Ch. 2 completes late drill to carry CFLs-Bombers

ON THE AIR

November 16, 1994|By MILTON KENT

Capping a whirlwind day of maneuvering between two stations and a frenzied football team, WMAR and the CFLs announced late yesterday that Sunday's Eastern Division final with those hated Winnipeg Blue Bombers will air live at 1:30 p.m. with Scott Garceau and Tom Matte on the call.

"We and the CFLs are really happy to get this done," said Joe Lewin, Channel 2's vice president and general manager.

If you think Lewin's happy, imagine the joy that's running through the CFLs' offices at Memorial Stadium.

"We had no television at all when the day started," said team owner Jim Speros. "We got all this stuff put together in a short amount of time, but I'm glad it's all worked out."

The wheels began turning yesterday morning when news broke that the game would not air on ESPN2, which carried last weekend's Eastern semifinal between Baltimore and Toronto, but opted for this week's Western championship between Calgary and B.C.

This information took the CFLs front office for a 360-degree spin and sent it scrambling to place the game on a local outlet -- any outlet -- with little time for stations to ponder whatever production costs might come about, not to mention get commercial sponsors.

Complicating matters was the erroneous notion that Channel 2, which had carried a series of CFLs games this summer and fall and had the local right of first refusal for telecasts, had an NFL doubleheader, which would have precluded it from carrying the game.

So as the CFLs started trolling the local markets for a place to land the game, they eliminated Channel 11, because station general manager Phil Stoltz was out of town and unavailable to make a decision.

Channels 45 and 54, which are programmed jointly, were also crossed off, because Channel 45 has this week's doubleheader and Channel 54 certainly would not run programming that might drive off viewers from 45's football menu.

That left Channel 13, which expressed initial interest, and team switchboard operators directed fans who called the stadium offices to protest the lack of television by calling the station.

Channel 13 station manager Marcellus Alexander and programming chief Michael Easterling scheduled late-afternoon talks with Speros and other team officials to hash out a deal, when Lewin, who originally had misread his NFL schedule, stepped forward.

Lewin -- who had not been contacted by team officials, who still believed he couldn't carry the game -- had been talking throughout the day with officials of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to acquire their broadcast signal of the game.

"We thought 13 was the only chance we had. We didn't even consider them [Channel 2], because we thought they were showing the Cleveland-Kansas City game," said Speros. "If I would have known this beforehand, I would have been working on this weeks ago. Who would have thought that a first-year club would be playing for a chance to play for the Grey Cup?"

The Channel 2 deal -- which will not involve expensive production fees because it will pick up the feed from the CBC, and all the station will have to do is get Garceau and Matte to Winnipeg -- came together at about the time Speros was to meet with Alexander and Easterling, and left the Channel 13 folks ready and willing, but ultimately unable.

"People should know that when 'JZ can, we'll attempt to serve the community," said Easterling. "We're glad that the game will be seen here, and if we could have [carried it], we would have."

Of course, Channel 2, which will join the 4 p.m. New York Jets-Minnesota game in progress after the CFL clash, now must beat the bushes this week to line up advertisers, but for almost all parties concerned, that's a happy chore.

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