With TV programming like this, who needs...


With TV programming like this, who needs Buttafuoco for 0) ratings?

Right up front, let me say I will continue in the effort to be the last person in the country not to go for a cheap laugh by mentioning Joey Buttafuoco. Should things get really slow later in the column, though, all bets are off. In fact, Danny Sheridan says bet the six-paragraph under on a Buttafuoco reference.

* Carly Simon once sang, "These are the good, old days." She might have been referring to today's varied sports offerings on television. She also might have been referring to when Domino's guaranteed delivery in 30 minutes or less. Or neither.

In any case, a peek at tomorrow's sports TV schedule -- go ahead, take a look -- reveals that there are 13 live college basketball games, three figure skating programs, one bowling tournament, two golf events, one hockey game, one winter sports show and a college volleyball telecast. Twenty years ago, The Sun listed a Saturday sports schedule of two college basketball games and one golf tournament. How did we ever survive?

* Channel 45's Sunday night "Sports Unlimited" made a strong ratings showing last weekend, drawing a 5.8 rating and 9 share, finishing sixth for the week in Baltimore's Nielsen ratings of sports programs. The sportscast beat out a couple of strong live events, Channel 13's Pro Bowlers Tour and Channel 11's Iowa-Duke basketball game.

Ratings measure the percentage of all television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. And we measure success one investor at a time.

* Somehow, the Super Bowl will be lessened this year without "Downtown" Julie Brown's pre-game reports on MTV. Maybe Sinead O'Connor could take her place, and help fire up the Bills by ripping up a picture of Troy Aikman.

* Joey Buttafuoco.

* Speaking of ratings -- and, when you get right down to it, who in America isn't? -- CBS' NFC championship game Sunday was the top-rated non-Super Bowl football telecast in 11 years, with a 33.3 rating and 57 share. The discriminating Baltimore viewing audience wasn'tquite so overwhelmed, however. The game drew 27.4/43 here.

And why did the Cowboys-49ers game rate lower in Baltimore? It must have been the competition over on Channel 54 -- "American Ninja 2: The Confrontation," which most film critics cite as the second-greatest sequel in movie history after "The Godfather 2."

* If you want to stay in football-watching shape in this weekend off before the Super Bowl, ESPN is carrying the East-West Shrine Classic Sunday at 4 p.m.

* Channel 2 isn't telecasting it, but Washington's Channel 4 will have NBC's "Skills Challenge" golf event tomorrow at 2 p.m. Eight pros will compete in six shot-making categories. Sharp-eyed viewers will pick up right away that the show was taped. One of the competitors is John Daly, who left the PGA Tour to enter an alcohol rehabilitation program and isn't returning to action until next week.

* WBAL Radio (1090 AM) will carry 17 Orioles spring training games, beginning on March 5 through the April 4 exhibition at RFK Stadium in that town that can't get a baseball team.

* NBC presents an NBA doubleheader Sunday (channels 2, 4, 12:30 p.m.). Hannah Storm will sit in for Bob Costas on the pre-game show, then Marv Albert, Mike Fratello and Ahmad Rashad will blanket the Bulls-Spurs at 1 p.m., followed by team coverage from Tom Hammond, Steve Jones, Magic Johnson and Dan Hicks at the Trail Blazers-Jazz. Rashad and Hicks, in sideline-reporter roles, will tell viewers how George Toma worked on getting the courts in shape for play.

* Joey Buttafuoco.

* ESPN has set its seven Thursday night college football games for next season. Grinnell is not on the schedule for 1993. But Auburn, playing its first game under coach Terry Bowden, son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, will face Mississippi in the first game on Sept. 2.

* NBC's Marv Albert has worked with Bill Parcells, the Giants coach-turned-analyst-turned-Patriots coach, so he should be in a good position to assess ex-Bears coach Mike Ditka's potential as a football announcer.

"I think he would be excellent," Albert said. "With anybody who turns from coaching, it's got to be someone who is going to say something. He may be more effective in the studio. You want to see him. Ditka is a guy who is more entertaining. He could play off someone, maybe get in an argument."

Ditka in an argument? Hard to believe.

* Good line by ESPN's Keith Olbermann the other night when NBA highlights featured Mavericks coach Garfield Heard. "There's Garfield," said Olbermann, obviously a comics fan, "and right behind him, Odie."

* Former Maryland and Dunbar High coach Bob Wade will be the analyst when WHLP (1360 AM) begins coverage of Coppin State home basketball games tomorrow night at 7:30.

* ESPN and Sony have joined forces to create sports video games. ESPN's footage and announcers will be incorporated into the games. Coming soon: Get a T-O, Bay-bee, in which the object of the game is to hit a buzzer each time Dick Vitale praises a college basketball coach. This game could cause repetitive stress injury, however.

Things my boss wants to know

Do you have to turn your TV upside down to watch ESPN's Australian Open coverage next week? . . . During the halftime media shootout at Maryland's basketball game this week, did fans at the Baltimore Arena boo WBAL Radio's Jeff Rimer and Channel 13's John Buren or just mistakenly think their names were Lou? . . . Is it true that USA Network turned down Madonna's request to be a commentator on its telecast of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

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