Perhaps exhibition not meaningless after all

ON MEDIA

Weekend

August 11, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

It's football and it's on television.

For some of you, that's probably enough reason to watch tonight's Ravens-New York Giants preseason game (8 p.m., WBFF/Channel 45). But there are those of us who have something of an allergic reaction to the idea of exhibition games in which most of the regular starters barely play long enough to necessitate washing their uniforms afterward.

It turns out we could be wrong. OK, it turns out I could be wrong.

Take the word of no less an authority than Stan White, the veteran Baltimore sports yak personality who makes his debut as a Ravens radio analyst tonight on 98 Rock (WIYY/97.9 FM).

"What you're really looking for are guys who will add to your team," White said this week. "If they're really good fans, they want to see if their team will be better than last year."

So after the regulars have taken a seat, while your tall glass of the Official Soft Drink of the sports media column (advertisers, your drink here) still has plenty of ice and your bowl of Official Crunchy Snack Food of the sports media column (another advertising opportunity) remains half-full, be on the lookout for players who will emerge as key backups or special teams contributors.

White pointed out that these parts of preseason games gave fans their first real exposure to the likes of Adalius Thomas, Will Demps and Bart Scott.

Earlier in the game, White said, the focus will be on new quarterback Steve McNair, to "see how he has adjusted to a different offense, to the terminology."

In the new radio team's terminology - as laid out in a news release - White is being called the Minister of Offense and fellow analyst Rob Burnett the Minister of Defense. Play-by-play man Gerry Sandusky has no such title, though let me suggest that if Sandusky reads any commercials, he could be the Ad-Minister.

(Folks at 98 Rock, that one was free. Now, if you want to be the Official Loud Music Station of the sports media column, we'll talk.)

"I will be analyzing the Ravens offense most of the time, the same way I did when I was a linebacker," said White, a former Colt.

One of the wrinkles in the 98 Rock/WBAL broadcasts will be the "Celebrity Sideline Reporter" - kudos for capitalizing it, but where is the word "Official"? - and the first one is Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams. Sure, it's just preseason, but you think Williams might get on the officiating crew?

No call

When the Ravens kick off tonight, they will do it without the call of Scott Garceau, the team's radio voice for its first 10 seasons. He may not be feeling too many pangs yet, but Garceau acknowledged that they're coming.

"I'm sure when they tee it up in September for real, it'll hit me more," said Garceau, WMAR/Channel 2 sports anchor.

For now, Garceau and partner Tom Matte will stay close to the team as hosts of two-hour pre-game and post-game shows on the Ravens' former radio home, WJFK (1300 AM).

Speaking of which, if you think that the station's "uncensored" label of its Ravens coverage actually means something beyond a marketing hook, Garceau said no one should believe he and Matte used to operate under constraints.

"Never once in 10 years did someone from the Ravens say anything to us about what we said," Garceau said.

Former owner Art Modell was quite explicit about not interfering.

"[Modell said] `If we start telling you what to say, we start losing our credibility,' " Garceau said.

Branded

Here's fair warning so you don't get confused. Starting next month, when you tune in sports programming on ABC, it will look like you're watching ESPN.

The networks - both owned by Disney - announced yesterday that ABC's sports telecasts would bear the ESPN brand. So the on-air look and graphics will say ESPN, with only an ABC "watermark" in the lower part of the screen letting you know it's not actually ESPN.

"We truly believe this will benefit all of our business partners and our fans," George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports president, said in a conference call.

For the approximately 20 million viewers who don't have ESPN access, the move will "give them the chance to experience the ESPN brand," Bodenheimer said.

The executive called this move "evolutionary," and with the way personnel and programming already have appeared on both networks, the only noticeable change may be the graphics.

Now, if anyone from Disney wants to talk about an opportunity to become the Official Sports Programming Provider of the sports media column, you guys know where to find me.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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

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