Baltimore's impending network affiliate swap claims its first sports casualty this weekend. Channel 11 has opted not to carry CBS' coverage of the inaugural Presidents Cup golf tournament from Lake Manassas, Va.
The tournament, which is similar to the Ryder Cup, will feature 12 of the best players from the United States against 12 players from around the world in match-play competition, and should make for fascinating viewing.
But you'll need a TV set that can pick up Washington's Channel 9 to get Saturday (3 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m) coverage. That is, unless you really want to watch "A Current Affair Extra," "Rescue 911," a hijacking movie and a new Western show called "Hawkeye."
Emerson Coleman, Channel 11's programming director, said a combination of factors, including the newness of the event, sub-par (pardon the pun) golf ratings and a need for the station to prepare for the transition that will send Channel 11 to NBC, entered in the Presidents Cup decision.
"If it had been something that we had had before, we would have bent over backward to carry it. This weekend is very difficult for us," said Coleman.
Translation: Why should we promote an unproven new sports vehicle that won't appear on our station after this year when we can insert local programming, keep all the ad revenues and make more money?
Channel 11 should make out best where sports fans are concerned when the affiliate swap takes place, since NBC currently has the best inventory with this year's Super Bowl, the NBA, next year's World Series (assuming there is a baseball season next year) and the 1996 Summer Olympics from Atlanta.
Before the swap, though, Coleman says, save for the Presidents Cup, Channel 11 will honor its remaining CBS sports commitments, including the Shark's Shootout golf tournament in November and four men's and women's college basketball games and the Division I-AA football playoffs in December.
Head in the sand
Just when it seemed ESPN had got its collective act together and was covering the baseball strike with some sense of news judgment, it pulled another bonehead move yesterday.
Seconds after "SportsCenter" anchor Bob Ley lamented the announcement that the rest of the baseball season would be canceled, calling yesterday "a day that would live in infamy," the "total sports network" dropped out of acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig's news conference on the subject for "Max Out," a show that melds music videos and sports for the younger crowd.
It's not the first time ESPN has dumped out of a strike-related news conference for daytime programming of relative unimportance.
Twice before, ESPN left news conferences by players union chief Donald Fehr for Canadian Open tennis and "Speed World."
Oddly enough, CNN, a network with a considerably broader focus, stayed with both of Fehr's news conferences until nearly the end.
Certainly, no network is obligated to carry indefinitely the kind of self-righteous blather that has passed back and forth during the strike. But if you profess yourself to be the national network of record for sports, not to mention a significant partner in a sport, as ESPN is with baseball, then you have to live up to your charge, and ESPN has been found wanting.
A shout out to Nestor Aparicio of WWLG (1360 AM) for getting Orioles manager Johnny Oates on his show last night and an even louder shout for eliciting from the manager that he hasn't spoken to team owner Peter Angelos since the strike started last month.