Bill Clinton's appearance on MTV this week -- is it true he was introduced as MC Razorback? -- set the tone. Presidential candidates must appear on non-traditional cable networks to get their messages across.
The big three have targeted ESPN, and, lucky us, they'll be here Sunday night for the network's telecast of the Orioles-New York Yankees game at Camden Yards. In anticipation of their visit, Clinton, George Bush and Ross Perot made practice runs during the previous homestand at OPACY -- the ballpark name ranking highest in a three-man race.
Tapes of the three at the ballpark have been obtained by The Sun -- that is, by somebody other than me, somebody more inclined to do a little work -- and here is what they reveal:
* Clinton is seen standing in line at Boog's Barbecue, where no one recognizes him. He becomes frustrated at the wait, but soon makes a sweep through several concession stands -- where, again, no one recognizes him -- but consumes three hot dogs, two slices of pizza, a bag of popcorn, a large order of fries, an ice cream cone and two Cokes in stadium souvenir cups. He also buys his wife a T-shirt that says, "My husband went to Camden Yards and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
* Perot stands several blocks from the ballpark, greeting passers-by. Several offer condolences on the death of Mad magazine founder William Gaines. One person asks how to get to the stadium. Perot points in the general direction, but offers no details on which street to take.
* President Bush goes to the mound and throws several pitches near the plate. He says: "See, I can, too, throw the ball that far."
Presidential candidates aside (that grinding sound you hear is the column switching gears from its typically hilarious opening to the semi-serious topic for the day), Sunday's ESPN baseball game (8 p.m.) will be the first nationwide telecast from Camden tTC Yards. (CBS, home of baseball's game of the weak, previously telecast a game from Baltimore this season, but it was broadcast to about a third of the country.)
And who better to be a tour guide than Jon Miller?
Miller, voice of the Orioles on WBAL Radio and Channel 2, joins Joe Morgan to form baseball's best announcing team on ESPN's Sunday games. Though ESPN mainly is here to cover a game, not a ballpark, expect Camden Yards to be very much on display.
"They should get a lot of spectacular shots of the ballpark," Miller said, "especially in relation to the Inner Harbor."
The reason for that? As Thin Lizzy might have sung, the blimp is back in town.
ESPN is bringing the Goodyear Blimp (note to other corporate blimp sponsors: bring yours to Baltimore and see your company's name in print, too; make checks payable to Frager Inc.), and, in addition to panoramic shots near the new park, Miller said the network plans to put the blimp over Memorial Stadium and display the view of Camden Yards from the Orioles' old home.
Before the game, on "Baseball Tonight," a feature will attempt to capture the atmosphere at Camden Yards.
Once the game begins, Miller said, he will concentrate on aspects of the stadium that affect play -- the configuration of right field, proximity of fans to the left-field wall, lack of foul territory and slow infield.
"When you start the ballgame, you really have to cover the ballgame," Miller said.
But he won't ignore the flavor Camden Yards has added to
"It's important to convey the way the ballpark is a boon to the city," he said, "without getting preachy about it. This is something that is kind of a signature for the city. It enhances the quality of experience for the city."
Yeah, so who needs presidential candidates anyway?
* We interrupt this commercial for a baseball game: Subscribers to United Artists Cable of Baltimore who watched the May 31 ESPN baseball game might have noticed a few extra commercials. How about one every four or five pitches? OK, more than a few. Here's the explanation from a United spokeswoman: Local ads are inserted via a computer, which is alerted by a tone from the network. United's computer kept reacting as if it were hearing the tone, even though the signal wasn't there. After about an hour, a technician fixed the problem.
* Permanent vacation: I came in to pick up my paycheck, and the boss politely requested a moment of my time.
"Get in here, you slug!" he trilled.
"Where have you been? I haven't seen you all week."
"I've been on vacation," I replied, doing a quick runway twirl to show off my plaid walking shorts and garish, Hawaiian-style shirt combo, accented by the sockless, grass-stained, high-top look.
"Well, have you accomplished anything on vacation?" the boss asked.
"I recataloged my 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' tapes, grouping them into Boris-and-Natasha and non-Boris-and-Natasha sections," I said. "And I'm catching up on my reading, you know, the classics."
"I'm glad to hear you're reading. You could use some educating," he said. "How's it going?"
"Not too well," I said. "You know how hard it is to find back issues of 'Spiderman'?"
Things My Boss Wants To Know: Did Michael Jordan get tired during the NBA Finals because he had to do all that jumping every time NBC showed an Olympics promo? . . . When John McEnroe joins USA Network for its U.S. Open coverage, will he curse at any camera operator who takes his picture? . . . Because it's important to have somebody with bad hair on your draft telecast, will TNT ask Doug Collins to go back to his perm for Wednesday's NBA draft show?