Big Brown rides hot as a Derby hopeful


May 02, 2008|By RAY FRAGER

More sports media notes to consider while you try to escape this spring's extra-powerful pollen attack (which thus quite literally makes this column something to sneeze at):

In Louisville, Ky., there is a local favorite sandwich called the "hot brown." (See what you can learn from watching the Food Network?) In tomorrow's Kentucky Derby, the hot brown being served up is favorite Big Brown.

"Most of the horses all seem to have significant things that you like about them and significant question marks associated with them with the exception of Big Brown, who is unbeaten in three starts, but only three starts," said Tom Hammond, NBC's Derby co-host, according to highlights of yesterday's conference call. "It's been since 1915 that a horse that lightly raced has won the Kentucky Derby."

Analyst Gary Stevens isn't quite ready to hop onto Big Brown's back (though, as a former jockey, he's more than qualified). "It's by no means a one-horse race," Stevens said. "I love what I see in Colonel John. ... It's just a wide-open Derby this year."

Don't forget that Derby coverage begins at 4 p.m. (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) with the "Access at the Derby" segment that includes the "Red Carpet Show," featuring Access Hollywood's Billy Bush. We can't wait for Bush to ask Eight Belles what kind of shoes she's wearing.

Rollllllll, Tides. Mid-Atlantic Sports Network announced it will televise 16 Norfolk Tides games, starting tomorrow at 7 p.m. Eight of the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate's games will be live, and eight will be on tape. John Castleberry (play-by-play) and Pete Michaud (analyst) call the games. Given the youthful turn the Orioles' roster is taking, fans will get a look at players likely to be in Baltimore quite soon.

For those of you scoring at home, the announcers on tomorrow's Orioles-Los Angeles Angels game on Fox (3:45 p.m., WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5) will be Dick Stockton and Jose Mota.

ESPN must have been sad to see April end. Three of its channels set April ratings records -- ESPN averaged 746,00 homes at any given time during the month, up 21 percent from last year, boosted by its Masters coverage; ESPN2 was up 9 percent, to 255,000 homes, boosted by those who watch incredulously that Skip Bayless is still on the air; and ESPNEWS showed an 11 percent increase, to 62,000, boosted by the chance to see Cindy Brunson in high-definition.

In James Taylor's song "Traffic Jam," there's a stanza about how he "almost had a heart attack/ looking in my rearview mirror/ I saw myself the next car back/ looking in the rearview mirror/ 'Bout to have a heart attack." So that's sort of what was going on in the latest Costas Now on HBO, in which members of the sports media talked about the sports media.

No heart attacks, but at least one rather spirited attack. During a segment about blogs, the terrific author Buzz Bissinger (Friday Night Lights) laid into founder Will Leitch, saying -- among other things -- that Leitch was "sort of like Jimmy Olsen on Percocet" and "you say you don't want to be in the press box because facts get in the way." The problem was, Bissinger's sputtering delivery dulled the impact of whatever points he wanted to make and left Leitch looking like a victim.

On the other hand, the segment on race, featuring ESPN's Cris Carter, Washington Post columnist and Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon and Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock, was a spirited, but reasoned discussion that left us wanting more (which Bob Costas said is planned). Whitlock, worth looking up online (he also writes at, in particular did a good job of defusing some statements from Kellen Winslow Sr. in a taped piece, in which he draped his son in the victim cloth for the media coverage of the younger Winslow's motorcycle accident. (Yes, Ben Roethlisberger got called most of the same things Winslow Jr. did.)

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