CNN's spin on NFL preview leans heavily on information

Media Watch

August 16, 1996|By Milton Kent

When you do sports on a network the world turns to for news, you have to do things a little differently.

While the rest of sports television serves up the NFL with a solid helping of entertainment with a dash of information tossed in on the side, CNN goes heavy on the information with a taste of fun.

So expect to get just the facts when "NFL Preview," the first of the Sunday football preview shows, makes its season premiere Sunday at 11 a.m., ahead of the rest of the field.

"We're news. We're news first and we're information and hard-core analysis," said executive producer Jean McCormick. "It won't be a dry show, but it will be focused on getting the information out there in as professional a manner as possible."

For the coming season, the usual "NFL Preview" crew, with host Vince Cellini and analysts James Lofton and Ron Meyer, will be joined each week by Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, in advance of the new all-sports news CNN/SI channel, scheduled to launch later this year.

King, who had been the halftime information guy on ABC's "Monday Night Football," is looking forward to having more time to delve into subjects.

"I've always enjoyed being a guest on talk shows, because then you'd have time to express a thought and give an opinion," said King. "It [the time frame] was so tight at ABC. Now, I feel as though I have some time and I'm looking forward to asking those questions on camera that, oftentimes, I ask while talking with a guy during practice or in other situations."

The persecution factor

If you're one of those Baltimoreans who secretly worry about whether the rest of the football world hates this city because of the way the Ravens arrived, Lofton, King and Meyer say don't.

"The advent of free agency has cushioned the fan and let him realize that what is here today could be gone tomorrow, and it's that way now with franchises," said Meyer, a former Indianapolis Colts coach. "After the shock of the Oakland and Baltimore moves in the early '80s, fans realize that this is the norm now."

King said that there is a sense that Cleveland was treated unfairly.

"Cleveland was flat-out done wrong," King said, "but people in Baltimore shouldn't perceive it as anti-Baltimore, but more empathy for Cleveland."

Lofton, the former Green Bay and Buffalo receiving great, says the hiring of coach Ted Marchibroda has cushioned some of the anger from the move.

"Ted Marchibroda is such a likable guy, and that may have been [owner] Art Modell's smartest decision, to hire this guy who is like a grandfather. Nobody dislikes your grandfather. If they can go out and have a winning season, all of this will be forgotten," said Lofton.

That doesn't mean there isn't some criticism.

"There's a tremendous incompetence in the ownership. If you can't make a profit in Cleveland with all those sellouts, then what's wrong with your management team?" said Meyer. "My regrets to Baltimore. First, you got [Colts owner Robert] Irsay, now you got Modell. I feel for you guys."

By the way, in case you hadn't heard, the Ravens play host to Green Bay tomorrow night on Channel 54 and WJFK (1300 AM) and WLIF (101.9 FM) at 7 p.m.

Weekend wanderings

CBS begins two weeks of taped coverage of the Paralympics, the slightly less-hyped global athletics competition from Atlanta with one-hour taped shows tomorrow (3 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.), both on Channel 13.

It's two days of scantily clad, sand-covered beauties, as beach volleyball makes the scene, first tomorrow on NBC (Channel 11), with the title match of the Kodak Open from New Jersey. On Sunday, it's the ladies' turn, as ABC (Channel 2) presents the finals of the Women's Professional Volleyball Association's championship tournament from California at 5 p.m.

The local Fox baseball offering tomorrow is the Detroit-Cleveland matchup (Channel 45, 1 p.m.), andour friends in Washington get the Yankees-Seattle showdown (Channel 5, 4 p.m.). Sure, the Yankees game will be more interesting, but just think: After baseball here, we'll look back at games on Monday and preview contests on Friday on the sister stations.

"Media Watch" will be dark next week, so we'll tell you in advance that USA's Tuesday night boxing card will feature a couple of fights involving female boxers, with Christy Martin, the best known of the distaff pugilists, doing color.

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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