Tired of grind, ESPN's Cohn branches out

ON MEDIA

May 12, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Where, oh where did Linda Cohn go?

It used to seem that you couldn't turn on ESPN without seeing her smiling face and hearing her New York tones. Then, like a pitch served up by Orioles middle relief, she was gone.

What happened was that last year, after 13 years as a SportsCenter anchor, she had had enough of the grind. The glamour of getting home to her husband and two children at 3:30 a.m. had worn off.

She asked to do something else at ESPN. And so she has, popping up on ESPNews' interview show The Hot List, reporting from pro golf tournaments and hosting the X Games. Next, she'll try play-by-play for the first time - if you don't count golf, and I don't - when she debuts on ESPN's WNBA coverage May 23.

"I think it's really important ... being challenged," she said Wednesday from her Connecticut home. "People think I couldn't do it, and it is an opportunity to add to my resume."

It used to be that resume was dominated by "SportsCenter Anchor." She did the late show four or five nights a week. That show is repeated constantly on weekday mornings, which is why she appeared to be on all the time. But doing the late show meant even later nights, Cohn said.

Not only do the anchors have to work the telecasts, but afterward they also go back to fix any mistakes that might have been made during the original airing. Next thing you know, you're getting home after 3 in the morning.

"I still love SportsCenter, and I still love doing SportsCenter," she said. "But I was looking to do more than just SportsCenter. ... I could become one of the faces of this league and learn a new craft."

And there is that bonus family time.

While wrapping up this phone interview, she called out to her 10-year-old son, "Good luck, honey," as he headed out for a Little League game.

So our loss is Daniel's gain.

In the saddle

If you watched NBC's Kentucky Derby telecast Saturday, you just may have noticed it was sponsored by the company that owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, among others. But it was hardly noticeable, of course.

Noticeable in a more positive way was the work of former jockey Gary Stevens. Poised on the air, Stevens added expertise to the telecast - even when that expertise was just remembering the emotions of the day for a jockey.

When NBC showed the jockeys' room, with the riders waiting around for the Derby, Stevens said: "They got a little butterflies going on there. Some of them have bats going on."

NBC's fuel gauge graphic to explain saving a horse's energy for the stretch run worked well, especially with Stevens giving the explanation.

And with gas prices what they are, someone could have said a full tank of gas is costing about as much as one of those horses.

Racy numbers

As should be expected in the home of horse racing's second jewel of the Triple Crown, the ratings for the Kentucky Derby were higher in Baltimore than the national numbers. The first part of the telecast (5 to 5:45 p.m.) captured 5.2 percent of the national audience and the second part (5:45 to 6:45 p.m.) - which included the actual race - drew an 8.4. The corresponding numbers in Preakness Land were 7.5 and 12.4.

Say hey, hey

The Willie Mays being interviewed by Bob Costas on the current edition of HBO's Costas Now didn't seem much like the one Dan Patrick tried to interview on his ESPN Radio show in March. The Costas version was a thoughtful, willing interview subject. The Patrick version was cantankerous and contentious, talking about what he wasn't going to talk about.

Then again, Mays wasn't on television; he was on HBO.

Or listen on radio

On Monday night at 7, you have your pick of places to watch the Orioles take on the Boston Red Sox: Comcast SportsNet or ESPN. Games on Comcast SportsNet normally can't be shown locally on ESPN, but under ESPN's latest deal with baseball, it may "co-exist" with a local carrier two times per season.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell

TV highlights

Boxing: ESPN's Friday Night Fights (tonight, 9) features International Boxing Federation heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko (right) as a guest analyst. He might explain why Vladimir Guerrero spells his first name wrong.

Surfing: No, not surfing the Web. As in "If everybody had an ocean/across the U.S.A. ... " Tomorrow at 2 p.m., NBC (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) airs taped coverage of the Mavericks Surf Contest, a competition devoted to big-wave surfing. Cue "Wipe Out."

Auto racing: Fox carries NASCAR under the lights tomorrow (6:30 p.m., WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5) with the Nextel Cup's Dodge Charger 500 from Darlington. Fox analyst Larry McReynolds said Tony Stewart is still the man to beat for the Cup title. "They're so solid at a time of the year when they usually haven't hit their stride yet," McReynolds said.

[ Compiled by Ray Frager]

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for May 3-9 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rtg.

Kentucky Derby-a 5/6 11 12.4

Kentucky Derby-b 5/6 11 7.5

Sports Unlimited 5/7 45 4.2

Orioles-Red Sox 5/6 54 3.5

Orioles-Red Sox 5/7 CSN 3.3

WWE Raw-c 5/8 USA 3.1

Cavaliers-Pistons 5/7 2 2.9

Orioles-Tigers 5/9 CSN 2.8

WWE Raw-d 5/8 USA 2.5

Cavaliers-Wizards 5/5 ESPN 2.2

a-5:45 to 6:45 p.m. b-5 to 5:45 p.m. c-10 to 11 p.m. d-9 to 10 p.m. [Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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