Johnson-Cowboys feud is music to Fox's ratings

ON THE AIR

October 03, 1994|By MILTON KENT

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that in the war of words between Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones, two unarmed men locked in a battle of wits, Ed Goren is taking sides with Johnson.

After all, Goren, the executive producer of Fox Sports, pays Johnson, the former Dallas Cowboys coach, to express his opinions each week on "Fox NFL Sunday," the network's football pre-game show.

But what Goren says is surprising is that Jones, the Cowboys' owner, insists on escalating what has become the messiest separation this side of Roseanne and Tom Arnold (which doesn't leave much of a side).

"It wasn't as if Jimmy goes out searching for things. People are calling him and asking," said Goren. "In a way, you have to wonder why did Jerry raise it again."

The "it" was Johnson's pointed criticism of new Dallas coach Barry Switzer for leaving the Cowboys the night before a game to see his son play in a college contest.

Switzer fired back at Johnson, and then Jones upped the ante last week by suggesting at a news conference that his former coach was biased against the team and might not be able to present impartial commentary.

Johnson, who led Dallas to the past two Super Bowl titles, but left last winter after a falling-out with Jones, came back to the topic during yesterday's program, looking angry enough to make his hair move.

He denied that he had had anything beyond personal contact with current Cowboys players and coaches, but left no doubt that he and Jones are not simpatico.

"My concern is what is said on Fox," said Goren. "ESPN opened with that last week. Had we done that, people would have said, 'This is a cheap shot, and they're just doing it for the ratings.' "

Perish the thought of a network's making a move strictly for higher ratings, but let's say that Goren is mindful that more people might tune in each week to see what happens "When Jimmy Knocks Jerry."

"He [Johnson] has said that the Cowboys aren't playing as well on offense as they should," said Goren. "If Jimmy Johnson feels that the Dallas Cowboys aren't executing well on offense, that's fine."

Can't we all just get along?

Getting the scoop

Score one big plus for Fox yesterday in first reporting an NFL plan to build a stadium in Los Angeles to keep at least one team there, then getting commissioner Paul Tagliabue to confirm the story.

Double talk

You'll recall that Comcast in Baltimore County has said duplication of product and limited channel capacity were two of the reasons it took Channel 20 out of its lineup, thus depriving sports viewers of the chance to see Washington Bullets and Capitals road games at basic prices.

Well, lo and behold, system subscribers received a flier last week advising that they will receive The Movie Channel at no monthly fee starting Wednesday, provided they keep Showtime with an addressable converter box.

If you're keeping tabs, that would mean yet another pay-movie channel -- the sixth on the system -- on a new channel.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Good show

A high school football fan hardly can go wrong by tuning in to Channel 11's "Operation Football" each Friday night.

Last Friday, for instance, highlights of eight games, as well as a fairly comprehensive billboard of scores, ran during the 11 p.m. news, and with a soundtrack to boot.

Cutting out early

Say this for ESPN: At least it doesn't discriminate when it ducks out of important news conferences.

After shunning baseball on three occasions this summer, ESPN gave the NHL back-of-the-hand treatment Friday, when the network left commissioner Gary Bettman's announcement of a two-week delay in starting the season within five minutes to pick up the thrilling conclusion of "Racehorse Digest."

In fairness, ESPN did direct viewers to watch the rest of the Bettman show on its kid brother, ESPN2, but folks in Baltimore City, where "The Deuce" is not seen, were left high and dry during a pretty important moment in sports history.

A strange match

ESPN premieres "The Perfect Match," an interactive sports trivia game show, tonight at 6, with smarmy Ken Ober, formerly of MTV's "Remote Control," as host.

According to a network release, the show will focus on the pop cultural aspects of sports by asking contestants to match athletes and their endorsements and commentators and their networks, as well as more traditional sports trivia.

By the way, viewers who have $4.98 and a few brain cells to lose can play from home by calling a 900 number.

There's no need to wonder anymore: "The Perfect Match" is the reason you have cable.

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