Easy now, the best comes last Keith Jackson set for a sweet Sugar


January 01, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

Tina Turner's words resonate through the years, speaking to us in a challenging purr. "We never, ever do nothing nice and easy," she said, though this was no revelation to anyone who'd ever seen her perform in spiked heels that made her tall enough to be an NBA power forward.

Today's question, then, is: Are you up to Tina's challenge? Are you going to do it nice and easy, skipping the day's first seven college football bowl games until the national championship begins in the USF&G Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m.?

Or are you going to do it nice and rough, and park yourself in front of the television starting at 11 a.m., determined to work the remote control with the deftness of an Old West gunslinger, keeping tabs on every game?

Before you decide, ponder this: What do you think Tina would do?

Tina aside -- sorry about that, but what's love got to do with it? -- ABC is the lucky network this year, for the matchup between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Alabama has landed in its lap.

And viewers are nearly as lucky, because that means the voice of college football, Keith Jackson, will be calling the game.

Jackson wasn't there to help Grantland Rice write his ode to Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, but it seems as if he's been around college football nearly that long. So Jackson should be as good as anyone to assess the Sugar Bowl.

"They match up very well," Jackson said in a news conference this week. "The defenses put them on the front porch, and eventually someone will come in the door."

When the Bowl Coalition was organized, this was the kind of matchup that was supposed to result. But Jackson said the coalition people shouldn't spend too much time patting each other on the backs.

"I think this ballgame happens, coalition or no coalition," Jackson said, noting that Alabama, as Southeastern Conference champ, would have headed to the Sugar Bowl in any case. "I think the coalition broke down rather quickly with the Cotton Bowl."

The Cotton's picking Notre Dame as an opponent for Southwest Conference winner Texas A&M failed to match the unbeaten Aggies with higher-ranked Florida State and give both schools an outside shot at No. 1.

Some see as it as more than coincidence that the Cotton Bowl is being carried by NBC, home of Notre Dame football. Not to deny conspiracy theories -- from Dallas, of all places, home of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building, the grassy knoll and Ross Perot -- but the Cotton, like nearly any other bowl, finds it hard to pass up Notre Dame and its huge following, regardless of the network coverage.

Meanwhile, mention a national playoff in college football to Jackson, and he says don't hold your breath.

"The Big Ten and Pac-10 can't even spell playoff when they're getting $6 million each from the Rose Bowl," he said.

And this year's situation, in which the Sugar Bowl overshadows all of the other bowl games, helps make the point of those who say a national playoff would diminish the postseason participation of all but a few teams.

"There can only be one [title game]," Jackson said. "In a way, this is what the coaches have argued against a playoff."

Playoff or no playoff, the old-time feeling of a bowl game has changed, he said.

"Twenty-five years ago, it was a festival, and the host city made it that way," Jackson said. "Now, there is so much money involved, there is so much opinion levied on it, that if you don't sell out, it's terrible."

Pay as you go

ABC Sports executive producer Jack O'Hara said ABC's college football ratings this year were even with 1991's.

"I think, with the proliferation of games, to end the season even is a success," O'Hara said.

O'Hara also said the network hasn't decided whether it will continue to offer regional games on pay-per-view. This year's initial venture into the market was seen as an experiment, O'Hara said.

"All of the returns are not in . . . but it was a moderate success," O'Hara said. "Pay-per-view may become a bigger part of our business. We only made a couple of bucks off it, but that wasn't our aim."

Though ABC is waiting for more information, O'Hara said about 14,000 customers were purchasing games each weekend by the end of the season. You'd have to add a couple of zeros to that number to get over one national ratings point, but ABC didn't need huge pay-per-view audiences. The network already was telecasting these games anyway, so making them available to other viewers cost relatively little.

I only brought this up so I could tell you that ratings measure the percentage of all television households watching a program. And -- what the heck -- shares measure the percentage among homes where the television is in use.

Feeling bowled

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