Johnson to call preseason TV for Ravens

Media Watch

July 14, 1998|By Milton Kent

With a new football stadium comes a new television broadcast crew, and the Ravens have tapped CBS announcer Gus Johnson to call their preseason games, with former Philadelphia Eagle Brian Baldinger doing color.

The duo will premier on Aug. 8, the night of the Ravens' exhibition opener against the Chicago Bears at the new downtown stadium.

Johnson, who will do play-by-play on CBS' No. 3 production team with Steve Tasker this fall, takes over for Tom Davis, and the games will give him a chance to prepare for his network schedule on Channel 13, a CBS-owned station.

"If you look at this as a tuneup, then you don't give this opportunity its proper respect," said Johnson. "The people of Baltimore are looking forward to seeing their team in their new stadium, and that means I give the audience the best I have."

Baldinger replaces Paul Maguire, who had been an analyst going back to when the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns. The team had wanted Maguire to return, but he was unable to get a respite from his new duties with ESPN.

Baldinger, an offensive lineman with the Eagles, as well as with the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts, has been lead analyst on NFL Europe and Conference USA games for Fox Sports Net, and will do some NFL games on Fox this fall. Johnson, meanwhile, who attended Howard University, has done a variety of assignments for CBS, ESPN and New York's Madison Square Garden network.

Is it worth it?

Immediately upon its opening Sunday, the new ESPN Zone became the best sports bar in town. That's to be expected, what with the estimated $15 million that Disney is pumping into the place and the considerable resources that ESPN can bring to bear.

After all, not every bar can boast that some of the country's best-known and best-loved sports television anchors may just sidle up next to you.

But there are several niggling problems -- internal and external -- that may make the average patron think about staying at his neighborhood place, rather than straying from the usual haunt.

For one, though the screening room -- which boasts a 16-foot-by-13-foot giant screen, with 12 37-inch monitors flanking it and smaller screens at booths -- is impressive, it frankly looks small for the kind of potential traffic that would be coming through, particularly on football Sundays.

The reclining lounge chairs with speakers in the headrest area right in front of the bank of monitors are also a great selling point for the Zone, but there aren't enough to go around, which may be intentional, on the theory that demand stays high by keeping supply low.

As for the prices, let's just say that nothing on the menu comes cheap. No food item -- from appetizers and desserts to entrees -- is priced below $4.95, and the beverage selections start with a $1.50 cup of coffee (with free refills). The reportedly larger portions are well and good, but paying more for a meal you may not be able to finish doesn't strike this writer as economical.

Perhaps the best value in the restaurant is the second-floor arena, where interactive and arcade-style games abound, making it a natural hangout for kids. The concept of providing access to the games via an ATM-like card is inspired.

No goal for ABC

The ratings for Sunday's World Cup final are in and they aren't what you would call great.

Indeed, ABC's telecast of the Brazil-France championship game got a 6.9 rating and 17 share in the Nielsen overnights, a 46 percent drop from the 12.8 overnights from the 1994 Brazil-Italy final.

Of course, the United States' disappearance from the tournament played some role in the drop that ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 experienced during the Cup run, but another possible explanation is the fact that the tournament was in France, not in the United States, as it was in 1994.

It's generally the case that ratings for most international competitions, like the Olympics, are higher when they are staged in this country, just as interest is higher.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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