Today's sports viewer has traded leisure suit for frantic flicking

For a moment, try to remember what you were doing this weekend 15 years ago.

Wearing out your copy of Chic's "Le Freak"? Contemplating the demise of the leisure suit? Stocking up on Billy Beer?


One of the things you couldn't have been doing nearly as much of 15 years ago is watching sports on television.

A look at the sports listings for Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 9-10, 1978, in The Sun shows two NFL games, one college football game, two college basketball games, Davis Cup coverage, pro bowling and a boxing match available on Saturday. On Sunday, there were three NFL games and more Davis Cup.


Geez, what did we do back then? Talk to each other?

Compare those offerings with the cavalcade of sports available just tomorrow: seven live college basketball games, two NFL games, one NBA game, one college football game, one NHL game, golf, tennis, figure skating, college soccer, water polo, rodeo, kick boxing and triathlon.

(If someone had asked you 15 years ago what a triathlon was, what would you have answered? A three-headed athlon?)

You didn't have cable television in 1978. (In fact, given some of the rate changes, you may not have cable television in 1994.) And there was no ESPN, no Home Team Sports, no TNT, no


You know, it seems like just months ago there was no ESPN2 -- though maybe the folks on ESPN2 might like to wear those leisure suits on the air.

Truth patrol

In announcing their planned move to Laurel, the Redskins produced a top 11 list that included lots of fun facts about Washington, Baltimore and the team. No. 10 was that Redskins games average a 30 percent larger audience on Baltimore TV than other NFL games. (A personal favorite was No. 7: A guarantee of no Joe Theismann restaurants within Baltimore City limits.)


During the expansion chase/derby/race, Baltimore backers occasionally have contended much the opposite -- that Redskins telecasts, minus games against the Cowboys, do worse than other NFL games.

Who's right?

Though it's unusual to see this column deal in facts, here are some:

* On the eight Sunday afternoons that the Redskins have played this season, their games have been the day's highest-rated in Baltimore five times.

MA * None of their games has been beaten head-to-head by another



* Their games have averaged a 13.3 rating here. All other Sunday afternoon games have averaged 9.8. That's about a 36 percent difference.

Let the record show, your honor, that none of these games was against the Cowboys. Monday night and Sunday night telecasts don't fit this model, so they weren't included. Monday games get higher ratings because they air during prime time on ABC, and Sunday games get lower ratings because they are on ESPN and not everyone has cable.

(As usual, we are indebted to Sharon "The Ratings Maven" Walz of Channel 11, who is building something of a cult following, for supplying ratings information. For those of you keeping score at home, ratings measure the percentage of television households

watching a program. Offer void where prohibited. Tax and title not included. No salesman will call. Not affiliated with the Columbia Broadcast System.)

Conclusions, Mr. Spock?

As noted here last week, Baltimoreans do watch the Redskins, even in a poor season (though, as a letter writer informed me, many people may be watching just to see the Redskins lose). And it turns out the Redskins are watching the Redskins watchers.


And now a word from . . .

My new favorite commercial -- at least until I see it two more times -- is a Nike spot featuring Dennis Hopper. He's all tics and almost-cut-my-hair paranoia while playing a football official who talks about stars who wear Nike shoes.

The best one has him in a locker room, holding up a sneaker belonging to Bills defensive lineman Bruce Smith.

"You know what Bruce Smith does in these, man? Bad things, man, bad things," Hopper says while footage of Smith wreaking havoc fills the screen.

"You know what he'd do if he saw me holding this?" Hopper continues, looking his paranoid best. "Bad things, man, bad things."

I hate to give away the ending of the commercial, but it involves two rednecks in a pickup truck.


The survey says

"The NFL Today" Sunday (channels 11, 9, 12:30 p.m.) will report the results of a CBS News poll about the NFL. Among the results:

* 56 percent of the respondents said that pro football was their favorite sport or that they were interested in the NFL.

* Among those identified as football fans, 18 percent said the Cowboys were their favorite team. The Bears were next highest, at 7 percent.

* Among fans, 71 percent favored the return of instant replay in officiating.

Fans in the poll also didn't favor more NFL expansion, but did favor allowing an NFL team to move anywhere it wanted.


Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and injured quarterbacks Randall Cunningham and Dan Marino will discuss the poll with "NFL Today" hosts Greg Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw. . . .

On WWLG's "Sports Forum" Wednesday (6 p.m., 1360 AM), Nestor Aparicio's guest will be Phillies pitcher and ex-Oriole Curt Schilling. Maybe Mitch Williams will call in.