NBC is tops in coverage and ratings


January 09, 1995|By MILTON KENT

All too often in television, that which is of high quality rarely receives proper public acceptance and vice versa.

Need proof? In 1984, John Ritter won the Best Actor in a Comedy Emmy Award for his Olivier-like pratfalls in "Three's Company," while 17 years earlier, "The Monkees" actually was selected the best comedy series of that year.

But the public got it right this football season, giving NBC higher NFL ratings for the year than it gave Fox. The Peacock network was superior, week in and week out, to the newcomers. And, for once, quality won out where it counts, in the Nielsen surveys.

While Fox's top announcing team of Pat Summerall and John Madden is the best in the business, NBC's other pairs are much better that their Fox counterparts, and the advantage was clear during Saturday's divisional playoffs.

NBC's Marv Albert and Paul Maguire, the network's No. 2 team, were splendid working the Pittsburgh-Cleveland AFC contest, vastly outclassing Fox's Dick Stockton and Matt Millen, who had the San Francisco-Chicago NFC clash.

Maguire was rightly all over Cleveland receiver Derrick Alexander for letting Vinny Testaverde's first two passes of the game bounce off his shoulder pads, rather than catch them directly with his hands.

"It's not cold down there. He [Alexander] is trying to let them [the passes] bounce and then draw them in. You can't do that," said Maguire.

Meanwhile, Albert made his usual informative call, with selected, but never intrusive, infusions of his tumbleweed-dry humor to lighten up a Steelers rout.

The NFC game was also a blowout, but the difference between the two games was that the Fox game felt longer than three hours, because Stockton and Millen had little to offer, as has been the case all year.

Stockton, who was CBS' lead NBA announcer, has risen to a level of prominence, but can anyone explain why? His delivery is mechanical, and he brings the viewer very little that he or she can't read from the on-screen graphics. And Millen, who attempts to be entertaining, is rarely insightful.

The television viewer would have been much better served by turning down the sound and tuning in the CBS radio broadcast on WBAL (1090 AM), where Verne Lundquist and Todd Christensen held court.

Lundquist, who should be where Stockton is, and Christensen, who teams with Jim Lampley in the NBC-TV booth, turned in a brilliant performance, chocked full of intelligent analysis and humor.

When Christensen noted on a multiple San Francisco penalty that the referee had called a defensive lineman a nose guard, an outmoded term, Lundquist quickly chimed in, "They're not playing with leather helmets. . . . Times have changed."

It wasn't all yuks, however. On a Merton Hanks second-period interception, Christensen, the former Raiders tight end, was quick to point out that 49ers cornerback Deion Sanders had influenced the play by running deep, inducing Chicago quarterback Steve Walsh to throw underneath, where Hanks was waiting.

On the television side, Millen was content merely to tell viewers that Hanks had been watching Walsh all the way, which told you what happened, but not why.

Making the move

As part of an ongoing effort to bring some journalistic heft to its sports operation, Channel 11 has swiped Sun sports columnist Ken Rosenthal away from Channel 45.

David Roberts, Channel 11's news director, said Rosenthal will appear weekly on the station's Sunday morning news program with commentary and also will provide commentary and analysis throughout the week as necessary on breaking events and the Orioles, when they play again.

Firing salvos

That was some nasty shot across the bow fired yesterday by ESPN's Dick Schaap at the end of "The Sports Reporters," at Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, recently named the most powerful man in sports by the Sporting News.

Schaap said Murdoch had driven many quality journalists out of the business at his tabloid newspapers. "His idea of a football pre-game show is to have the Simpsons -- Bart and O. J.," said Schaap.

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