There's no question: Kornheiser adds value

ON MEDIA

Commentary

October 13, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Heading into this season, what was the big question mark about Monday Night Football?

Surely no one was concerned about the production itself, not with ESPN's track record. Mike Tirico was an established, more-than-competent play-by-play man. Joe Theismann was already an experienced -- though too chatty -- analyst. Sideliners Michele Tafoya and Suzy Kolber had been plying their trades for years.

No, the only question was Tony Kornheiser.

And so what's the answer?

If he was supposed to provide nonstop yuks, that's not what has happened. But then again, most people didn't seem to like how that worked with Dennis Miller once upon a time.

Five weeks into the regular season, Kornheiser still doesn't sound fully integrated into the flow of the telecast. His voice is absent for stretches during the game. ESPN has set up The Washington Post columnist in spots to show off his sense of humor, such as answering questions sent in by viewers. Those usually work.

What else works is when he brings the sportswriter's sensibility into the discussion. These are talking points that clearly belong on the air, but that Theismann can often be dismissive of. In the past two telecasts, for example, Kornheiser brought up valid story lines about Donovan McNabb's leadership with the Philadelphia Eagles having been challenged during Terrell Owens' stay and Jake Plummer's rather tenuous hold on the affections of Denver Broncos fans.

Theismann didn't want to really talk about either issue, which might be an indication of how on point Kornheiser was.

Let's have more of that Kornheiser. And also of the Kornheiser who asks Desperate Housewives actor James Denton which of the title characters he would like to sleep with.

Homegrown

The voice of Navy football on CSTV is a local one. Pete Medhurst, who calls the games along with Scott Zolak or Trev Alberts, grew up and still lives in Anne Arundel County.

Medhurst went right into sportscasting after graduating from Southern High in 1987, starting with a part-time job at WNAV (1430 AM) in Annapolis before moving on to gigs in Pocomoke City and Salisbury and then returning back over to the Bay Bridge to join the Navy Radio Network, primarily as the voice of Mids lacrosse.

"Navy fans are the most loyal people," Medhurst said.

CSTV -- all college sports, all the time -- is available in 50 million homes nationwide. Locally, Comcast customers can receive it on the digital sports tier of service or via DirecTV or Dish Network satellite.

And what about tomorrow's big matchup for the Mids against No. 24 Rutgers?

"Both teams have terrific running games," Medhurst said. "... I think there's a lot of equality in the programs." Navy coach Paul Johnson and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano "have had to build from the ground up."

MASN posts

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network has added a Ravens post-game show to its lineup. Starting Sunday, Ravens Xtra will air for an hour starting at 4:30 p.m. after each home game. WBFF's Amber Theoharis and Ravens radio analyst Rob Burnett are the hosts.

And maybe if they're really good, the show will get an "E" for its name. ...

The combined rating in Baltimore for the Ravens-Broncos Monday game on WJZ and ESPN was 34.8. In Denver, the over-the-air and cable audiences amounted to a 37.9 rating. Nationally, however, the 8.5 rating tied Monday's game with the previous week for the fifth-lowest Monday Night Football telecast ever. The lowest all-time in the MNF series was a game played on Saturday, so, Ravens-Broncos actually tied for fourth-lowest among Monday Night games aired on Monday night.

Gamesmanship

ESPN.com is using the Madden NFL 07 video game to predict results each week by playing simulated games with the scheduled matchups. In Week 5, the video game results correctly picked the winners of every game and proved especially prescient in some cases:

Terrell Owens was forecast to make two catches for 43 yards in the Dallas Cowboys' game with the Eagles; he ended up with three for 45.

The Cowboys' Julius Jones was predicted to rush for 103 yards; he got 100.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was pegged for 217 yards passing; he threw for 220 against the St. Louis Rams.

My prediction: At any given site where Madden is being played, there is a 57 percent chance of Cheetos.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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

Top-rated sports, Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Oct. 4-10 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Channel Rating

Ravens-Broncos 10/9 13-a 34.8

Cowboys-Eagles 10/8 45 17.6

Steelers-Chargers 10/8 11 13.6

Redskins-Giants 10/8 45 10.4

Ravens pre-game 10/9 13 9.4

Dolphins-Patriots 10/8 13 7.2

Tigers-Yankees 10/7 45 6.6

Tigers-Yankees 10/6 ESPN 6.5

Tigers-A's 10/10 45 5.7

Dodgers-Mets 10/5 45 5.2

a-plus ESPN

[ Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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