So who's left in the men's side of the U.S. Open tennis tournament? It's, what, Pete Sampras and a bunch of guys with Continental names?
In one semifinal, I think, Sampras plays Gerard Depardieu, and Jean-Claude Van Damme faces Marcello Mastroianni in the other.
OK, it's not quite that severe -- I'd take Mastroianni, by the way, because Van Damme would be defaulted for kicking a line judge -- but upset after upset has denuded the Open of many marquee names. (And for those scoring at home, that is the first use of "denuded" in this sports section since we've started keeping records.)
CBS analyst Mary Carillo won't pretend that the absence of Jim Courier, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi doesn't affect viewer interest in the network's coverage (today, 11 a.m.; tomorrow, 11 a.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m.; channels 11, 9).
"To me, ratings are all about who's playing," Carillo said Wednesday. "It's the only reason I watch things."
Unfortunately for CBS, some of the best stuff to watch has been the upsets carried by USA Network.
"Upsets happen quite a bit in men's tennis," Carillo said, "but this is remarkable. To see past U.S. Open champs like Boris Becker and Jim Courier go out is quite a shock."
But even tennis' best announcer doesn't necessarily understand what has happened.
"I'm not sure what to make of it," she said. "In men's tennis, there's so much depth. It just proves that the very best players have to be prepared every round."
Meanwhile, the casual tennis fan may not know France's Cedric Pioline from Cedric Maxwell (for the casual NBA fan, Maxwell is a former Celtic and, of course, that guy with the silver hammer in the Beatles song). But Carillo probably can tell you Pioline's favorite Jerry Lewis movie.
"Maybe the general public doesn't know these players, but I follow them all year," said Carillo, who also covers pro tennis for ESPN.
Unlike some of her fellow broadcasters, Carillo is known for being all over a tournament, acting like, of all things, a reporter.
"I like reporting," she said. "I like hanging out."
Those players she's hanging around might not even realize that Carillo once played the women's tour.
NTC "I didn't leave behind some glorious tennis legacy," said Carillo, whose career was shortened by injury.
"They don't think of me as a tennis player. There's very few of my contemporaries left," she said.
One of Carillo's contemporaries is John McEnroe, a childhood friend in New York with whom she once won a French Open mixed doubles title. Apparently retired from playing, McEnroe has jumped into broadcasting. During USA's coverage, McEnroe has been funny and insightful.
"I think he's pretty good," Carillo said. "I think he could be much better if he really wanted to work at it."
Something McEnroe could work on would be his Neanderthal view of covering men's and women's tennis, an example of which was displayed in a point-counterpoint with Carillo in last week's Sports Illustrated. Though she and McEnroe are at opposite ends of the court on this matter, his views aren't news to Carillo.
"This is not a breaking story to this reporter," she said.
Wednesday night provided a perfect example of the contrast between radio talkers Jeff Rimer and Stan "The Fan" Charles. On WBAL (1090 AM) after the Orioles game, Rimer was admitting he'd been wrong to say that the club was out of contention and enthusiastically talking to callers about the race. On WCBM (680 AM), Charles was glorying in the departure of Glenn Davis, not only saying that no one should wear Davis' dreaded uniform numbers, but also suggesting that the Orioles fumigate anything Davis ever touched. . . . Not to nit-pick, but let's nit-pick: When Channel 11's Gerry Sandusky reported the Lonnie Smith trade Wednesday, he mentioned that maybe Smith could play in the World Series with his fifth team. Smith, having been acquired after Aug. 31, is not eligible for postseason play.
Bill comes due
If you put a bunch of monkeys in a room with typewriters, eventually they'd write the new cable television regulations that are causing so much anxiety in Couch Potato Land.
The new rules don't set rates for premium channels, and area cable companies generally haven't changed their fees for Home Team Sports -- or added fees in systems that include HTS as part of basic service. The price of HTS as reported in February, however, has dropped in Baltimore County and risen in Baltimore. Comcast of Baltimore County is charging $13.65 instead of $15.99. United Artists of Baltimore is charging $12 instead of $11.
Iron out Mike
The most noteworthy thing about Mike Ditka's debut on NBC's "NFL Live" Sunday was his attire. Colleague O. J. $H Simpson, eyeing the camouflage jacket and loud, floral-print shirt combo, asked Ditka if he'd gone out and shot a couch. Hey, maybe Ditka was going hunting for Merlin Olsen in a florist shop.
But let's move beyond such superficialities as clothing. After all, if NBC were interested in a coach just for how well he dressed, the network would hire Pat Riley. (Oh, they once did? Never mind.)
Ditka had a couple of Ditka-esque moments, sounding testy when it was suggested that his former team, the Bears, was using a new offense this season and railing against the high salaries paid quarterbacks. Overall, he probably needs time to get comfortable, and then we'll see more of the Iron Mike personality.
While Ditka debuted, CBS' Terry Bradshaw was on "The NFL Today," in fine form as the good, old boy with an edge. Bradshaw took a knock at Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham's "Let Me Be Me" outlook. And a clip showed Patriots coach Bill Parcells questioning Bradshaw's lofty expectations for New England because Bradshaw hadn't been around to see the team. Then the scene returned to Bradshaw, who explained his knowledge of the Patriots by sitting there with enough videocassettes to make Wayne Huizenga jealous. (But remember, Terry: Be kind, rewind.)