Staff in ESPN's legal bullpen has no chance to get rusty

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

June 29, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

Is it the summer heat or just my generally short attention span? In any case, we'll go with a series of bullet points and hope not too many are blanks:

Once again, ESPN and sexual harassment are being linked. A makeup artist who worked on ESPN2's Cold Pizza has filed a lawsuit against ESPN, claiming she was fired for complaining about the behavior of host Jay Crawford and commentator Woody Paige, the Associated Press reported.

Rita Ragone alleges fondling and vulgar remarks by Paige and advances and crude comments from Crawford. The suit also says other women contributed to the uncomfortable atmosphere at the show - which since has been replaced by First Take - including another stylist who performed lap dances. Paige denied the allegations to the AP, and Crawford had not responded yesterday. ESPN also denied the charges and said in a statement that "the suit is without merit."

Last year, ESPN fired baseball analyst Harold Reynolds, and he subsequently sued the network, claiming he was wrongly terminated for giving a female colleague a "brief and innocuous" hug. A 2000 book by Mike Freeman, ESPN: The Uncensored History, detailed charges of a hostile environment for women at the network.

Earlier this week, Bob Haynie was discussing great sportscasters on his WNST (1570 AM) show. Some of the talk centered on being a youngster and growing up with the voices of your favorite team or sport. Which got me to thinking about how maybe some broadcasters might loom larger and better in our minds because we were younger - and more impressionable - when first exposed. For instance, in my mind, there will never be anyone better to call an NFL game on television than Ray Scott.

Then again, Haynie and callers praised Chuck Thompson, voice of the Orioles and Colts. I never heard Thompson with anything but adult ears - and got to town too late to hear him do the Colts - but there is no denying he was a terrific baseball announcer. So it could be our young impressions do stand up over time.

Speaking of WNST, the station and Towson University announced a three-year deal for WNST to carry Tigers football games, starting this fall. Towson's radio station, WTMD (89.7 FM), had been broadcasting football. Spiro Morekas remains the play-by-play man.

During Tuesday's Wimbledon coverage on ESPN2, Pam Shriver was dispatched to check out the crowd at Henman Hill, which was watching the English favorite pull out a first-round match. As she stepped around the throng viewing on a theater-sized screen, Shriver found the Brits haven't forgotten Baltimore's best contribution to tennis. One fan asked Shriver whether she would consider coming back like her former doubles partner, Martina Navratilova. Though Shriver quickly dismissed the idea, others in the crowd could be heard cheering the sentiment.

Could it be the Trembley Effect? Whatever the reason - and certainly playing the New York Yankees always boosts interest - Tuesday's opener of the Orioles-Yankees series drew a combined 9.9 percent of the Baltimore audience on WJZ/Channel 13 and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. That made the Orioles the highest-rated show in prime time, beating out Law & Order: SVU (8.1) and America's Got Talent (8.0) on WBAL/Channel 11.

Recommended reading: My colleague Kevin Eck, our resident pro wrestling expert, takes cable news shows to task for sensationalized, ill-informed reporting of the Chris Benoit family deaths in his blog, Ring Posts, at baltimoresun.com. No big surprise that CNN's Nancy Grace shows up on his list.

On Wednesday starting at 11 a.m., Orioles flagship WHFS (105.7 FM) is rebroadcasting Cal Ripken's record-tying and record-breaking games 2,130 and 2,131. Hear history and Jon Miller.

ESPN has announced a few changes to its college football announcing lineup. Doug Flutie and Craig James will co-analyze Thursday night games with returning play-by-play man Chris Fowler. Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham move from ESPN2's Saturday night games to ABC. Mark Jones and Bob Davie take their place. Davie was bounced from the Saturday night ABC team, which now will go with just Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit. Franklin, by the way, deserves whatever greater exposure the network will afford him. He's a marvelous play-by-play announcer in the Keith Jackson mold.

Starting July 7 at 8:30 a.m., Versus provides daily coverage of the Tour de France, as cyclists compete to wear the coveted yellow jersey and become the subject of a flurry of doping rumors.

TBS carries Sunday's announcement of baseball's All-Star teams at about 4 p.m. (depending on the end of the Atlanta Braves game). Ripken joins fellow Hall of Famer-to-be Tony Gwynn and host Ernie Johnson for the show.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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