ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Would you rather be sailing? Check out the live coverage of "America's Cup '92" racing, which began over the weekend, on the ESPN cable network.
Viewers really seem to be aboard the big new America's Cup Class vessels dueling off San Diego for yachting's most prestigious international trophy. The feeling of being there is thanks to on-boat cameras, aerial photography and expert commentary from Jim Kelly, Peter Isler and Annapolis-based sailor Gary Jobson.
If all goes according to plan, some 100 hours of live coverage will be shown by the end of the match race series in May. Included on the schedule are races at 3 p.m. today and every other day this week except Friday.
Sail racing may seem like watching grass grow to the uninitiated. But the intimacy of ESPN's camera and commentary work remarkably conveys the mix of technology, strategy, teamwork and pure chance unique to the sport.
For instance, last Saturday's defender semifinal between Dennis Connor's Stars and Stripes and the America3 syndicate's Kansa was sailed in light winds, meaning the boats were never moving very fast. But as Connor's leading vessel plowed into a kelp bed that slowed its speed late in the race, and Kansa began creeping up, the cameras clearly caught Connor's anxiety and the rise of victory hopes on the trailing boat.
And when Connor's lead stabilized after viewers saw crew members clearing the kelp by leaning over the hull with a makeshift tool, their relief was evident, too.
* Trek alert! Wil Wheaton as space cadet Wesley Crusher returns again tonight at 8 to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" on WBFF (Channel 45). At Starfleet Academy, he gets involved in a fatal training exercise and must decide whether to help cover up the details.
* Cable's Maryland-based Discovery Channel tonight at 10 launches a three-part series, "Lifeforce," which examines humans as an integral part of the Earth's natural world. But it finds us greedy residents, consuming hugely inordinate amounts of energy.
* Author Salman Rushdie is making another television appearance tonight as part of his campaign to gain political help in eliminating the Iranian assassination threat against him for his novel "The Satanic Verses."
The writer is scheduled to have "A Conversation With Charlie Rose," airing at 11 o'clock on Maryland Public Television. The hour-long special bumps to midnight the previously scheduled special "Date Rape: A Different Set of Rules."
* Congratulations to the Meyer family of Towson! Frank and Debbie Meyer, their son Frank 3rd, and cousin Erin Meyer took the top $10,000 prize in Sunday's "America's Funniest Home Videos," for their video of an accidental "pants'ing" of Erin by her 2-year-old cousin.