Melewski will come prepared, ready to speak mind on Orioles

MEDIA WATCH

February 18, 2000|By Milton Kent

There are lots of benefits to being host of a nightly radio talk show on one of the most popular stations in your hometown, but one of the chief ones for Steve Melewski is this: People he knows may now actually believe he does it for a living.

Melewski, who takes over the reins of WBAL's "SportsLine" starting Monday night, says his career path, through places like Frederick and Richmond, Va., has been a successful one, though it had taken him out of hearing range of friends and family.

Melewski, 39, a graduate of Perry Hall High as well as the university formerly known as Towson State, will be host of the nightly talk show, from 6 to 8 p.m., until baseball season begins. Then, he'll report from Oriole Park in the afternoon and be host of the pre-game and post-game shows.

"The one thing that I know that I will bring to the show is preparation. I just don't feel comfortable unless I've spent a couple of hours on the Internet, read the papers and made calls. That's my standard MO," Melewski said.

He slides into the chair involuntarily vacated by Gerry Sandusky, who will concentrate on his television duties on Channel 11. The two were classmates at Towson, and Melewski credits Sandusky for helping make the transition go smoothly.

There is no evidence to substantiate the feeling, but there is a perception around town that the Orioles somehow orchestrated Sandusky's leaving. Both Sandusky and station manager Jeff Beauchamp have vehemently denied the team had anything to do with Sandusky's departure, which was caused by the radio station's need for someone who could spend more hours on the air than Sandusky could, given his television schedule.

Nonetheless, Melewski said he is aware of the perception, and will work hard to counter any notion that he will go easy on the Orioles.

"The Orioles have nothing to say about what I say," Melewski said. "If that ever changes, I'm not interested in doing this. That's just not the way BAL does business, and I'm happy for that."

Lewis coverage

It would have been great to say that local stations have been illuminating the viewing audience this week through their coverage of the Ray Lewis case, but that's not true.

For one thing, none of the stations carried Monday's bond hearing uninterrupted. Channel 2 aired some of the early part of the hearing, then dumped out for "The View" and its afternoon soap operas. Channel 11 darted in and out of coverage, blowing out "Jerry Springer," but going back to "Oprah," giving the impression that a double homicide is more important than one talk show but not another.

Channel 13 showed most of the hearing, but also carried the testimony of some witnesses while ignoring others. And while the presence of reporter Dick Gelfman, who is also an attorney, was appreciated for his ability to relate what was happening to the audience, it was hard to gather what legal expertise weatherman Marty Bass or sportscaster John Buren had to offer. In one particularly unfortunate moment, Bass referred to a prosecutor's line of questioning as "a crock."

In the long run, channels 45 and 54 may have made the wisest decision, electing not to carry any of the courtroom proceedings. As Sandusky noted last week on "SportsLine," our hero-worshiping culture has all too often mistaken what is popular for what is important. Lewis' case, though tragic, has little lasting public impact, but the proceedings are being covered locally with the ferocity of a presidential impeachment.

The goings-on in Atlanta don't constitute entertainment, though the fact that Georgia permits cameras in its courtrooms will undoubtedly persuade local news directors to make it so. Two men are dead and three men's lives potentially hang in the balance. There's nothing particularly entertaining about a double homicide.

All-Star observation

Local ratings for Sunday's NBA All-Star Game were only a 10th of a rating point lower than the Pro Bowl, which aired in the same time slot the week before. Guess that means Baltimore is ready for an NBA franchise, right?

By the way, NBC's NBA lineup for the weekend includes the Knicks and Pacers tomorrow after "NBA Showtime" (Channel 11, 3 p.m.). The Sunday roster has New Jersey guard Stephon Marbury's first game against his former team, Minnesota, followed by the Lakers traveling to Philadelphia, after the pre-game show at 2: 30 p.m. At halftime of Sunday's first game, Hannah Storm will talk with Kendall Phills, the widow of Charlotte Hornets guard Bobby Phills.

Wrapping it up

After 21 years of carrying flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500, CBS prepares this weekend to air its final telecast of the season-opening NASCAR race, before Fox and NBC take over coverage next year.

While there is a sense of sadness at the departure of what had become a very valuable property, no one at CBS is equating this with some of the big losses the network suffered in the 1990s, like the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball.

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