Who's No. 1? It's a sorry business, and the media should get out of it

Media Watch

January 06, 1998|By Milton Kent

Three weeks off, especially around the holidays, can reveal some unalterable truths to a person, namely:

Dick Clark and Ed McMahon are aliens who should be beamed back to whatever sweepstakes-loving planet they come from.

Smoked turkey beats the oven-roasted variety by a mile and

College football is a joke.

Let's amend that last truth. The efforts of the players and coaches are noble and are to be applauded. It's just the way college football decides its "champion" that is a joke, and the media's complicity in this sad farce is an even bigger obscenity.

As you'll recall, Michigan, which finished its season unbeaten with a 21-16 win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl, was named national champion by the Associated Press' board of voting broadcasters and writers, while Nebraska, which capped an unbeaten campaign with a 42-17 pasting of Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, took the prize from the coaches who voted in the USA Today/ESPN poll.

Now, we're not going to debate the merits of whether the Wolverines or Cornhuskers should have shared the title or whether either team should have taken it alone. That's a discussion for another place and another time.

What we will say is that the split vote and the allegations that players and coaches from both schools manipulated the media to lobby for their own interests reinforces the belief that the media should play no role whatsoever in deciding the champion in any sport.

That includes ESPN's and USA Today's sponsorship of the coaches poll. While the two news gathering organizations only sponsor and don't administer the poll, the inference from their sponsorship is that the all-sports channel and newspaper endorse both its results and the political process that accompanies the poll.

How embarrassed USA Today and ESPN must be to know that one or two of the voting coaches, in a blatant attempt to guarantee Nebraska a title, did not vote Michigan either first or second.

Yet, this kind of garbage will continue until the NCAA, which regulates everything else, asserts some control and makes Division I-A football, the only sport in collegiate athletics that doesn't decide its champion on the field, fall in line with a playoff.

Oh, this so-called Super Alliance, which will bring the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl into the bowl fold, will supposedly resolve all this next year and beyond, but what happens if there are three or more quality teams with the same record, yet only two can play in the "championship game"?

Only more of what we have now, media sanctioned and supported finger-pointing and indecision.

Fathers and sons

Two television moments over the holiday season, involving famous sports figures and their progeny, walked the fine line between cloying and satisfying and paid off nicely for viewers.

The first and most widely seen was ABC's coverage of the Rose Bowl, where analyst Bob Griese called the work of his son, Michigan quarterback Brian. For two seasons now, Bob Griese has done a remarkable job in keeping his calm during games in which Brian played, but when the younger Griese was named the game's Most Valuable Player, his father turned to his booth partner Keith Jackson and said, "I can't help you anymore," apparently caught up in a wave of pride and joy over his son's accomplishment. It was an honest and touching moment that we were privileged to see.

Likewise, ESPN's "Sunday SportsDay" carried a beautiful feature Sunday as Roberto Clemente Jr. marked the 25th anniversary of the death of his father, the Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Famer. The younger Clemente narrated the tribute to his father in an earnest and heartfelt manner as the cameras marked, but didn't intrude, on the story.

The Sunday story

Fox yesterday giddily announced that its Sunday NFL pre-game show had posted its fourth straight seasonal win over NBC's.

"Fox NFL Sunday" posted a 4.0 Nielsen rating for the season, 11 percent better than the "NFL on NBC," which did a 3.6. Fox went on to claim victory over ESPN's "NFL Countdown," neglecting, of course, to mention that as a broadcast network, its show is available in more homes than ESPN, a cable outlet.

Weekend ratings

The ratings for the 10 most-watched sporting events in Baltimore last weekend:

Event .. .. .. .. .. Day .. .. Ch. .. .. R/S

Broncos-Chiefs .. .. Sun. . .. 11 ... .. 17.1/29

Pats-Steelers ... .. Sat. . .. 11 ... .. 13.1/32

Vikings-49ers ... .. Sat. . .. 45 ... .. 12.0/22

Bucs-Packers . .. .. Sun. . .. 45 ... .. 10.8/25

Rose Bowl . .. .. .. Thu. . ... 2 ... ... 9.5/16

Skating ... .. .. .. Thu. . .. 11 ... ... 8.0/15

Citrus Bowl .. .. .. Thu. . ... 2 ... ... 6.1/12

Sugar Bowl ... .. .. Thu. . ... 2 ... ... 5.9/10

Skating ... .. .. .. Fri. . .. 45 ... ... 5.9/10

Orange Bowl .. .. .. Fri. . .. 13 ... ... 5.8/10

R-Rating. S-Share

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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