Basketball ratings are laying an egg just in time for Easter hunt

April 01, 1994|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

The Easter egg CBS has for us tomorrow is enormous. There's no way anyone will be able to miss it in the hunt. Ten hours, count 'em, of bouncing basketballs will begin at noon when the NCAA women's semifinals kick off: Purdue vs. North Carolina and Louisiana Tech vs. Alabama.

They'll start talking about the men's Final Four at 5 o'clock before the Arizona-Arkansas confrontation goes at 5:42. Duke and Florida figure to post at 8:20 p.m.

Thing is, the entire tournament hasn't been turning up big ratings for the network and you have to wonder if it's the old story of too much of a good thing? Last weekend, for instance, hoops was beaten substantially in prime time by figure skating, and the taped World Championships from Japan had few of the sport's recognizable names.

The women's basketball final Sunday gets a break, the 3:45 p.m. starting time finding golf and a Superstars show taped in antiquity as the only opposition.

* Don't forget, baseball's official opener, the Cards in Cincinnati to play the Reds, goes under the arcs Sunday (8 p.m.).

* Once again, the Washington Capitals are getting NHL game-of-the-week treatment, their tryst with the Dallas Stars being carried by ABC Sunday at 1 p.m. Of course, Channel 13 won't be aboard, the folks up on TV Hill finding a Easter Parade in Florida to cover.

The net did a weak 2.0 rating with its first game last week, but that's without WJZ, which was baseballing. "In two years, if we have a 2.0, I'll be disappointed," says NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Get ready, guy.

While on the subject of ducking network sports, Channel 11 is doing its part to uphold Baltimore's long tradition by not carrying the NCAA final pre-game pot-boiler "Courtside of James Brown" Monday at 8 p.m. WBAL is sticking with "Evening Shade" and "Dave's World" to make money.

* In the midst of all the hoops and three exhibition ballgames tomorrow afternoon, don't forget that one of the best Kentucky Derby prep races, the Jim Beam Stakes, goes at 4:30 on ESPN.

* Seriously, will it change the course of western civilization if Jimmy Johnson slides into the Fox Network announcing booth while he awaits a bid to coach another NFL team? It seems there's a precedent for the maneuver of a Super Bowl coach moving to broadcasting while in waiting.

* The White Hope Syndrome lives: It wasn't much of a fight Tommy Morrison and Brian Scott staged last Sunday on ESPN, but the 3.0 rating (nearly a million homes) doubled what the series usually does (1.5). Tommy got hit a bunch but he dispatched the guy in a couple of heats.

The fight featured the theme from "2001, A Space Odyssey" as Morrison's enter-the-ring music, but he was so tardy the announcer said, "Oh, I get it, that's when Tommy figures to get here."

* The Pro Bowlers Tour on ABC tomorrow (3 p.m.) will set an on-site attendance record when it plays the Civic Center in Erie. It will be the first visit to the Pennsylvania city in the 35-year history of the show and there's even talk of some of the 4,000 tickets being scalped.

* Fear not, Orioles fans who find themselves having to work Opening Day. Home Team Sports, which is producing all the Bird telecasts this season, will have a replay of the O's-Kansas City bash at 8 p.m. after Channels 13 and 20 have gone live at 3 p.m.

WJZ will do one of those smarmy, everyone on the staff running around interviewing inanimate objects pre-game shows creatively titled "Gimme an O" at 2 p.m. Tear your hair out, "One Life to Live" fans.

* "Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story," a made-for-TV movie, airs on NBC April 10, which makes you wonder what took them so long. Alexandra Powers of "L.A. Law" is playing Ms. Harding and, one thing, she'll look the part.

* If, as is apparently the case, CBS and ESPN are going to make a big star out of Bill Raftery as a hoops commentator, the least it could do is provide the listening and viewing public with a glossary of his terms. For example, what does Raf mean when he calls a player a "knockdown guy?"

* Just a couple more days until "SportsCenter" on ESPN regains former glory, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick being reunited on the anchor desk. Olbermann has been off doing missionary work on ESPN2.

What makes these guys so popular with the masses? Olbermann theorizes, "It's Dan. He brings the most immovable hair in broadcast history to the show. It's like the Rock of Gibraltar. You know it will be there. The fact that 'SportsCenter' is the most comprehensive sports telecast in the world helps, too."

* Lake Superior State (30-10-4) will take on the Boston University (32-7-1) for the NCAA hockey title tomorrow at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The guess is B.U. will win.

* You missed some unforgettable prose this week if you didn't check out Dick Vitale's column in USA Today. When the Final Four was determined, Vitale wrote, "Get ready, Charlotte, for your big date. Here comes Coach K, Stylin' Nolan, Dapper Lute and Gentleman Lon." Newspapermen spend their entire lives hoping to turn such colorful stuff, and here comes this TV outlander with the goods immediately.

* Now that Bobby Hebert is out as quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, is it likely he'll be scooped up by Fox Network to detail the exploits of the New Orleans Saints games in that lusty Cajun accent of his?

* The drums continue for a Roberto Duran-Vinny Pazienza bout, Duran, after a victory Tuesday evening, saying, "If Pazienza is a man, he'll come to fight. I'll be ready, and I'll knock him out." Uh, Roberto, when is the last time Pazienza didn't come to fight?

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