NBC's cameras will hold steady when Ryder Cup hands start shaking

ON MEDIA

September 17, 2004|By RAY FRAGER

BEFORE Johnny Miller came along, it seemed, nobody choked in golf.

Now, perhaps someone did on the occasional olive in his martini back at the clubhouse, but out on the course, well, that just wasn't discussed.

But then NBC's Miller dared to talk about choking. Next thing you know, it's like Judge Smails had been replaced by Al Czervik. (Caddyshack fans, you know what I'm talking about.)

This weekend, some of the world's best golfers will be trying not to succumb to the pressure of team competition as NBC and USA Network televise the Ryder Cup from Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan.

And even Miller's boss, NBC Sports executive producer Tommy Roy, has the lingo down.

"We're focused on covering the human drama of the whole thing," Roy said in a telephone news conference this week. "The story is being able to show players choking, quite frankly ... the way they tee up the ball and their hands are shaking."

The hands are one thing, the stomach another, Miller said.

"At every other event, they give out two free things at every tee," Miller said, "that's fruit and water. At this event, they give out fruit, water and barf bags."

Joining Miller on the telecasts will be co-anchors Dan Hicks and Bob Costas, with on-course reporters - who may want to take a step or two back at the tees - Roger Maltbie, Mark Rolfing and Gary Koch. Bob Murphy will be at a safe distance in a tower at hole No. 14.

Medium is message

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday that the league could well put games on the NFL Network to supplement the league's over-the-air and basic cable television broadcasts. If Tagliabue saw the previous day's Fox NFL Sunday, maybe he would have wanted to grasp full control of his league's TV package.

Fox's comic prognosticator, Frank Caliendo, performed a Ricky Williams-referenced segment laden with dreadful pot jokes. I don't know, maybe you had to take several hits off a bong to find them funny. The bit featured a Williams character walking through a smoke-filled room adorned with Bob Marley posters while reggae music played in the background. Then Caliendo showed up doing his Mike Ditka impression. Still not funny, mon.

I'm guessing we wouldn't get this kind of feature on an NFL-controlled channel.

Here's some more of what we got Sunday on the NFL pre-game shows:

Ditka, in his NFL Sunday Countdown debut on ESPN, strongly disagreed with Chris Mortensen's report of coaches on the hot seat in just the first week of the season.

Boomer Esiason, eyeing the cream-colored suit worn by his former CBS colleague, Deion Sanders, on the way into Cleveland Browns Stadium, called him "Juan Valdez." (Juan Valdez was the Colombian coffee grower once featured in TV commercials.)

CBS gave Tampa Bay Buccaneers holdout receiver Keenan McCardell a forum to ask for a release or trade (including Baltimore as a possible new home) and also let him essentially call coach Jon Gruden a liar without giving Gruden a chance to defend himself.

Among the reports on Joe Gibbs' return to Washington, only Fox included interviews with two of his NASCAR drivers. What a coincidence it is that Fox happens to televise NASCAR races.

Don't fear Turtle

This is the fourth season Pam Ward is doing college football play-by-play, so it's a measure of progress that the purpose behind our call to Ward at her Delaware beach place wasn't to ask about being a Woman Football Announcer. And, no, we weren't inquiring about the ocean view and availability for a week in July.

Ward, along with partner Mike Tomczak, will call tomorrow's Maryland-West Virginia game (ESPN2, noon). No cheering in the press box, but Ward is a Terrapin, UM Class of 1984.

Ward did two Maryland games two years ago and found "it was a little weird at first. Once it starts, I have no problems being impartial. It's fun. It's cool.

"I think I'm actually tougher on Maryland because I know them."

She seems unconcerned with reaction from fellow alums.

"Fans hear what they want to hear," she said.

Anyway, it's not as if everyone is hanging on her every word.

"I think a lot of people only half-listen," she said, "while they have a couple of drinks. That's what I'd be doing."

Channeling

Tonight at 10, ESPN puts on trial the curses of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs in an effort to decide whose is worst. And the Washington Generals don't enter the discussion? ... On Tuesday, Outdoor Life Network starts five consecutive nights of coverage of the Gravity Games. Among the competitors is Baltimore skateboarder Bucky Lasek. Each telecast begins at 8.

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore from Sept. 8 through Sept. 14 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Day Ch. Rtg.

Ravens-Cle. 9/12 13 20.0

Ind.-N.E. 9/9 11 10.6

N.Y.G.-Phi. 9/12 45 9.4

NFL Today2 9/12 13 9.2

G.B.-Caro. 9/13 11 8.7

K.C.-Den. 9/12 ESPN 7.0

NFL Sunday 2 9/12 45 6.3

NFL Today 9/12 13 6.1

T.B.-Wash. 9/12 45 4.7

Smackdown 9/9 24 4.1

Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV.

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