Fake news event a bit bogus

ON MEDIA

November 11, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

I could praise ESPN for coming up with a new way to open baseball's hot-stove league, presenting a series of simulated news conferences during SportsCenter with its analyst, Steve Phillips, playing the part of general manager for several teams.

Phillips, the former New York Mets GM, certainly fills the role well. He's articulate and knowledgeable and has been a welcome voice on ESPN's baseball coverage all year.

And it's not as if ESPN were trying to fool anybody. Though the settings are realistic - Phillips behind a bank of microphones, team logos over his shoulders, camera flashes going off - each segment has been clearly marked as a "simulated press conference."

But still ...

Those were real ESPN reporters asking the questions. So Lisa Salters and Jeremy Schaap were left in the position of not just being sports journalists, but also playing them on television.

Before he went on to The New York Times and ESPN, Buster Olney covered the Orioles for The Sun. Many readers certainly recall the terrific work he did here, something that has continued, as in his reporting for ESPN The Magazine's current piece on steroid use in baseball.

I was fortunate enough to work with Olney, and when I saw him asking a question during a "simulated press conference," I couldn't help but think how the conversation would have gone years ago if I'd called him and said, "Buster, we'd like you to go on TV and ask a question at a pretend news conference. Bring a notebook so you can be holding it while you address a fake GM. There'll be a whole bunch of other people there, bobbing up and down and pretending to be reporters, too."

Give ESPN credit for trying something different, but let's leave re-enactments to other shows.

Hard-hitting

Speaking of playing a TV sports reporter, there is always Thea Andrews. I finally succumbed and watched an edition of ESPN Hollywood. It featured a segment on Pamela Anderson's appearance on Fox NFL Sunday. As Anderson stood next to Fox's Jillian Barberie, they were introduced as "two of Canada's finest." Because, you know, Barberie and Anderson are both Canadian.

But just in case you might have been confused and missed the double entendre reference to Anderson's impressively engineered cleavage, Andrews - also Canadian - finished up the segment wondering why she also couldn't be among two of Canada's finest, then took a quick look down at her chest.

How does Cold Pizza go on without her?

Tipping off

Not counting the games al- ready aired on the lightly distributed ESPNU, ESPN's college basketball season begins in earnest Monday night at 7:30 with Boston University at Duke on ESPN2. (Let the cries of "too much Duke" begin.) ESPN and ESPN2 will have games from early-season tournaments each night the rest of the week.

Monday scribbles

Noted during the Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots game Monday night on ABC:

Early in the second half, John Madden used the telestrator to circle wide receiver Brandon Stokley, noting how the Colts hadn't thrown to him yet. On that play, Peyton Manning connected with Stokley.

One of the things Madden does is make a point and hammer it home. One of Monday's points was how Colts running back Edgerrin James gets low when he carries the ball. In the course of game, a little repetition is to be expected, but next time, let's add a bit of "Limbo Rock" for repeat points. "How low can you go?"

It used to be that Fox stood out for those swooshing noises it used when putting up graphics. But ABC is among those who swoosh right along with them.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

TV highlights

College football: Two of the nation's stingiest defenses meet in a

Southeastern Conference clash between No. 4 Alabama (9-0) and No. 5 Louisiana State (7-1) tomorrow (3:30 p.m., WJZ/Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9). Despite being unbeaten, the Tide had to wonder what in the name of houndstooth hats was happening this week when it dropped one spot in the Associated Press poll behind once-beaten Miami.

Auto racing: Is it a two-man or three-man race for the Nextel Cup? With two events to go, Tony Stewart is in front, with Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards trying to run three abreast. They're racing in the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday (3:30 p.m., WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4).

Soccer: It all comes down to this, the MLS Cup between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., WMAR/Channel 2 and WJLA/Channel 7). The game is in Frisco, Texas, at Pizza Hut Park. But when you're playing for the MLS Cup, no thin crusts allowed.

[Compiled by Ray Frager]

Top-rated sports

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

Program .......................... Date ....... Ch. ..............Rtg.

Ravens-Bengals ............. 11/6 .......... 13 ............. 20.6

Steelers-Packers ............11/6 ........... 13 ............. 13.5

Colts-Patriots ................ 11/7 ............ 2 ............. 12.2

Eagles-Redskins ........... 11/6 ........ ESPN .......... 12.2

Miami-Va. Tech ........... 11/5 ......... ESPN .......... 4.7

SportsCenter ................ 11/6 ......... ESPN .......... 4.5

NASCAR ...................... 11/6 .......... 11 ............... 4.3

N. Dame-Tenn. ............ 11/5 .......... 11 .............. 3.5

NFL Today .................. 11/6 .......... 13 ...............3.4

Giants-49ers ................. 11/6 ........... 45 ............. 3.3

[ Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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