On-field scrimmaging gets Jones warmed up to call games in booth


November 26, 1999|By Milton Kent

If you manage your way into the Ravens' stadium about three hours before kickoff Sunday, you may notice a bunch of people in street clothes in a glorified pickup game.

Chances are, the ringleader of the proceedings will be the biggest guy in the bunch, CBS analyst Brent Jones, who co-opts his broadcast partners into a game each week.

And Jones, the former San Francisco 49ers' tight end, gets right into the action, shedding his jacket and tie and his shoes to join in the fray.

"I'm out there kicking 50-yarders barefoot," said Jones the other day. "I lost $200 to [Ravens defensive tackle] Tony Siragusa a couple of weeks ago [missing] from 55 yards out. They hit the crossbar."

Jones, who will work Sunday's Ravens-Jacksonville game with booth partner Gus Johnson (Channel 13, 1 p.m.), has brought the sense of fun and wonder he carried on the playing field to the booth in his first season as a game analyst after a year on "NFL Today."

"I'm trying to hone my craft, and I'm gaining confidence all the time," Jones said. In the booth, "you're able to continue your thoughts. You don't have to do things for the shock factor. If you enjoy face time, then the studio is the place to be. If you're a football purist, the booth is the way to go. I'm a football guy."

In fact, Jones and Johnson have melded together so well, in conjunction with producer Bob Mansbach and director Suzanne Smith, that they ought to move up to CBS' No. 3 team next year, behind Greg Gumbel-Phil Simms and Verne Lundquist-Dan Dierdorf.

As it is, Jones, who is working his third straight Ravens game this weekend, gets a lot of "point-to-point" games, which are telecasts largely seen only in the two cities involved. Though some analysts' egos might be crushed at such a fate, Jones doesn't seem bothered.

"I don't think I've been in the business long enough to be worried about that," Jones said. "From their [CBS Sports executives'] standpoint, I don't think I'd be putting me in front of a wide audience yet, either. But I have a great director and producer and a terrific crew, and we have fun and do a great job each week. And I look forward to every game, even a Baltimore-Cincinnati game."

Jones, who still lives in the San Francisco area, broke some news last week during the Ravens-Bengals telecast, reporting that team sources told him the 49ers could move to Los Angeles if the team can't get a stadium in the Bay area.

"I'm not going to go out on a limb on something like that unless I'm sure, and I'm sure about this. I think something will break," Jones said.

As for the Ravens, Jones said the team isn't far away, say a game-breaking receiver and another player, from being a solid contender, thanks to the outstanding defense.

"That defense is going to be even better when you have a better offense," Jones said. "You've got to have an offense that can come back and get a score when you make a gamble and it doesn't pay off."

So far, CBS' gamble on Brent Jones is paying off handsomely, even if he can't connect from 55 yards out.

Nice try, but ...

Based on last weekend's ratings, Channel 2 might want to rethink its scheduling of college basketball in prime time during the important November sweeps period.

Friday's telecast of the Loyola-Towson game scored a puny 0.9 rating and 2 share of the audience. If that wasn't bad enough, the show pre-empted the telecast of the remarkably popular "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" in which someone finally won the million bucks.

The next night's game between UMBC and Loyola had a 1.6 rating and 3 share, which, is again, well, horrid, but when you consider that more than 100,000 local homes tuned away from the game from the lead-in of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," which did a 12.0/21, then you can imagine that things aren't so joyful at Channel 2.

Around the dial

The BayRunners open their International Basketball League existence tonight with a game against Trenton, and Gary Stein and Stan "The Fan" Charles will have the action on WJFK (1300 AM) at 7: 30. The team announced that former Sun basketball writer Jerry Bembry will do color on selected radio games this year.

There really are other things to watch this weekend besides football. No, really, there are. For instance, there's the 17th Skins Game, with last year's winner, Mark O'Meara, who took home a record $430,000 and defended his title against Fred Couples, David Duval and newcomer Sergio Garcia. ABC (Channel 2) carries the proceedings at 4: 30 p.m. tomorrow and 3: 30 p.m. Sunday.

Then there's, ahem, figure skating. CBS (Channel 13) has some at 1 p.m. today and 8 p.m. tomorrow, Fox (Channel 45) has some at 2: 30 p.m. Sunday and NBC has some at 4 p.m. Sunday, and though all of it will be as old as Aunt Fannie's holiday fruitcake, that won't matter a lick to folks who want to watch it.

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