Passing up a shot

ON MEDIA

J. Van Gundy not exactly eager to agree with Donaghy's call

Commentary

June 13, 2008|By RAY FRAGER

Rolling out yet another set of sports media notes while denying that the items are being mandated by the league office, no matter what Tim Donaghy says:

After the latest round of bombshells by disgraced NBA referee Donaghy, included the allegation that the league told officials to call fouls on a particular player after an owner complained, Jeff Van Gundy had a chance to shout out a big "I told you so." Though Donaghy didn't specify, he clearly was referencing the Houston Rockets' Yao Ming and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Van Gundy, now an ESPN/ABC commentator, was Rockets coach at the time and drew a $100,000 fine for saying someone with the NBA told him Yao's supposedly illegal screens would be scrutinized. But at halftime of ABC's NBA Finals Game 3 telecast, Van Gundy clearly wanted to distance himself from anything Donaghy has had to say while the former referee awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to felony charges related to betting on games.

However, Van Gundy did say the NBA could deal with matters such as Yao-Cuban in a more forthright manner.

"I think there should be more transparency in how they handle complaints at the league office," he said on the air. "When a team, a coach, an owner or a GM complains to the league office, I think immediately the offending team should be notified."

Through the first three games, national viewership of NBA Finals telecasts were up 46 percent over last year, averaging an 8.8 rating. And here we go again: In Baltimore, we're not as interested. The Finals have averaged 5.4 percent of the audience.

One voice has been silent on all matters NBA since February - Bill Walton. The ESPN analyst had been sidelined - debilitated, really - by terrible back pain. But after months of treatment and rehabilitation, Walton is back on ESPN. In a conference call this week, Walton spoke of his ordeal and said how thankful he was to have reached the point where he can at least appear on the network from Los Angeles, though he is not yet up to flying across the country to sit down in a Bristol studio.

But that's coming. "I am hoping, praying, planning, dreaming that I'm going to return to full health," Walton said.

WMAR sports anchor Scott Garceau not only covered Jonathan Ogden from the television side, but he also was the Ravens' radio voice through 2005. So he got to see closely how Ogden dealt with the media during his career.

"I think, at the end, he was more at ease," Garceau said. "He was one of those guys who didn't relish that part of the role, but he understood we had a job to do. He was always a good interview."

Something was wrong with the office televisions. As I glanced at ESPN's U.S. Open coverage yesterday, several times I saw a golfer other than Tiger Woods.

MASN has a two-arbitrator winning streak in North Carolina. Earlier this week, a second arbitrator appointed by the Federal Communications Commission ruled for MASN in its effort to get the network carried on the state's biggest cable systems. The arbitrator said Time Warner Cable had discriminated against MASN in favor of regional sports networks in which Time Warner had an interest - just as a first arbitrator had decided.

But Time Warner claimed that arbitrator was biased, so a second one considered the matter.

It's not over, though. Time Warner apparently will appeal to the FCC.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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