After decades of dominating the local news ratings, Channel 13 has been locked in a protracted battle with Channel 11, especially at 11 p.m. In what has become not only a byproduct of that battle, but a desperate attempt to try to gain an edge over WBAL, WJZ officials have trotted "Eyewitness News" personnel into the Orioles' television booth throughout the season.
The unseemly trend began earlier this year when anchors Vic Carter and Denise Koch made a stop in the announcers' booth at Camden Yards and continued as the station's reporters were VTC spotted in the stands, then identified on air.
The latest to make the trek to the booth was weatherman Bob Turk, who made an extended stay during Friday night's Seattle game to yuck it up with Michael Reghi and Jim Palmer during a contest that station officials knew was sure to be viewed in heavy numbers (see ratings below).
To their credit, Reghi, Palmer and co-analyst Mike Flanagan, who are pros, don't let the action get obscured by these "visits," but they shouldn't be put in that position in the first place, and it's hard to understand why Home Team Sports, which produces all local games -- cable or broadcast -- allows this to go on.
It has been said here before, but it apparently bears repeating, at least until Channel 13 officials understand: It's one thing to drop in a couple of promos here and there for coming shows, but to subject innocent baseball fans to this unseemly talent stroll is just wrong.
An Orioles official called the practice "cheesy," but a better word, sleazy, might be more appropriate. None of the other stations in town that carry local teams uses the airwaves in this manner, so it appears that when it comes to blatant self-promotion, there is only one: WJZ.
Editor in chief
As it prepares to mount perhaps the most serious challenge to Sports Illustrated in years, ESPN has tapped one of that magazine's driving forces to run its new effort.
John Papanek, former SI managing editor, will serve as the first editor of ESPN Magazine, which will be launched in March and will appear biweekly.
Papanek, who created Sports Illustrated for Kids in 1989 before taking over as the youngest managing editor in SI's history in 1990, comes to ESPN after running New Century Network, an Internet media venture owned by six of the country's largest media conglomerates, including Times Mirror, which publishes this newspaper.
PGA above par
The ratings are in from this past weekend's PGA Championship, and the numbers are good, both nationally and locally.
The national CBS overnight ratings from Saturday's third round came in at a 4.5/12, a 55 percent boost from last year, and Sunday's final round did a 6.0/14, 50 percent higher than 1996. Meanwhile, Channel 13's 4.8/11 rating for Sunday was twice that of last year, and the overall 4.0/10 for the two days was up 90 percent from last year's tournament.
Testing public opinion
A New York Post poll of just over 1,000 American adults indicates a reservoir of support for NBC announcer Marv Albert.
Less than 10 percent of all respondents to the poll, released Sunday, said that Albert, who has been indicted in Virginia on charges that he sexually assaulted and bit a woman in a hotel room in February, should be fired right now. Fifty-nine percent in the survey said he should be fired only if he is found guilty of the charges, and less than 5 percent believe he should keep his job regardless.
Demographically, 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women believe Albert should stay unless he's found guilty, and 9 percent of men and 10 percent of women believed he should be fired immediately. Albert's trial is scheduled for next month in an Arlington County courthouse.
The Mayne line
From this perspective, ESPN's selection of Kenny Mayne to join Dan Patrick on the 11 p.m. "SportsCenter" is a masterstroke, one of the best made in Bristol, Conn., in quite some time. Mayne, who heretofore has been relegated to the overnight show and "RPM2Night," ESPN2's racing show, is a gifted writer with a "Far Side" type of wit that will play very well with the audience.
But the choice of Mayne sends a clear signal that ESPN officials realize that entertainment has become almost as important a component as news gathering with "SportsCenter," possibly the most influential program in sports television.
While others at ESPN, namely the very solid Linda Cohn or newcomer Bob Stevens, would have appealed to the serious-minded fan, Mayne's decidedly more whimsical style allows Patrick to play straight man and gives the show a lighter touch, which sets "SportsCenter" apart from its most serious challenger, CNN/SI.
By the way, though Patrick ruled out a move to "Good Morning, America," industry buzz indicates that the ever-so-smooth anchor won't completely commit to ESPN until the NBA's cable television rights are determined. If ESPN gets a chunk of the NBA, Patrick would want to do play-by-play, or so the theory goes. Stay tuned.
The ratings for the 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last weekend:
Event.... ....Day ..Ch. .. R/S
O's-Mariners, Fri., 13, 12.6/24
O's-Angels, Sat., 54, 10.0/20
PGA Sun., 13, 4.8/11
Ravens-Eagles, Sat., 45, 4.4/8
Rangers-Yanks, Sat, 45, 4.1/13
Broncos-Pats, Sun., 11, 4.0/10
Rams-Cowboys, Fri., 45, 3.4/6
PGA, Sat., 13, 3.2/10
Bills-Packers, Sat., 11, 3.0/8
RCA Tennis, Sun., 11, 2.8/6
Pub Date: 8/19/97