After no regular season, Fox tackles 5-game bowl lineup

ON MEDIA

December 29, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Remember Rosie Ruiz? She was the woman who jumped into the 1980 Boston Marathon less than a mile from the end and then crossed the finish line as the apparent winner.

Now, that's not to say Fox is doing the same thing by jumping into the college football season at the end by televising five bowl games, including the national championship, but it was the best analogy I could come up with on short notice.

"It's sort of like our first season of NASCAR, when we started with the Daytona 500," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said in a conference call Wednesday. "This certainly, without a regular-season conference package, has been a challenge."

Sure, he came up with a better analogy, but, then again, he's a high-powered network executive.

During preparation for the bowls, Goren said, "the theme of our production seminars [has been] `This isn't the NFL.'" So in addition to focusing on game-related matters, Fox wants to consider "the history and tradition of these schools."

It's not as if Fox personnel have felt removed from the college game. "We're big college football fans," said Howie Long, Fox NFL Sunday analyst, who will work the network's Sugar Bowl telecast Wednesday (7:30 p.m., WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5) along with NFL studio colleague Terry Bradshaw and play-by-play man Kenny Albert.

When the Fox crew is on the road, Long said, Bradshaw will have three televisions in his hotel room to watch college football. Analyst Jimmy Johnson, who will work the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows at the national championship game (Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.) said he stays in regular contact with coaching friends from his days in the college ranks.

And Goren said Fox would like to stop being a bowl-come-lately.

"I've been very public in meetings with conferences," he said, indicating specific interest in the Big 12. "I'd love to be involved. We don't want to just show up in January."

Bowling partners

The announcing team for Fox's Fiesta Bowl (Monday, 8 p.m.) and the Bowl Championship Series title game will be play-by-play man Thom Brennaman, joined by former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez and former University of Tennessee player and TBS analyst Charles Davis. Goren said Fox selected Alvarez, Wisconsin's athletic director, because "I thought it was important for our national championship game to have someone who is still part of the game."

No doubleheader here

Because the Ravens are home, Baltimore misses out on the NFL double doubleheader Sunday. For the first time, the NFL has allowed two networks to carry two regular-season games each. Here, CBS (WJZ/Channel 13) will have the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m., followed by the Ravens-Buffalo Bills. Channel 45 carries the Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys at 1, but no late game. Those who get Washington's Channel 5 can see the Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles in the late game. But what kind of Ravens fan are you?

No Ms. Pac-Man?

It's being touted as a precursor to what poker became on TV. So be warned - the gamers are coming.

Tomorrow at 3 p.m., CBS airs They Got Game: Stars of the World Series of Video Games, profiling some of the top competitors in this World Series, which will be televised on CSTV next month.

The event will feature tournament play in Counter-Strike 1.6, Quake 4, Warcraft III: Frozen Throne, Halo 2, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.

Good to see Frozen Throne in there. I don't know about you, but ever since Archimonde and the Burning Legion tasted defeat, I've been eager to return to Azeroth.

(OK, I confess: I've never been to Azeroth, which I hadn't ever heard of until visiting a Warcraft Web site moments ago. And Archimonde? Is he buddies with Betty, Veronica and Jughead?)

My 17-year-old gaming consultant informs me these games are all good choices, especially Counter-Strike, though he pronounces Halo 2 overrated. If you disagree, please don't send the Burning Legion after me.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Dec. 20-26 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rating

Ravens-Steelers 12/24 13 26.4

Bengals-Broncos 12/24 13 15.8

Eagles-Cowboys 12/25 11 14.3

Jets-Dolphins 12/25 ESPN 9.9

NFL Today 12/24 13 6.4

Sports Unlimited 12/24 45 4.2

NFL pre-game 12/25 11 4.1

Redskins-Rams 12/24 45 3.7

SportsCenter-a 12/25 ESPN 3.7

Hawaii Bowl 12/24 ESPN 2.7

a-11:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

[Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

Highlights

Pro basketball: Will Gilbert Arenas ever cool off? Put your microwave popcorn next to the TV while watching the Washington Wizards take on the Orlando Magic at 7 tonight on Comcast SportsNet. By the time Arenas hits his third three-pointer, the popcorn should be ready.

College basketball: We're not predicting a Loyola victory, but the Greyhounds make one of their Mid-Atlantic Sports Network appearances tomorrow at noon against Michigan State.

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