With return of NBA, analyst Jones offers color commentary of Walton


October 29, 2004|By RAY FRAGER

THOUGH YOUR summer tan may be fading, think of it this way: By the time the NBA season ends, you could be working on a new one.

Network television coverage of the regular season begins with a TNT doubleheader Tuesday, starting at 8 p.m. (Houston Rockets-Detroit Pistons, followed by Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers) and then an ESPN doubleheader Wednesday, also starting at 8 p.m. (Miami Heat-New Jersey Nets, followed by the Lakers-Utah Jazz).

Joining ESPN this season is an old favorite, analyst Steve "Snapper" Jones. It's a shame he won't regularly be paired with Bill Walton. When they were both at NBC, Jones was the one who used to try reeling Walton in when his commentary took off like somebody who had seen the Grateful Dead one too many times.

In a telephone news conference this week, Jones said of working with Walton: "Every time you enter the Twilight Zone, you come out with a different perspective."

Another ESPN analyst, Tom Tolbert, offered this perspective: "Working with Bill is kind of like being in Jurassic Park; it's jaw-dropping. ... A lot of the things he says make you spin your head like Linda Blair."

Three movie references in two quotes. Not bad.

Their picks for this season: MVP - Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (Tolbert), Shaquille O'Neal, Miami (Jones); Rookie of the Year - Ben Gordon, Chicago Bulls (Tolbert), Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (Jones).

October imagery

Some thoughts on Fox's World Series Game 4 coverage:

Great footage of the Boston Red Sox's Jason Varitek from his appearance in the Little League World Series. Good thing the Red Sox won, though, or Boston conspiracy theorists would have said showing little Jason making an error at shortstop and grounding out to end a game constituted a jinx.

Those pictures of Pedro Martinez joyfully gesticulating from the Red Sox dugout kind of made him look like a lounge singer pointing at the audience.

Most touching image of the night? It was in a commercial. Nike's spot showed Sox fans watching from the stands as the years rolled by, fans aging and new generations joining.

Kiss on my list

Some athletes don't love reporters. And then there is ESPN's Michael Irvin.

The former Dallas Cowboys receiver was at the Ravens' complex in Owings Mills yesterday, working on a piece about Ray Lewis and Deion Sanders, said The Sun's Ravens beat reporter, Jamison Hensley. Irvin approached a small group of reporters, including Hensley.

After asking them whether they were talking about women or sports, Irvin told them how he wanted to get home to celebrate his daughter's birthday, not just in time to tuck her in and kiss her good night. At which point he took hold of Hensley's shirt, using it to simulate a tucking-in, and kissed him on the cheek.

"No, I'd never met him before," Hensley said.

Local numbers

Listeners clearly prefer the local sports talkers of WNST (1570 AM) to the ESPN Radio programming of WJFK (1300 AM), according to the Arbitron ratings "summer book."

In two of three weekday time segments - when WJFK is carrying ESPN shows - WNST ranks higher, according to information from a local advertising agency. WJFK does better in the late afternoon and early evening, but that could have as much to do with WNST's weakened night-time signal as WJFK's switch to a local show.

A look at rankings for Baltimore's two sports-talk stations among all listeners 18 and older and in a key demographic of men 25 to 54 (Arbitron ranks 41 stations):

Time....Station....18+ 25-54m

6-10 a.m. WNST 25th 18th WJFK 35th 34th

10a-3p WNST 22nd 13th WJFK 29th 20th

3-7 p.m. WNST 34th 23rd WJFK 24th 19th

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Oct. 20-26 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program....Day....Ch. ....Rtg.

Ravens-Bills 10/24 13 22.7

ALCS 10/20 45 21.3

ALCS-a 10/20 45 15.4

W. Series 10/24 45 14.6

W. Series 10/26 45 14.2

W. Series 10/23 45 13.3

NLCS 10/21 45 10.9

Cwbys-Pckrs 10/24 45 9.0

Brncos-Bngls 10/25 2 8.8

W. Series-b 10/24 45 8.6

a-post-game. b-pre-game. Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV.

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