Cornered by Billick, Steele runs a stop sign in standoff

ON MEDIA

December 09, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

At this point, Sunday's debate between Ravens coach Brian Billick and Comcast SportsNet's Sage Steele should be ancient history, right? The two apparently have moved on - Steele conducted a Monday interview with him without incident - so just like NFL teams leave the previous weekend's game behind before kicking off again, the contentious encounter can enter the realm of water under the bridge or over the dam or in your basement.

Except for some doofus like me bringing it up.

To briefly recap, Billick took issue with comments Steele had made on radio last week about being tired of hearing the coach talking about quarterback Kyle Boller's character rather than his execution. So when Billick sat down for his interview with her on Comcast SportsNet's post-game show after the Ravens' victory over the Houston Texans, he sarcastically let her know he didn't appreciate what she'd said. Steele defended herself.

And here, at least according to my ears, is where the problems came in. Steele, who normally turns in solid work, wouldn't stop. It wasn't a matter of what she said so much as the fact that she went on far too long. If you must, state your defense briefly and then continue with the interview. Better yet, she shouldn't have let Billick bait her into making the interview as much about her as about him.

Now, perhaps you would like to hear Steele's thoughts on the subject, if only for her to disagree with my assessment. But the suits at Comcast SportsNet don't want her talking about the Sunday Billick interview, because that would just dredge it up instead of letting it go. Otherwise, you see, somebody might write about it. Some doofus, probably.

More, more, more

Sometimes, $4.48 billion apparently may not be enough. That's the reported value of NASCAR's new multi-network, eight-year deal, and even though it represents a 40 percent yearly increase over the television rights contract that expires after 2006, Wall Street didn't seem to be impressed.

The brokerage A.G. Edwards expected a bigger deal, so it downgraded the stocks of two motor-sports companies, International Speedway Inc. and Speedway Motorsports Corp., the Associated Press reported.

Then again, there's the view of Kevin Tynan, an analyst with Argus Research.

"I think [the increases are] actually pretty good considering it's 43 guys making left turns all day," he told AP. "The sport is a pretty incredible growth story."

Multi-channel racing

The new contract means NASCAR will be racing four abreast during the Nextel Cup season starting in 2007. Fox gets the Daytona 500 and the next 12 races, then TNT six and ESPN or ABC the final 17, with ABC to air all 10 Chase for the Cup events. Will fans get confused about the different channels? They're accustomed to following cars going 200 mph, so how hard could it be to find a different station?

The new deal may boost the profile of the Busch Series, most of which will air on ESPN2.

George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports president, said in a news conference: "We really feel like [the Busch Series] is the jewel in the rough. It will instantly become the highest-rated series on ESPN2 when it debuts in '07."

Coppin in spotlight

Coppin State will be the subject of ESPN's Pride of the Program segment - a 30-second piece that highlights a key event for each of the nation's Division I basketball teams - during the network's St. Joseph's-Ohio State telecast at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

TV HIGHLIGHTS

Figure skating: It's Ice Wars, baby, and this time it's men vs. women. Two teams of four skaters will hit the ice tomorrow at 8 p.m. (WJZ/Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9). Among the skaters: Brian Boitano, Kurt Browning, Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul. After a day of driving slick roads, this may be your most pleasant encounter with ice for the weekend.

College football: Watch Reggie Bush's coronation as Heisman Trophy winner tomorrow night at 8 on ESPN.

News: ESPN's Pedro Gomez interviewed free-agent relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina inside a Venezuelan prison - where he is being held on charges of attempted murder - and their talk will air during Sunday night's 11:30 SportsCenter. The report will include interviews with two of the five men Urbina is accused of attacking.

[COMPILED BY RAY FRAGER]

TOP-RATED SPORTS

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Nov. 30-Dec. 6 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rtg.

Ravens-Texans 12/4 13 19.7

Broncos-Chiefs 12/4 13 10.7

Eagles-Seahawks 12/5 2 8.5

Redskins-Rams 12/4 45 7.7

Raiders-Chargers 12/4 ESPN 6.6

Va. Tech-Fla. St.-a 12/3 2 5.6

Army-Navy 12/3 13 4.4

NFL Today 12/4 13 4.4

WWE Raw 12/5 USA 3.7

UM-Minnesota 11/30 ESPN2 3.4

a-football

[Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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