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O's welcome respite amid madness


You hear a lot about madness this time of year. In fact, you heard about it in this very space last week. So I'm as much to blame as anyone for perpetuating these Ides of Madness.

Well, maybe not anyone. Jim Nantz is more to blame than me. And Mike Francesa. Don't forget Billy Packer, James Brown and Bill Raftery. Plus Al McGuire and Tim Ryan. In fact, lots of people are more to blame than me. My therapist says I've got to stop feeling so guilty.

But I digress.

One has to discover sports serenity amid the madness. And there was a little piece of serenity on the screen the other night -- an Orioles exhibition game.

The sights and sounds of spring training games are like the calming hand on the shoulder, the comforting warmth of a quilt, the enveloping steam from a cup of freshly brewed coffee, maybe with a hot cinnamon bun and butter and some blueberry muffins and a big chunk of challah with cream cheese and a grapefruit and how about passing the strawberries and would you stick a couple of Pop-Tarts into the toaster. . . . Sorry, I skipped breakfast.

But I digressed again.

The great thing about exhibition baseball is that it accentuates aspects of a baseball telecast. There is a more leisurely pace to the games. The announcers engage in discussions to a larger extent. With smaller crowds and less fan noise, the game sounds come through clearer.

Take Wednesday's Orioles game on Home Team Sports, for example. Each crack of the bat and each fastball pounding the mitt resounded into the living room. Meanwhile, Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein were speculating on the club's makeup for this season, talking some about the opposition that day (the Cincinnati Reds) and sometimes getting back to the action on the field.

Play-by-play man Proctor gives Lowenstein plenty of room, and Lowenstein fills it up. Now, Lowenstein is no Tim McCarver -- then again, who is? (put your hand down, Jim Palmer) -- but he can be informative without being overbearing, and you never know when his goofy brand of humor will kick in.

During the season, you'd want Lowenstein to talk less and Proctor to focus on the game more. You'd also like a bigger buzz in the crowd.

But, for an evening's respite from the frenetic doings of the NCAA tournament, an Orioles game from Florida provides a nice, relaxing contrast.

Better left unsaid

Maybe Proctor was too relaxed Wednesday. As the camera showed a boater, Proctor said it was a good day to be out on the water. This was two days after the boating deaths of two Cleveland Indians. It would have been best for Proctor to say nothing.

Banana split

Speaking of madness, CBS must have had lots of folks frothing at the mouth on Thursday night.

As the first games of the night neared their conclusions, the network inexplicably chose to split the screen, giving equal weight to Indiana-Louisville, already decided, and Florida State-Western Kentucky, which went into overtime and came down to the last shot.

It was enough to make you want to yell at your TV or throw an ottoman at it. (Which raises a question: Were ottomans -- ottomen? -- once so devastating a weapon that you could build an empire with them?)

For some of us, the days of interactive TV can't arrive soon enough.

Spanning the dial

This weekend, CBS' studio crew during NCAA telecasts will be Pat O'Brien, Digger Phelps and Francesa. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will join them today. . . . As part of its $1 billion deal with the NCAA, CBS is obliged to carry other college championships. Today, the network telecasts the Division II basketball championship (1 p.m., channels 11, 9), followed by a Division I regional final doubleheader. The other two regional finals air tomorrow, starting at 1:30 p.m. ESPN is carrying the women's four regional finals today, at 11 a.m., 3, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Giving them what-fore

It's something of a Big Show in golf this weekend, too. For the men, The Players Championship, sort of a second-echelon major, is being telecast by NBC (channels 2, 4) at 2 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. tomorrow. Channel 2 will pick it up today after an Orioles game that begins at 1. ABC (channels 13, 7) is carrying one of the women's majors, the Nabisco Dinah Shore, today at 4:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 4 p.m. . . . Tomorrow's NBA matchup on NBC (noon, channels 2, 4), the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers, doesn't sound that competitive, but you might want to see if the Suns are working on a special, guy-on-the-bench-in-a-silk-shirt-anti-sucker-punch defense.

Things my boss wants to know

If NBC were carrying the NCAA tournament, would it have placed incendiary devices in California's sneakers to prevent the Bears from knocking off Duke? . . . Given the effect on viewers' stomachs when CBS shrinks the screen to show tournament scores, why aren't the scores sponsored by Pepto-Bismol? . . . With sound investments, can the NASCAR TranSouth Financial 500 be lengthened to 600?

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