Reaction Packer's preferred shot


March 25, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

Billy Packer, reactionary.

No, I'm not talking politics here. In fact, I think a good rule of thumb is never to discuss politics, religion or the designated hitter. Unless you're at a dinner party with Richard Nixon, the Dalai Lama and Harold Baines. I mean, you're going to seem pretty lame if all you do is talk about the weather.

Anyway, ask Packer to predict how tonight's Maryland-Michigan NCAA tournament game (approximately 10:30, channels 11, 9) might go, and the CBS analyst says: "I don't speculate on what will happen. . . . I react to what I see."

What should the Terps try to do to beat Michigan?

"That's up to Gary [Williams, the coach]," Packer says. "He's the only guy who can determine" what his team should do.

OK, what matchups may present problems for Maryland? (Note the clever probing technique of the Master Journalist, carefully luring the interviewee into saying more than he wants to.)

"Jalen [Rose, Michigan guard], everybody will have problems dealing with a guy his size [6 feet 8] who has the ball so much," Packer says.

"Joe [Smith, Maryland center] is more of a finesse player than Juwan [Howard, Michigan center]. He's a position player. He's been asked since he's been at Michigan to guard the best inside players in the country."

I'm on a roll now. Packer is putty in my hands. Any moment, he may tell me about the time at Wake Forest when he bought a six-pack of Dr Pepper and didn't pay the bottle deposit.

"For a team of [the Terps'] makeup, of their lack of depth, they've had some great moments and some disappointing moments," he says.

Hah, I probably could get him to reveal that Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins actually colors his hair white.

"I think the Michigan kids are more talented. I think they have maximized their potential. . . . I think this team plays much better defense" than last season's.

I could go on, sharing the secrets Packer revealed to me: how Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski changed the spelling of his last name just to annoy sportswriters, how Georgetown's John Thompson and ex-St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca opened a chain of sweater boutiques, how Jim Nantz has balanced his CBS announcing career with a successful stint as a member of the Cypress Hill rap group.

But I'm saving that stuff for my book.

This is progress

Joined in progress -- abbreviated as JIP. Pronounced the same as gyp. Tonight's Indiana-Boston College game is a JIP on channels 11 and 9. Both are joining the game at 8, about 20 minutes after it begins. Channel 11 is delaying for "American Journal," Channel 9 for "Entertainment Tonight."

Numbers game

Admit it, you've missed this popular feature of the sports TV column since the Winter Olympics ended, haven't you?

The highest-rated game in Baltimore during the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament was Maryland's second-round game against Massachusetts Saturday afternoon with a 13.0 rating and 25 share. The rest of the top five: Michigan-Texas on Saturday, 10.2/17; Georgetown-Illinois on Friday, 9.1/14; Navy-Missouri on Thursday, 8.6/12; Maryland-Saint Louis on Thursday, 7.6/25. Except for the two Maryland games, the telecasts occurred during prime time, when more viewers are watching.

Loyola's Friday game against Arizona drew a 7.0/13.

(As always, numbers courtesy of Channel 11's Sharon "The Ratings Maven" Walz, who, for a small fee, probably would favor your community or civic organization with a dramatic reading of the past month's ratings for "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.")

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. You know, I think Michael Keaton repeats those sentences in "The Paper." Not that they'll send me a check or anything.


Starting this weekend, ABC is televising NHL games on six consecutive Sunday afternoons. The network's Baltimore affiliate, Channel 13, won't be airing the games, however. There are conflicts with Orioles games on two of the Sundays, but beyond that, Channel 13 has decided that ratings don't justify carrying hockey.

Last year, WJZ carried one NHL game, and it received a 1.0 rating, programming director Michael Easterling said. The movies that normally run on Sunday afternoons get ratings of 3 to 4, he said.

"They outperform hockey, and they also give us additional opportunities" for commercials and station promos, Easterling said. "This isn't really a hockey town."

Washington's Channel 7 is carrying hockey on Sunday -- Capitals-Bruins at 1 p.m.

Oh, oh, oh, it's Magic

TNT has added Magic Johnson's coaching debut as a doubleheader game on Sunday. After the Rockets-Suns game at 8 p.m., TNT will carry Johnson's Lakers against the Bucks at 10:30. . . . Did you ever notice that ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Craig Kilborn sounds a lot like comedian Dennis Miller? . . . ESPN will have the NCAA women's basketball tournament regional finals tomorrow -- East at 11 a.m., Mideast at 7:30 p.m., Midwest at 9:30 p.m. and West at midnight.

Go figure

Bad timing on that Tonya Harding plea bargain for NBC. The network can't use America's favorite ice villain to promote its coverage of the figure skating World Championships this weekend (channels 2, 4). The schedule: tonight, 8, men's final; tomorrow, 1 p.m., original dance, pairs short program; tomorrow, 8 p.m., women's short and long programs; Sunday, 7 p.m., pairs final.

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