Jim Nantz had just a small reminder for the media gathered telephonically to talk about the AFC championship game.
Hey, folks, there are two teams in this game.
On Tuesday's conference call with CBS' No. 1 NFL announcing team, Nantz and Phil Simms, Nantz noted that, about a half-hour into the question session, no one had asked anything about the Denver Broncos. It was Pittsburgh Steelers this, Ben Roethlisberger that.
"Denver doesn't seem to catch anybody's interest," Nantz said.
Which raises the question about the attractiveness of Broncos-Steelers as opposed to the more easily hyped Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots - if those teams had cooperated by winning last weekend.
"We're not disappointed in this matchup at all," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said. "The quarterbacks in this game are pretty well-known," said the network's executive producer, Tony Petitti.
As if McManus were going to tell everyone he threw a shoe at the television when Mike Vanderjagt pushed that kick wide right on Sunday.
Still, as Ed Goren, Fox Sports president, said Wednesday on another conference call - dear reader, I risk cauliflower ear for you with so much phone time - "It's the NFL, it's a great product. ... Even when the rating is bad, it's good; that's how strong the NFL is."
So the same goes for Fox's Carolina Panthers-Seattle Seahawks NFC matchup.
"There's nothing wrong with having Carolina and Seattle in there," Fox NFL Sunday's Terry Bradshaw said. "As a football fan, the four best teams are playing this weekend."
As for those teams, much of the talk was about Steelers quarterback Roethlisberger.
"He's a more rested quarterback this year," Simms said. " ... He admitted it; he was tired last year."
Simms compared Roethlisberger favorably to the Patriots' Tom Brady.
"They have a tremendous sense of being calm on the field," Simms said.
Asked if this Steelers quarterback resembles him as Steelers quarterback, Bradshaw said: "[Roethlisberger] is far more mature than I was, more poised that I was."
(At which point Bradshaw's studio partner, Jimmy Johnson, interrupted the humble rumble to remind everyone that Bradshaw did indeed build a Hall of Fame career with the Steelers. "How many rings did you win?" Johnson asked Bradshaw, who replied: "Counting Super Bowls and marriages?")
The star power in the NFC game emanates from the league MVP, Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, and the Panthers' electric wide receiver, Steve Smith, who probably could have been the MVP just as well.
Smith's teammates, Simms said, know the deal with him.
"Sometimes, it's good to have a tremendous star, because everyone understands he has to get the ball," Simms said.
So who needs Peyton Manning anyway?
As Fox's Goren was saying ...
NFL playoff games were the top-rated show of the week in the league's 29 cities (hurricane-damaged New Orleans is still excluded by the Nielsen ratings service). In Pittsburgh, not only were 53.2 percent of all homes watching the Steelers-Colts, but among homes where the TV was on, 80 percent were watching the game. (Please note how I cleverly sneaked in an explanation of rating, the 53.2, and share, the 80.) In Denver, NFL-related programming made up the top eight shows of the week.
Baltimore's 22.9 rating for the Panthers-Chicago Bears ranked 19th among league cities.
Holding his ground
After the New York Knicks' Antonio Davis went into the stands in Chicago on Wednesday night because of a perceived threat to his wife, SportsCenter addressed the issue with Stuart Scott quizzing ESPN studio analyst and former NBA player Greg Anthony.
Anthony was not unsympathetic to Davis, but he firmly stated Davis did the wrong thing. A player just should not go into the stands, Anthony said. Scott pressed him more than once. Even if his family is being threatened? Anthony didn't budge. Davis, who was suspended five games by the NBA, should have alerted security personnel, not taken matters into his own hands.
This was a far different immediate reaction from last season, when, in the aftermath of the brawl at the Detroit Pistons' home court, ESPN's NBA studio crew leaped to the defense of players who were fighting with fans. The ESPN people took some heat for seeming to condone players swinging at fans.
That had to inform Anthony's stance Wednesday night.
Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell
Hockey: NBC presents budding star/NHL savior Sidney Crosby tomorrow at 2 p.m. (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4), when it shows the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Philadelphia Flyers.
Pro basketball: It's not so much that ABC is giving us the Philadelphia 76ers vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday at 1 p.m. (WMAR/Channel 2 and WJLA/Channel 7); it's that the analysts will be the always-entertaining Bill Walton and Steve "Snapper" Jones. If you catch the pre-game show a half-hour earlier, rapper/actor Method Man and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson join rumor-dropper Peter Vecsey on a panel discussion.
Snowboarding: Snowboarders have their last chance to make a case for inclusion on the U.S. Olympic team in a Grand Prix event in Vernon, N.J., Sunday (3 p.m., channels 11 and 4).
[COMPILED BY RAY FRAGER]