly baseball schedule is as follows: Sunday (8 p.m.), Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (7:30 or 8:30) and Friday (doubleheader starting at 7:30).
ESPN's first game from spring training will be March 21 at 1 p.m., the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins.
* Pay-per-view review: NBC has decided to offer a scaled-down version of its Summer Olympics pay-per-view package. Originally, the network packages were to range from $95 for weekends only or seven days to a $170 deal for every day plus Olympic memorabilia. Yesterday, however, NBC said it will sell a one-day package for $29.95. NBC's Olympic TripleCast is three pay-per-view channels that will carry non-stop Games coverage (12 hours live, 12 hours replayed per day) during July 26-Aug. 19.
"The cable operators felt this was a way to make the event more acceptable and more affordable," Tom Rogers, president of NBC Cable, told The New York Times. "Being consumer friendly was very important."
Also very important is trying not to lose money on the TripleCast, and this cheaper package might attract more customers.
* From Albany, it's Saturday afternoon live: Channel 45 will telecast Loyola's opening game from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, against Iona at noon tomorrow.
* Hoops till you're pooped: ESPN's "Championship Week" begins tomorrow. The network will carry 24 conference title games, including two tomorrow, with the Big South at 12:30 p.m. and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, ESPN has four title games -- Ohio Valley, 12:30 p.m.; Southland, 2:30; Southern, 7:30; Sun Belt, 9:30.
* Setting picks: ESPN is giving the NCAA women's basketball tournament its first 30-minute selection show, March 15 at 12:30 p.m. Later that day, at 6:30, CBS (channels 11, 9) carries the men's selections.
* Dribbling left to right across your radio dial: WBAL Radio is scheduled to carry nine NCAA basketball tournament games, starting with a regional doubleheader March 26.
* Helmet Cam, Shmelmet Cam. How about a Hip Pad Cam?: The World League of American Football returns to USA Network March 21 at 8 p.m. Former Los Angeles Rams coach John Robinson has been added to USA's announcers. For those of us who miss the Helmet Cam and lime-green uniforms, the WLAF season is starting none too soon. For those of us who heard Boomer Esiason as an analyst last year and know he's returning, the season could wait.
Michelangelo is quite enjoying himself. Maybe Mr. Frager will stay in Carsonnnnnnnnughhhhhhh . . .
There, I'm back. It takes more than a virus to keep me down. Besides, if that Michelangelo stayed around much longer, you might have grown accustomed to a column that contained lots of information, certainly a dangerous precedent.
Excellent, my friend: The boss looked at me askance as I plopped down on his couch. Maybe it was the jeans I was wearing, the ones with the big holes in the knees.
"Ray's world, Ray's world," I screamed. "Party on, boss."
He didn't reply.
"I think I want to ditch this sports TV thing, boss," I said. "All that TV is pretty cool, but there's hardly any babes. I mean, it's like being in a babe deprivation tank. It's like a babe desert. It's the Planet of the Missing Babes."
He still didn't reply.
"You know, I was thinking that maybe I could, like, cover MTV full time," I said. "Report on who's using the most mousse, who has the hottest babes in their videos."
Finally, he replied.
"That sounds like a good idea. MTV reporter. With a private office. A big expense account. A huge raise.
Things My Boss Wants to Know: Is it true that somebody stole Jim West's paper one day and there was no sports on WBAL Radio's morning show? . . . Will clinics again be distributing tapes of televised golf as a cure for March Madness? . . . How come David Copperfield never appears on Home Team Sports' "Duckpin Magic"?
Highest rated sports programs, according to Arbitron ratings of 17 markets, for the period from Feb. 24-March 1 with network, date, broadcast time in EST, rating and share (rating is the percentage of households with televisions; share is the percentage of households with televisions in use):
1. Feb. 29, Wide World of Sports (gymnastics, Iditarod), ABC, 4:30 p.m., 6.1, 15.
2. March 1, NBA (Trail Blazers vs. Bulls), NBC, 1 p.m., 5.5, 15.
3. Feb. 29, Pro Bowlers, ABC, 3 p.m., 4.6, 13.
4. March 1, L.A. Open golf, CBS, 4 p.m., 4.2, 10.
5. March 1, college basketball (Duke at UCLA), ABC, 4 p.m., 4.1, 10.