Comcast's customers can convert to keep Camden YardsEach...


February 12, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

Comcast's customers can convert to keep Camden Yards

Each month when the cable bill arrives, you start to get that Howard Beale feeling.

Beale, for those of you who were over in the Student Union playing pinball when you should have been here taking notes in class, like that nice Miss Stenerud in Row 5, was the anchorman character in "Network." On each newscast, Beale -- to use the clinical term -- would go nutso. His rant against the evils of the modern world would include imploring the audience to shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Let's say you're a Baltimore County Comcast Cablevision customer conspicuously consuming the company's cornucopia of cable choices. (Hold on, let me catch my breath.)

Basic service costs you $24.15 per month. For the privilege of watching Home Team Sports, you fork over $15.99 per month. You have two televisions in the house, and you're honest, so you pay Comcast another $7.99 each month. You get a little something for the kids, the Disney Channel. There's the Cable guide, a county fee, sales tax.

Boom, $61.79 a month.

Maybe it won't break you, and cable television is not yet mandatory in Maryland, but when you write that check each month, you can feel that Beale bile rising in your throat.

Now, here comes the news that Comcast wants you to get an addressable converter box in order to receive HTS. You had spent extra to get a cable-ready TV, so you didn't have a converter box. And so you must spend $25 for the converter.

You go to the Comcast office to pick up the converter, hand over the money, then start screaming, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

The point is, some HTS subscribers around Baltimore are well aware that other cable systems offer HTS as part of basic, as part of a low tier of services or for a lot less than $15.99 a month. In Fairfax County, Va., for example, the price recently was lowered to $4.95.

You don't want to hear about the unwillingness of non-HTS subscribers to subsidize your devotion to Orioles telecasts. You don't want to hear that adding HTS as part of basic would increase everyone's cable bill. You figure it's going up anyway.

You don't want to hear that switching to a converter box will improve your HTS reception. How come it was OK for you to get a fuzzy picture up till now?

You don't want to hear that your old remote control might not work with the converter box. You don't want to buy a new, universal remote. You're not impressed that Comcast will let you have a new remote control free for the baseball season, because you surely don't want to start paying $4.25 a month to rent that remote after October.

You don't want to hear that this move was made solely to !B improve your reception and that it has nothing to do with creating more customers for pay-per-view programming.

And you certainly don't want to hear that Comcast must pay for HTS and has decided this is the best financial arrangement.

No, all you want to hear is Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein describing the action from Camden Yards. So you don't pull a Beale. You just pick up your converter box and go home.

But, one of these days, you just might crack and throw that converter box smack into the TV set.

You make the call

Anybody who watched Tuesday's Penn State-Indiana basketball game saw the Hoosiers' Chris Reynolds tug at the jersey of Penn State's Greg Bartram like a 3-year-old letting Mom know the ice cream truck was coming.

Anybody but one of the officials, that is.

ESPN play-by-play man Tim Brando let the audience know that referee Sam Lickliter was the one who blew it, instead calling Bartram for an offensive foul near the end of regulation, leading to No. 1 Indiana's 88-84, double-overtime win.

Officials usually don't get identified by announcers when a controversial call occurs. Brando's partner on that game, Bill Raftery, for example, isn't a fan of naming names.

"I never get hung up on that [naming officials on the air]," Raftery said yesterday. "Players miss things. Coaches miss things."

Raftery, however, doesn't disagree with Brando's move Tuesday.

"In that particular situation, Tim made sure to name him," Raftery said.

Raftery, a former coach, naturally empathizes with Penn State's Bruce Parkhill, who has nothing to show for a tremendous performance by his team.

"The sad part is the guy coaching is left with his team," Raftery said. "All that talk about great effort is left shallow."

Get your motor runnin'

It might be a little like starting your season with the Super Bowl, but NASCAR kicks off its year Sunday with the Daytona 500 on CBS (channels 11, 9, noon).

The network has lots of folks who know their way around a race car, including ex-drivers Ned Jarrett (father of current NASCAR competitor Dale Jarrett), Neil Bonnett and David Hobbs. Ken Squier calls the lap-by-lap, also assisted by Chris Economaki and Mike Joy.

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