NBC surely smiling because of its Irish ties


It's big, it's huge, it's large, it's tremendous, it's humongous. It's the Game of the Year, the Game of the Decade, the Game of the Century.

And it's got Charlie Jones.

As you may have heard by now, No. 1 Florida State faces No. 2 Notre Dame tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. The mythical national college football championship hangs in the balance -- one question: If the championship is mythical, how come Puff the Magic Dragon never has won it? -- and NBC (channels 2, 4) will be on the scene.

Though NBC's deal with Notre Dame -- the network is in the third year of a five-year, $37 million contract to telecast all Irish home games -- wasn't met with universal approval, hardly anyone said the move wasn't a smart one. Whenever there's a Game of the Millennium -- nearly every season in recent years -- Notre Dame frequently is involved. The Irish have been in two of the past four No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdowns.

Thus, not only has NBC bought itself the devotion of subway alumni everywhere, it has given itself a better-than-average shot at the season's most important matchup each year.

And so, on to the game.

"The thing that stands out for me is the diverse way both teams have arrived here," analyst Todd Christensen said, referring to how the Seminoles started on top and stayed there, while the Irish sneaked up on everybody.

Play-by-play man Jones said not to expect Florida State to be awed by playing at Notre Dame Stadium.

"For the kids who are playing for Bobby Bowden now, the big power has been Miami," Jones said. "That is the big rivalry. For Bowden, it has more a mystique than for his kids."

However, sideline reporter John Dockery said few teams escape getting the South Bends.

"I've seen a lot of teams come in and seen the mystique affect them," Dockery said. "Environment, especially to young players, means a lot."

Christensen, usually something of a cynic, said he has liked the atmosphere leading up to the game.

"I really enjoy a week of 'Golly, gee-whiz, isn't this great?' " he said. "Despite the peripheral things about college football . . . between the lines, it's still pristine."

And Christensen said NBC's telecast -- bolstered by Bob Costas as pre-game and halftime host and O. J. Simpson on the sidelines -- will be careful not to intrude on what's happening between the lines.

"From a production point, you can use so much -- there's Fred Biletnikoff, there's Ron Sellers, oh look, Johnny Lujack -- that it obscures the game," Christensen said.

Bite the Silver Bullet

Sports talk kahuna Stan "The Fan" Charles last week launched his "No Bombers, No Bud" campaign to show Anheuser-Busch that Baltimore thinks St. Louis is being given an unfair advantage in the NFL expansion race-derby-chase. Not to impugn his motives in any way, but it should be noted that a sponsor of Charles' show on WCBM (680 AM) is one of Anheuser-Busch's competitors, Coors.

Here on Gilligan's Isle

Perhaps you've noticed the new Generation X commercials for Budweiser. In one, a 20ish group is shooting pool and discussing sitcoms from their childhood. "Ginger or Mary Ann?" is the burning question in that spot. (I believe the same issue came up on "Crossfire" the other night. Pat Buchanan questioned the morals of both and chose Mrs. Howell.)

In another Bud commercial, a table of guys in the same age group is winding down at a wedding, drinking up and discussing pro football of the late 1960s and 1970s. They recall the Immaculate Reception, set up a stupid comparison ("Marv Hubbard or Franco Harris?" I'll take Ginger) and then one of them invokes the Baltimore Colts -- emphasis on the Baltimore.

Such chutzpah (and it wasn't even a Jewish wedding). Here are those Anheuser-Busch people trying to keep Charm City from returning to the NFL, and they dare to use us to sell their beer. Guess you wouldn't sell too many bottles with nostalgic references to Jim Hart, would you, guys?

No deficit, no foul

This week's "NBA Inside Stuff" (Channel 2, tomorrow, noon) features a report on the congressional Democrats vs. Republicans charity basketball game. Bob Packwood was going to play until he found out there were no cheerleaders. . . . Last week's Breeders' Cup telecast on NBC drew a 3.4 rating, its highest since 1989. . . . ESPN2 will televise one of college football's oldest rivalries -- Lafayette vs. Lehigh -- on Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. Those network-issued leather jackets should come in handy for the chilly announcers.

See ya, Gayle

Once upon a time, Gayle Gardner was a sports anchor on Channel 13. Then she moved on to ESPN, established a national reputation as an engaging sportscaster and eventually went to NBC. Remember when she and Paul Maguire did studio play-by-play of the Orange Bowl when the power went out in Miami? More recently, it was hard to find Gardner doing anything on NBC.

And now she heads to the Television Food Network, a 24-hour cable service that premieres Nov. 23. She will be host of a call-in show and will anchor "Food News & Views." So maybe she's expanding her potential audience from people who like sports to people who like food.

Perot and con

Here's the deal: The problem with Ross Perot's favorite North American Free Trade Agreement sound bite was one of geography. When Perot referred to the "giant sucking sound" coming from Mexico, he was in the vicinity, but a little off. That sound actually comes from Southern California, where ESPN2 talk show host Jim Rome does his program.

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