Baseball the perfect pitch to put away Olympic frenzy in 0) quick but quiet order
After two weeks of Olympian heights, baseball is the perfect way to come back to earth.
During the Barcelona Games, I was Cathode Ray, basking in the NBC glow each night, bombarded with a frenetic series of images -- runners, jumpers, swimmers, divers, lifters, riders, tumblers and tummlers (if you don't have your Yiddish dictionary handy, a tummler is kind of a generic description of Stan "The Fan" Charles).
I don't want to sound like one of those dweebs whose intellectual treatises on baseball lay it on thicker than the Camden Yards infield grass about the pastoral perfection of diamond dimensions or the microcosmic snapshot of the American spirit that is the double play. But there was a wonderful baseball moment earlier this week.
I was driving into a burnt orange sunset, the sort that Universitof Texas graduates offer up as evidence that the deity is a fellow UT alum. On the radio was the familiar, soothing voice of Chuck Thompson.
It didn't matter what he was saying, really. He was talking baseball while the sun was going down -- it was a most comfortable feeling.
Somewhere, hair was growing back on the cue-ball heads of U.Svolleyball players. Somewhere else, free agents from Mankato State were trying to impress assistant coaches by sticking with veteran receivers running down-and-outs. And still somewhere else, a car was flashing its headlights, wanting a slower vehicle to move over. Whoa, that wasn't somewhere else, that was me crawling along in the fast lane.
That's what I get for being lost in a post-Olympic baseball reverie. But don't show me the way out just yet.
You might have missed the final ratings for NBC's Olympics coverage. You also might have missed the "Brady Bunch" episode in which Greg and Marsha find Alice threatening Sam the butcher with Mr. Brady's T-square for not trimming the fat off the rib roast and for making eyes at Georgette the French maid.
I can't help much with the latter -- though I seem to remember something about a surprise raid by immigration authorities and a Delmonico wrapped in a red bow -- but here's how things came out for NBC: For the 16 prime-time Olympic programs, counting the opening and closing ceremonies, the network drew a 16.8 rating. Four years ago from Seoul, NBC drew a 16.9 for its prime-time shows. For the 14 nights of events, leaving out the first and last programs, NBC averaged 17.5, 2 percent under the 17.9 for 15 nights of Seoul sports.
NBC surpassed the 15.3 rating guaranteed to advertisers who spent millions on commercials that you started ignoring on Day 2.
Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. And, because I didn't mention them, I don't have to tell you what shares measure. If you really need to know, call Rudy Martzke at USA Today.
Play-by-play man Brad Nessler has jumped from CBS to ESPN. Nessler had called college football and basketball for CBS, and will do at least college football for ESPN. He also has been seen locally as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference packages shown on Baltimore stations.
"While networks are cutting back, cable is paying more in some cases," Nessler told the all-knowing Martzke. "I think a lot of people at the networks are worried about the future. So cable will have a bigger chunk of the pie."
Freedom of choice
On Wednesday night, the latter part of the Orioles-Toronto Blue Jays game was on Home Team Sports and ESPN. Area viewers weren't supposed to see the game on ESPN. On Wednesdays, regional cable networks such as HTS have exclusivity rights.
But ESPN's scheduled San Diego Padres-Atlanta Braves gamwas rained out, and the network had limited choices in finding another game to show. So we had the Orioles in stereo.
Not colorized, though
The PGA Championship is receiving combination cable-network coverage new to one of golf's majors. TBS has the first two rounds (the second round is telecast today, noon-6 p.m.), and TBS and CBS will combine tomorrow and Sunday (11 a.m.-1 p.m. on TBS, 1:30-6 p.m. on CBS, channels 11, 9).
Gary Bender will be host of the TBS portion, making everyone appreciate Jim Nantz in that role when CBS takes over.
If you're a tennis fan on vacation in the next week, don't worry if it rains. You can stay in and watch ESPN.
The network is carrying the Thriftway ATP Championship from Mason, Ohio, tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. In this tournament, the men are asked whether they want their tennis balls packed in plastic or paper.
Starting Monday, ESPN has seven straight days of the men's Volvo International from New Haven, Conn. Monday through Friday, two hours of coverage air starting at 1:30 p.m.
Things my boss wants to know
If Bill Clinton had added music during those syrupy gymnastics segments in the Olympics, would anyone have complained to NBC about all the sax and violins on the air? . . . Is it true that the halftime show at the Cleveland Browns-New York Giants preseason game (tomorrow, 8 p.m., channels 11, 9) will feature a New Jersey all-star high school band spelling out "no trade" in response to constant rumors about Giants quarterback Phil Simms? . . . Has anyone asked "Washington Post Sports Talk" host George Solomon how he feels about being passed over in favor of Dana Carvey as David Letterman's possible replacement?