Madden will kick off season with new Hall of Fame status

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

August 04, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

If you can gather the strength to lift the remote in the midst of the stifling heat, maybe you can click on NBC Sunday night - it's time for football.

The network debuts its new Sunday night announcing team of Al Michaels and John Madden in the telecast of the Hall of Fame Game between the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles at 8 p.m. (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4).

Madden, who seemingly has appeared on every network in existence - coming soon, James Lipton interviews Madden on Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio - will appear Sunday as a newly minted Hall of Famer. He will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tomorrow for his accomplishments as coach of the Raiders. His .759 winning percentage in 10 seasons ranks as the highest for any coach with at least 100 career victories.

He had been a finalist 27 years ago - Madden quit coaching after 1978 - but he said the Hall voters weren't certain about something.

"They said the reason I didn't get in was that they were afraid I'd go back to coaching," Madden said in a conference call earlier this week.

But that was before he rode a plain-speaking, visceral style to become television's top NFL analyst, a ubiquitous commercial pitchman and a video game brand name.

Oh, Madden is also, according to Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports, "an American icon."

Michaels said: "John is as important a figure as anyone in the recent history of the NFL. ... He's made the game more interesting to millions of people."

More humbly, speaking of his working relationship with Michaels, Madden said his play-by-play partner has "always been a clean-up guy. I need a clean-up guy."

With all of that effusive praise, maybe Michaels can help clean up the extra accolades. After all, it's only the preseason.

Radio gaga

Not content simply to tout its Ravens coverage as "uncensored," the team's former AM radio home, WJFK (1300), is adding some fun to the mix by throwing a few shots at the club's new AM radio home, WBAL (1090). Ads on WJFK mention how seven of the first eight Ravens games won't air on WBAL.

That's basically true if you count the four preseason games and first four regular-season games. Orioles broadcasts will keep the Ravens off the AM except for the Aug. 17 exhibition and the Sept. 24 game, the latter of which likely will be joined in progress. The games will air in their entirety on 98 Rock (WIYY, 97.9 FM).

Mommy track

Conspiracy theorists note Sage Steele's absence as the Ravens reporter on Comcast SportsNet and recall her testy exchange with coach Brian Billick on air during the past season. Did network management - possibly under pressure from the team - bounce her?

"Everybody is going to think this is because of what happened," Steele said, "but it's absolutely not true."

Steele said her move to full-time anchor on SportsNite was her call, and it was a combination of little things. Three little things, actually, and they're 4 years old, 2 years old and 3 months.

"With three kids under the age of 4, I decided to focus on family," she said.

Steele said she almost decided to ask off the Ravens last year when she became pregnant, but finished the season.

"It's just having a consistent schedule," said Steele, who works on SportsNite five days a week. "As much as I love [covering the NFL], they're going to grow up so fast."

Steele, who covered the Ravens for five years, will occasionally still be with the team, such as next week, when she fills in for vacationing Ravens reporter Brent Harris. But she's giving up the travel - and some of the guilt - that came with being assigned to the Ravens.

"I just didn't feel right," she said, "being at a Ritz-Carlton in Cleveland having dinner at Ruth's Chris while my husband was back home with three little kids."

Final thought

Are the people who are concerned about Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's ownership of sports talk radio outlets around Washington also troubled by the full programming launch of Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, a regional sports network majority owned by the Orioles?

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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

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