ESPN's deal with baseball means one thing: more Red Sox, Yankees


September 16, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

WORN DOWN by constant attacks from Peter Schmuck, I'm unable to focus on one topic for more than a paragraph at a time. The result follows:

With every major league team allowed to appear five times a season (as opposed to 11 times over three years) as part of ESPN's new, eight-year baseball contract, here's a prediction for next year: more Boston Red Sox and more New York Yankees.

When the Orioles appear on the new Monday night package on ESPN, you likely will have the option of watching them on two channels. The Monday night games will "co-exist" - to use the network's phrase - with local telecasts. Unlike on Wednesdays, when ESPN's telecast of an Orioles game would be blacked out here, Mondays could feature the local version and the ESPN version playing simultaneously. That being said, ESPN would be hard-pressed to match the dual silver coifs of Jim Hunter and Buck Martinez.

ESPN's deal pays Major League Baseball a reported average of $296 million a year, more than double the reported average of the previous contract. But the new agreement doesn't include the postseason, though ESPN can carry first-round playoff games this year and next through Walt Disney Co.'s purchase of the Fox Family channel.

In the first week of the season, NFL games were the highest-rated program in 28 of 29 league markets (New Orleans not included). That's the top-rated program among all shows, even beating Rock Star: INXS. And to think NFL games don't have Brooke Burke. Baltimore's 28.3 rating for the Ravens-Indianapolis Colts ranked ninth. Milwaukee's 36.7 for the Green Bay Packers' opener was No. 1.

Count CBS among those unimpressed with the Ravens' performance Sunday. The network has assigned the play-by-play/analyst team of Spiro Dedes and Rich Baldinger to call Sunday's Ravens-Tennessee Titans game. Maybe a win would get them Kevin Harlan and Randy Cross.

There is so little of what qualifies as news on the NFL Sunday pre-game shows - Terrell Owens' latest pronouncements don't count - that any true reporting stands out. Fox's Pam Oliver had such a nugget last weekend with the information that Saints players had complained to the union about the plan to split their home games between San Antonio and Baton Rogue, La.

For what it's worth, here are football statistics you won't see flashing across your screen this Sunday: This week's installment of coach Brian Billick's "The Source" on the Ravens' Web site comes in at 1,890 words. The combined word count for Jamison Hensley's Ravens game story and David Steele's column in Monday's Sun was 1,869.

By the way, just a thought: After the Ravens have lost, maybe Billick's weekly diary could be renamed "The Tsuris." (For the Yiddish-impaired, that's pronounced "sore-us," and it means aggravation.)

ESPN's usual Sunday night crew of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire will call the New Orleans Saints-New York Giants game that has been moved to 7:30 p.m. Monday. The game starts on ABC before switching to ESPN at 9. In their stead, Mike Tirico and Sterling Sharpe (a regular on the NFL Network) will announce Sunday night's Kansas City Chiefs-Oakland Raiders game.

During Monday's NFL games, ESPN and ABC will conduct a hurricane relief telethon, hosted by Robin Roberts and Chris Berman. Current and former NFL players - Chad Pennington, Marcus Allen and Bart Starr among them - will answer phone calls from those making pledges.

With Mark Viviano having his own daily talk show on WJFK (1300 AM), Tom Davis has taken his place as host of the station's Monday Morning Quarterback program, which runs, amazingly enough, Monday mornings from 8 to 10 during the Ravens' season.

This season, the NFL will be playing its 40th Super Bowl. The Sun avoids labeling the games with the ersatz grandiosity of the league's Roman numeral designations, and the next game serves as a good example for avoiding those numerals. We're coming up on Super Bowl XL, the league says. One could argue that - given the size of NFL players and the game's massive hype - no Super Bowl could be simply XL; it has to be at least XXL and maybe XXXL.

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