When nothing makes sense, when the world is upside down, when the foundation of our beliefs has crumbled -- in other words, when Jacksonville is chosen over Baltimore -- we need something to hold onto.
But what, you may ask, could that something be?
One word . . . plastics. Sorry, wrong word. This NFL thing has shaken me up so much that I think I'm in "The Graduate." (Hey, is that Katherine Ross over there?)
No, the one word is . . . ratings.
Make of this what you will -- and who knows what the NFL's great minds make of such information -- but a check of ratings for the past two Sundays shows that Baltimore is continuing to watch the Redskins despite their poor season.
Possible explanations include that the lopsided Steelers-Broncos game turned off some viewers who preferred the closer game between lousy teams. Or maybe Baltimoreans, anticipating a Rams move here, wanted to check the club out.
(As always, ratings are provided by Sharon "The Ratings Maven" Walz of Channel 11. Also as always, ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. Around the holiday season, it's comforting to know that some things don't change.)
On Sunday, the Redskins-Eagles had no competition at 1 p.m. and got a 16.5/36, making it the highest-rated game of the day in Baltimore. The two 4 p.m. games, Bills-Chiefs and 49ers-Rams, received 14.8/27 and 9.4/17, respectively.
What does this mean? Hey, who do I look like, the Shell Answer Man?
Sorry again. This NFL snub has me all discombobulated.
The combined rating for the two 4 p.m. games on Sunday was 24.2, nearly 8 points better than the Redskins. And later games generally get higher numbers. On the other hand, the 1 p.m. Redskins game Sunday did almost 4 points better than Nov. 21's 1 p.m. game, a Browns-Oilers telecast that also had no NFL competition here and drew a 12.8/30.
Perhaps some of Sunday's 16.5 can be explained because of local interest in the Eagles. Then again, maybe the NFL is right, and we really do like to watch the Redskins.
After all, the NFL has to be right about something.
And now for another episode of Paul Davis, Ace Reporter.
Channel 11 had Davis strategically positioned at a bar on Tuesday. After the news came down that Baltimore wasn't getting an NFL team, Davis was all over the story of the Rams' possibly moving here.
He'd learned, Davis said, that the Rams had contacted ex-Orioles president Larry Lucchino. In addition, Davis said, he'd discovered the Rams were hooking up with the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly, where Lucchino is a partner.
Imagine what went into such reporting -- legwork, endless phone calls, clandestine meetings in underground parking garages with sources nicknamed after porno movies.
Or maybe he just read the paper.
P The Lucchino-Rams story was reported in The Sun about three weeks before. The Williams & Connolly-Rams story was in The Sun five days earlier.
Next on Paul Davis, Ace Reporter, our hero pursues the under-reported story of how Florida State's Matt Frier and the Miami Dolphins' Irving Fryar are the same person.
This just in from Bristol
ESPN2 is shaking up its scheduling. "SportsNight," its signature program, will be cut in half and change nights beginning in January.
"SportsNight" has been airing 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., Fridays through Sundays. Next month, the show begins running Sunday through Thursday at 5-6:30 p.m., 9-10:30 p.m. and midnight-1:30 a.m. After the 5 p.m. airing, the latter two "SportsNight" programs will be repeats with live "SportSmash" spots.
"We got some feedback that the audience we're trying to reach isn't around to watch our flagship program," ESPN2 spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. "And we felt that the program was too long."
Event programming will fill most of the time left vacant by the "SportsNight" switch, Krulewitz said.
Part of that programming will be the Major Indoor Lacrosse League. ESPN2 will carry Monday games of the week at 7 p.m. These will be taped telecasts, starting with the Jan. 17 airing of a prerecorded Baltimore Thunder-Detroit Turbos game. Leif Elsmo will do play-by-play.
Do you believe in cameras?
Tomorrow at 1 p.m., CBS (channels 11, 9) will televise a U.S.-Russia hockey game from Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the U.S. hockey gold-medal run of 1980. That was where Al Michaels uttered his famous "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" (Which, of course, led to the Hot Chocolate hit that asked the musical question: "I believe in miracles/Where you from, you sexy thing?")
CBS will use a goalie cam, mounted inside the U.S. goaltender's helmet. Mike Emrick and John Davidson will call the game.