From analyst chair, McEnroe says tennis rankings `a disgrace'

Media Watch

August 27, 1999|By Milton Kent

Beyond the prestige of winning one of the four major tennis crowns of the year, Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport or Martina Hingis may lock down the No. 1 player ranking in the world in next week's U.S. Open.

But what does that mean? That's what John McEnroe, who is doing analysis for both CBS and USA, wants to know.

"We've gone through 10 years of a disgrace of a ranking system that gets us a No. 1 that doesn't always have meaning," said McEnroe yesterday on a pre-Open conference call.

McEnroe is particularly exercised about Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who won the Australian Open but lost in the first round of a number of tournaments this year, essentially pocketing the guarantee money, but gathering enough ATP points to occasionally be ranked No. 1.

"That's not the type of message we want to be sending out. Any time you step out on a court, it should matter," McEnroe said. "My big thing is to make sure that players are always competing when they go out there."

You won't have to worry about that at the top end of the men's draw, where Agassi, who won the French, and Sampras, who beat Agassi in the Wimbledon final, may get a chance to settle the issue for 1999.

"All Andre can hope for [in the final] is they get hot, clammy conditions, and it goes more than straight sets," said Mary Carillo, CBS' lead analyst. "Pete's been on a tear lately, and I attribute that to Andre's winning the French. It's gotten Pete fired up."

On the women's side, Davenport and Hingis are but two of a long list of possible Open champions. Add Venus Williams and her sister, Serena, Monica Seles, Mary Pierce and Jana Novotna to that list and Flushing Meadow should be hopping.

CBS opens its more than 40 hours of coverage with Sunday's Arthur Ashe Kids Day ceremonies at noon on Washington's Channel 9, with a nightly highlights show starting early Tuesday morning (Channel 13, 12: 37 a.m.)

USA, meanwhile, airs a half-hour preview at 11 p.m. Sunday, then opens weekday coverage at 11 a.m. Monday, with evening coverage at 7: 30.

Mixed messages

On a conference call earlier this week, ESPN's Chris Berman appeared genuinely contrite and apologetic when a writer suggested that "SportsCenter" and other programs were partially responsible for the lack of civility in sports these days, as preening athletes draw attention to their achievements in various self-aggrandizing ways, almost always captured by a camera.

A day later, the end of a Cleveland-Oakland "SportsCenter" highlight was punctuated by a slow-motion shot of Indians slugger Manny Ramirez standing at home plate, calling attention to himself and his third home run of the game.

So, ESPN, do we believe what you say or what you do?

Three's a crowd

ABC's 1999 college football announcing plans were going to be so simple with Keith Jackson's retirement. Brent Musburger and Brad Nessler were going to share No. 1 play-by-play duties during the regular season and split the Bowl Championship Series games.

But then, ABC Sports president Howard Katz lured Jackson out of retirement, thereby giving the network three top college football game-callers.

John Filippelli, the network's new head of production, said he has never encountered a situation like this before, but quickly added that with ABC's regionalized schedule, ego clashes should be kept to a minimum.

"I think we'd be silly to sit there and try to figure out who does what in the pecking order," Filippelli said. "To have a roster that has Keith Jackson, Brad Nessler and Brent Musburger means we're extremely fortunate. I would sit there and leave it to other people to try and over-analyze this. It is what it is."

Let the over-analysis commence with tomorrow's Pigskin Classic, with Arizona traveling to Penn State (Channel 2, 1 p.m.) and Nessler and Gary Danielson on the call. Musburger will be joined by Dan Fouts on Sunday for the Kickoff Classic (Channel 2, 2: 30 p.m.) between Ohio State and Miami.

Around the dial

The World Track and Field Championships conclude this weekend, minus one of its biggest draws, sprinter and long jumper Marion Jones. NBC (Channel 11) plans seven hours of coverage, starting at 12: 30 p.m. tomorrow and concluding at noon Sunday.

Besides ABC's twin bill, ESPN2 and NBC will get in their share of college football. NBC has the Notre Dame-Kansas battle at 3: 30 p.m. tomorrow, and the Deuce's doubleheader starts with Louisiana Tech facing host Florida State at 5 p.m., followed by North Carolina State traveling to Texas.

Tomorrow's Little League World Series title game (Channel 2, after football) may seem harmless enough, but you have to wonder about the effect all this has on the kids, after a 12-year-old, who hit a game-winning grand slam earlier this week, said, "I didn't want to strike out on national television in front of all my friends."

The WNBA playoffs continue this weekend, with NBC carrying Game 2 of the Los Angeles-Houston series at 4 p.m. Sunday, and Lifetime airing Game 2 of the New York-Charlotte series at 8 p.m. If the best-of-three series are extended, the climactic games would air Monday on ESPN, starting at 8 p.m.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore during the past week (R-Rating; S-Share):

Event, Day, Ch., R/S

Ravens-Falcons, Sat., 13, 9.1/17

Broncos-Packers, Mon., 2, 6.6/11

O's-White Sox, Sun., 54, 5.5/14

O's-White Sox, Sat., 54, 5.4/10

Ravens pre-game, Sat,. 13, 5.3/11

NBA Inside Stuff, Sat., 11, 3.7/11

Sprint golf, Sun., 13, 2.9/7

Sprint golf,Sat., 13, 2.8/8

World track, Sun., 11, 2.5/7

"NFL Preview", Sat., 2, 2.4/7

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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