No shortage of irrelevance as long NBA season begins

ON MEDIA

November 04, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

You could say the NBA season is interminable, and who am I to argue? After all, if you want an argument, you could put down the paper and start in with the person sitting across from you at the breakfast table.

Sure, by the time the season ends, you'll be stocking up on suntan lotion and heading back across the Bay Bridge for Ocean City. Still, those guys on the TNT studio show seem to be enjoying every moment they're on the air.

On opening night Tuesday, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were joined on the set by the just-retired Reggie Miller. From the moment Miller did a little shimmy and sang a few words from Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," you could tell he was going to fit right in.

And why was Miller singing the song? Barkley had brought up Brown's reality show from Bravo. And then Smith mentioned The Osbournes. What did that have to do with basketball? Ah, who's keeping score anyway?

Actually, Smith made the most salient point of the night. Discussing Steve Nash's Most Valuable Player season in 2004-05, Smith said Nash likely clinched the award when he got hurt and the Phoenix Suns didn't perform as well without him. Therefore, Smith said, Amare Stoudemire - who likely will miss four months after knee surgery - should be on his way to an MVP Award because the Suns will struggle while he's out.

Shortly before tip-off of TNT's first game, as the crew welcomed Miller aboard, Barkley offered this observation on how much fun it is to sit around and talk basketball and whatever else while getting paid. "It's stealing," Barkley said.

Meanwhile, back on ESPN, isn't it great to have noted goofball Bill Walton back? During Wednesday night's Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets game, he provided these gems:

Speaking of the Lakers' ineffective play, he compared them to the sand dunes of Death Valley, which "are constantly moving but going nowhere."

Watching Lakers coach Phil Jackson light into his team late in the game, belying the coach's supposedly more mellow persona, Walton quoted Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" in another metaphor. Jackson, Walton said, was displaying "a kinder, gentler machine-gun hand."

Whatever you say, Bill. After all, rust never sleeps.

Monday 'toons

The synergistic opening for ABC's Monday Night Football this week probably looked great on the drawing board - the Ravens' Ray Lewis chatting with characters from the Disney movie Chicken Little. But regardless of how it was carried off, once Lewis was going to be out for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, did it really make sense to go through with it? ...

Jimmy Johnson ended up sounding prescient on Fox's NFL pre-game Sunday. After colleague Terry Bradshaw had praised Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell as "my Comeback Player of the Year, possibly going to the Pro Bowl," Johnson replied: "He's doing a nice job, but let's not get carried away. The last two defenses he played against are two of the worst pass defenses in the league." Later in the day, the New York Giants routed the Redskins, 36-0.

High horses

Among the nation's biggest markets, Baltimore's 2.8 rating for Saturday's Breeders' Cup on NBC was tied for No. 4 in the country with Louisville, Ky., behind St. Louis, Seattle and Cincinnati. (Ratings measure the percentage of households watching a program.) In the other Triple Crown market, New York, the Breeders' Cup drew a 1.7, tied for 22nd.

Baltimore's rating was nearly 65 percent higher than last year's. In 2004, the Breeders' Cup was up against a Maryland football game, just like last weekend.

Transactions

CBS has bought CSTV Networks, which operates a college sports channel and a Web site devoted to college athletics. CSTV has 15 million subscribers for the channel, which is offered on the digital level of service on some cable systems. CBS is paying $325 million in stock for CSTV.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Oct. 26-Nov. 1 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rtg.

Ravens-Steelers 10/31 2 20.2

Broncos-Eagles 10/30 45 10.8

WS Gm. 4 10/26 45 10.7

Skins-Giants 10/30 45 9.3

Bills-Pats 10/30 ESPN 8.1

WS pre-game 10/26 45 6.9

UM-Fla. State 10/29 2 6.8

NFL post-game 10/30 13 3.3

NASCAR 10/30 11 3.0

WWE Raw 10/31 USA 3.0

[ Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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