TNT sees dynamite ratings even in post-Jordan NBA


The TV Repairman:

The Chicago Bulls are scheduled for 14 regular-season appearances on Ted Turner's stations, either TBS or TNT, and that won't change, according to spokesman Kevin O'Malley. "We're in no way diminishing the value of Michael Jordan on these broadcasts, that would be foolish," O'Malley said, "but I think you'll find that the league will carry on quite nicely [ratings-wise].

"A few years ago, when we were making up our schedule, it was dominated by games of the Lakers, Celtics and Pistons. Now, as those teams have fallen on tough times, we're seeing teams like Phoenix and Charlotte and San Antonio emerge. With Michael now joining Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird in retirement, it might serve to remind all of us that basketball is a team game."

Everyone involved seems satisfied that Jordan retired exactly (and shockingly) when he wanted to and did not hold off until the NBA had negotiated a four-year extension on its contract with Turner Broadcasting at a hefty 25 percent raise. Trusting souls.

* No doubt Dan Dierdorf, the buddha of "Monday Night Football," knows the game, but he does hang himself unnecessarily from time to time. He started out the Redskins-Dolphins game the other night by preaching, "The only way Miami can beat Washington tonight is if it gets something out of its running game."

Has the guy been paying attention? The Skins are a mess right now, without a quarterback and some defensive linemen, and they were underdogs on the road. No sooner were the words out of his mouth when the Dolphins were away on an 80-yard scoring strike. It was so easy, Miami leaping to a 14-0 lead, the Dolphins didn't even bother trying to do much of anything offensively thereafter.

Later, Dan intoned, "That's a well-designed play," about an inside screen to a flanker as though it had never been seen before. At least a dozen college teams feature it.

* Some of the point spreads floating around suggest the college football games on the tube tomorrow are mismatches, but as a cliche-ridden coach once uttered, "You can throw out the record books when . . . "

Top-rated Florida State, for instance, in its biggie against No. 3 Miami (noon, ABC) is a 13-point favorite. It's Notre Dame by 40 over Pitt (1:30 p.m., NBC), Ohio State by 15 over Illinois (12:30, ESPN), Michigan by 12 over Michigan State (3:30, ABC) and Florida by 14 over LSU (7:30, ESPN).

No matter how good Florida State is, can anyone believe that it's going to have a cakewalk against the Hurricanes? Miami has been an underdog only 11 times in the past decade, and its record in those games is 8-3.

* With the Braves home in Atlanta and the Seminoles playing host to Miami, welcome to Tomahawk Chop Weekend (ugh). The baseball lineup for the next few days is American League tonight (8), National League at 3 p.m. tomorrow and the Americans at night (8). Reverse it Sunday, the ALCS going at 4 p.m. (if the Mighty Whiteys haven't been swept by then) after the NFL game at 1 on CBS, then the Nationals at 8:30 p.m.

In hopes of getting a running start against baseball (and an audience), TNT is moving its Sunday night game between the Broncos and Packers up to 7:30 p.m.

* NFL Films fans will be glad to hear "The Legendary Voice of John Facenda" show will run Sunday on "This Is The NFL" on Channel 2 (noon). Facenda is the late narrator of more than 250 films put out by the NFL's eyes and ears, and it's probably not a stretch to say he was as well known as the pictures.

* Home Team Sports will be on 4-6 p.m. tomorrow with the "Maryland Million," sending along four live races and seven on tape with Mel Proctor, Art Sinclair, Greg McCarron and Kim Goodwin doing the yakking.

* Followers of the sweet science can check out a replay of the recent controversial draw between Julio Cesar Chavez-Pernell Whitaker on ESPN this evening (7:30). Score the 12-rounder to see for yourself just how hideous the scoring of the three officials was.

* Jason Waller, the heavyweight who appears on fight cards here, was a late fill-in on the USA "Tuesday Night Fights" the other evening, and he looked it. Jason lasted about 90 seconds, during which time Samson Pouha dribbled him around the ring as if it was a tryout for the Globetrotters.

* With all due respect to the playing and coaching careers of Jim Schoenfeld, what is the guy doing back on ESPN as a studio analyst for hockey? His comments are so bland he makes even the NHL team press guides sound racy.

* There's a good bout on Showtime cable tomorrow night (10:45), Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank pounding away in a WBC-WBO super middleweight unification bout from England, It will be replayed Sunday at 2 p.m.

These two fought three years ago in a "Fight of the Year" type match, Eubank winning via TKO, and both were shot for months thereafter. Benn is 37-2 with 35 KOs, Eubank 35-0-1 with 18.

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