Steele takes her solid work to ESPN

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

January 19, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

Sage Steele has been one of the faces of Comcast SportsNet since the channel began, but she's going nationwide.

Steele will be leaving after Feb. 2 to join ESPNews as an anchor. Her first day on the air at the new job is Feb. 20, she said. ESPN, which made the announcement yesterday, said she also will get some anchoring spots on SportsCenter.

"There's so many opportunities there," said Steele, a fixture on Comcast SportsNet's SportsRise and SportsNite.

At CSN, which she joined the day it went on the air in April 2001, "I've grown tremendously, but I don't know what else I can do here."

ESPN had approached her three years ago, she said, just before the birth of her second child - she now has three, ages 4, 2 and 9 months - but the timing didn't seem right. But now ...

"There's a time in your career when you make a commitment to your career," said Steele, 34.

Making the decision easier: Her parents live in Connecticut, 45 minutes from ESPN's Bristol headquarters.

Still, she said she will "miss [Comcast SportsNet] tremendously" and got choked up when one of her bosses announced her coming departure during a meeting yesterday.

Steele became a presence in Baltimore as Comcast SportsNet's Ravens reporter. During the 2005 season, she had a dust-up with coach Brian Billick during a post-game interview. Billick told her he didn't like some comments she had made on the radio the previous week, and she and the coach ended up in an extended debate on the matter. It all blew over quickly, but for many Ravens fans, that will be their enduring memory of Steele.

Too bad. As a reporter and anchor, Steele consistently turned in solid work.

Add 'em up

How fortuitous. The week after WBAL (1090 AM) lost the Orioles to CBS Radio's WHFS (105.7 FM), it gets the chance to crow (note bird reference) about how much better Ravens games fared, ratings-wise, on WBAL and 98 Rock (WIYY/97.9 FM) than they did the season before on two other CBS Radio stations.

According to Arbitron figures released by WBAL, Ravens game broadcasts for the 2006 season - not counting pre- and post-game shows - averaged 166,300 Baltimore-area listeners ages 18 and older. In 2005, when games were carried on JACKfm (WQSR/102.7 FM) and ESPN Radio 1300 (WJFK/1300 AM), the average was about one-quarter that amount - 43,000.

In those demographic categories that advertisers want and radio loves to sell, the difference held - in every age and gender breakdown, WBAL/98 Rock drew audiences at least four times bigger for its game broadcasts. (The numbers also were significantly higher for pre- and post-game shows.)

Do you think we'll be seeing similar news from WHFS after the 2007 Orioles season?

Served up

It has been the surprise of the NFL playoffs - the suddenly formidable Indianapolis Colts defense. How did it happen?

One possible answer: a couple of scoops of vanilla.

"They've played very basic offenses, one of the reasons they've gotten better," CBS' No. 1 game analyst, Phil Simms, said in a conference call this week, referring to the Colts' past two opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens.

Simms, who will call Sunday's AFC championship game with Jim Nantz, said the Colts "gambled more to stop the run," leaving their cornerbacks on their own in pass coverage, but it didn't cost them.

CBS studio analyst Boomer Esiason, opining on the Chiefs' Trent Green and the Ravens' Steve McNair, said: "Not playing the last couple of weeks the top quarterbacks in the league has been a big help."

Not so in the matchup Sunday between the Colts and New England Patriots, Esiason said.

"There isn't a quarterback in the league who does more for his team than the two guys playing Sunday night," Esiason said of the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady. " ... Those guys are coaches on the field."

Brady already has the Super Bowl pedigree, but there is a notion that Manning needs to win one to stamp his career as great. Esiason isn't buying it.

"He doesn't need to go to the Super Bowl to validate his career," Esiason said.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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