Hungry for some pro football? Chew on these pre-game TV appetizers


September 10, 2004|By RAY FRAGER

AS WE APPROACH the first pro football Sunday of the season, perhaps some statistics class can come up with the formula that measures the NFL's popularity. Something like this:

Amount of time spent discussing the sport divided by number of games equals popularity quotient.

Part of the NFL's appeal may be that it gives us the sport in easily digestible, one-game-per-team-a-week bites. (Another part of the appeal may have to do with those little cards with numbers on them that I swear I've never seen anywhere before and somebody else must have dropped on my desk, honest.)

But, by Sunday, we still haven't gotten enough, and before kickoff at 1 p.m., the fan can have brunch with three major pre-game shows - The NFL Today on CBS, Fox NFL Sunday and ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown.

Countdown has made one addition - Mike Ditka - to its show, still twice as long as the others, running from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Chris Berman, Michael Irvin, Tom Jackson, Chris Mortensen and Steve Young return to give everyone a dose of X's, O's and rumors. And unless somebody brings it up, nobody is going to remember the Rush Limbaugh experiment of last season.

On Fox's show (noon to 1 p.m., WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5), the only lineup change is "NFL insider" Jay Glazer, who has come from CBS.

Otherwise, it's another season of James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson. They dish out the X's and O's along with Big Fun. Even during a telephone news conference on Wednesday.

Bradshaw on Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins coaching staff: "He brought back everybody who hadn't died."

Long on Bradshaw's knowledge of fantasy football: "Your idea of fantasy football is you're still playing."

Bradshaw on high-definition television: "Will I look better? I'm all for it."

CBS' NFL Today (noon to 1 p.m., WJZ/Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9) has a new host, Greg Gumbel, and a new analyst, Shannon Sharpe, who join holdovers Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason. Gumbel, who brings his good-humored professionalism to every assignment, replaces Jim Nantz, now the play-by-play component of the network's No. 1 announcing team with Phil Simms.

Sharpe, the voluble former Ravens and Denver Broncos tight end, takes the place of Deion Sanders. Sunday's show features Sharpe's interview with Sanders. Let's hope Sharpe can drag a word or two out of the Ravens' new defensive back.


In a nod to what the networks view as a rapidly growing segment of their audience, fantasy league players, Fox and CBS have added more statistics to their telecasts. Fox will present updated individual stats at the start of each second half. CBS, going Fox even better, plans continuous in-game updates on players you are watching. The numbers will flash next to the score box in the upper right or left of the screen. For example, after Jamal Lewis rushes, his updated carries and yardage would immediately appear.

Fox will broadcast six games each week in high definition and CBS will do three. Great. As I've mentioned before, I don't have an HD television. ...

CBS' announcing team for Sunday's Ravens-Cleveland Browns game (Channel 13, 1 p.m.) is Kevin Harlan and Randy Cross.

Billick live

Comcast SportsNet presents Ravens Post Game Live for two hours after every Ravens game. The studio crew includes host Brent Harris with ex-Ravens Qadry Ismail and Brad Jackson. Sage Steele, named favorite sportscaster in Baltimore Magazine's recent readers' poll, reports from the game. The program offers live coverage of coach Brian Billick's post-game news conference. A suggestion to Comcast SportsNet: You may want to consider a five-second delay during the Billick portion of the show. ...

WJZ returns with Ravens post-game shows when scheduling permits. The first of five is Sept. 26. ... WJZ plans special coverage of Michael Phelps' homecoming celebration tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.

Contact Ray Frager at

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore from Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Day Ch. Rtg.

Ravens-Giants 9/2 45 9.2

O's-Yankees 9/5 54 5.6

NASCAR 9/5 11 4.8

O's-Yankees 9/3 54 4.5

Open tennis-a 9/6 13 3.4

Open tennis-b 9/6 13 2.9

Open tennis-c 9/6 13 2.9

Open tennis-a 9/3 13 2.7

Open tennis-a 9/1 13 2.7

ND-BYU 9/4 ESPN 2.7

a-late night



Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.