Quality of playoff matchups might minimize TV squabbling

Media Watch

September 25, 1997|By MILTON KENT

Perhaps the biggest shock, if you can call it that, in the scheduling of the four baseball Division Series for television purposes, is how all three television partners (Fox, NBC and ESPN) got something nice without fighting with each other.

You may remember how NBC threw a hissy fit last year when it couldn't get Game 4 of the Yankees-Rangers series, and made noises about getting out of its baseball contract entirely. This year's matchups are balanced and attractive enough so that everyone should -- repeat should -- be happy.

Fox will get at least two, and as many as four, Yankees appearances, which should result in a couple of decent ratings numbers, though the Thursday game would go head-to-head with NBC's killer lineup. Fox, by the way, will take Game 3 of the Seattle-Baltimore series next Saturday (Channel 45, 4 p.m.).

NBC, meanwhile, probably will have only one New York sighting, but with the Orioles-Mariners opener next Wednesday (Channel 11, 8 p.m.), it will get the two markets that delivered the strongest local ratings in all of baseball and the two players with the largest national followings, Cal Ripken and Ken Griffey Jr.

ESPN will pick from what's remaining, but the leftovers, which include Atlanta against either Houston or Pittsburgh and Florida vs. San Francisco or Los Angeles, should be tasty.

ESPN will take the second game of the Orioles series at 4 p.m. next Thursday. Under baseball rules, the game must be made available to a local over-the-air carrier for people who don't have cable. The local team's rights holder has the first chance at the game, and an ESPN spokeswoman said last night that Channel 13, the primary Orioles regular season over-the-air carrier, will take that game, and any others that also air on ESPN.

Truth squad, Week 4

The tables were severely turned on Sunday's NFL pre-game shows, as the gossipers were forced, for a change, to chase down a wild rumor from a newspaper.

The New York Times floated a trial balloon, quite possibly from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, that Jones was considering coaching the Cowboys himself. Fox, ESPN and CNN all smashed the story flat, though one wonders what any of them would have done with it had they received the tip.

NBC's Will McDonough, meanwhile, weighed in on the New England Patriots-to-Providence, R.I., issue a week after Fox did, while having nothing on the Jones story.

All wasn't completely lost for McDonough as he managed to get through his taped package without a significant verbal stumble, which, given the state of his usual reports, was a major accomplishment.

Ill-chosen words

Former Green Bay Packers teammates Sean Jones and Keith Jackson have, so far, been unafraid to speak their minds during TNT's Sunday night pro football coverage, and bluntness and candor, generally speaking, are good traits for analysts.

However, Jackson and Jones occasionally have used language that might be acceptable in a locker room or off-camera, but certainly not during a show that might be watched by children. A Turner spokesman said the two have been cautioned about their language.

Trail blazers

The latest in the "Breaking Through" series of Lifetime documentaries on the roles of women in sports airs tonight at 7 and focuses on the lives and careers of tennis great Billie Jean King, gymnast Nadia Comaneci and figure skater Peggy Fleming.

The one-hour special, entitled "The First Superstars" and narrated by actress Geena Davis, takes an in-depth look at current women's tennis and also focuses on the groundbreaking 1973 "Challenge of the Sexes" match between King and Bobby Riggs.

"I knew there was an unbelievable amount riding on that match," King says during the special. "I felt like I had to win that match. I felt like it was a matter of life and death, actually."

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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