Diplomacy not for Collinsworth, but he scores on losing question

Media Watch

November 06, 1998|By Milton Kent

Whatever words one might conjure up to describe Fox football analyst Cris Collinsworth, reticent would certainly not be one of them.

Collinsworth, the most recent addition to the network's free-for-all-style pre-game show and an Emmy Award-winner to boot, has never run away from expressing an opinion, so when he was asked earlier this week why there was a perception that play in the NFL was off the usual standard, the former Cincinnati receiver got right to the point.

"Maybe because you live in Baltimore," said Collinsworth.

Ouch, babe.

But seriously, kids, with 17 of 30 teams playing .500 ball or worse and with eight squads carrying two wins or fewer after eight games, one has to wonder what has happened to the NFL, where, instead of feeling the power each week, fans are feeling the mediocrity.

Collinsworth's colleagues, Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw, have their own takes on what has happened. Bradshaw, the former Steelers great, points at the once mighty NFC East, playing to a 14-26 record, as one of the culprits.

"We don't have enough elite teams. It wasn't that long ago that we had Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas fighting it out," said Bradshaw. "Now, we have a lot of average football teams, but the games these average football teams are playing are pretty good."

Long, an Oakland defensive end and also an Emmy winner, said expansion and free agency have helped the league become "a lot more watered down than it used to be."

Though Sunday's San Francisco-Green Bay game was the highest-rated Sunday afternoon game since December 1996, ratings for CBS' and ABC's NFL packages are off from last year, and ESPN's and Fox's ratings are up but only slightly. So, perhaps, perception is reality.

Long, Bradshaw, Collinsworth and host James Brown will be taking their act on the road this week, with Sunday's pre-game show (Channel 45, noon) emanating from Dallas' Texas Stadium in advance of the Cowboys-Giants game. It will be a festival.

Day at the races

Virtually all of the NBC announcers and analysts who will gather at Churchill Downs for the annual Breeders' Cup races are of the mind that Skip Away has nailed down Horse of the Year honors, regardless of his performance in the Classic tomorrow.

"To me, no matter what happens in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Skip Away should be slam-dunk Horse of the Year, no questions asked," said analyst Bob Neumeier. "He's just been that dominant. A couple of late-season slipups should not rob him of something that I think he truly deserves."

OK, then, so why watch the Classic? Neumeier says Skip Away's loss in the Jockey Club Gold Cup may make him vulnerable against a field that includes such notables as Silver Charm, Gentlemen, Touch Gold and Awesome Again.

"Some of these contenders have taken a circuitous route away from Skip Away, so they'll all be descending on Churchill Downs. I think it opens up the race and makes it more interesting," said Neumeier. "I think by far that it looks like it's going to be the glamour event as it usually is, as it should be. That's kind of a heavyweight division of horse racing."

Neumeier will be joined by host Tom Hammond, race caller Tom Durkin and a fleet of analysts for the card, which has seven races, each with at least a $1 million purse. The telecast begins at 1 p.m. on Channel 11.

Hoop schedule

The Maryland men's basketball team will make at least seven appearances on ESPN and ESPN2 that can be seen in this area, according to a 280-game schedule that was released yesterday.

The Terps, ranked in the Top 10 in most preseason polls, could make two more ESPN2 appearances if they reach the semifinals and championship game of the Puerto Rico Shootout later this month. Four other Maryland games will appear on ESPN2, but they will be blacked out because of the ACC's agreement with Raycom/Jefferson Pilot.

Duke, meanwhile, will appear on ESPN and ESPN2 a record minimum 19 times, though many of its ESPN2 games will be blacked out locally for the same reason as Maryland's blackout.

Defending champion Kentucky is down for at least 10 airings.

The ESPN2 schedule commences Tuesday with the Coaches Vs. Cancer tournament matching Temple against Georgetown in one game and Wake Forest against Illinois in the other. The first ESPN game, the championship match, is Wednesday night.

Comings and goings

Baltimore area sports television fans are about to lose one of their best friends with the pending move of Channel 13's vice president and general manager, Marcellus Alexander, to Philadelphia.

Under his stewardship, the station captured the rights to Orioles games, and, with CBS' acquisition of NFL telecasts, the Ravens came to Channel 13, positioning it as the sports leader in town. On a personal note, Alexander never ducked tough questions and always returned phone calls, a rarity in his business. He'll be missed.

On a brighter note, one of the nicer people in the sports publicity game, CBS' Robin Brendle, has been named director of sports communications. In 14 years at the network, Brendle has served as lead publicist for golf, college basketball, the NBA, the NFL, NASCAR, U.S. Open Tennis and the Olympics, and has always been helpful and cheerful.

Around the dial

It's dueling college football doubleheaders on ABC and CBS tomorrow, as CBS (Channel 13) will have Notre Dame-Boston College at noon, followed by Alabama-LSU, while ABC (Channel 2) brings Penn State-Michigan at noon, with Virginia-Florida State BTC to follow. But, if you're into laughs, check out the Maryland-North Carolina game on ESPN2 at noon. Your sides will split.

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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