Good news for local professional basketball fans: The Washington Bullets have returned to Baltimore, or at least to this city's radio airwaves.
WWLG (1360 AM) yesterday announced a deal to carry at least 65 of the NBA team's games this season, when those contests don't conflict with Baltimore Spirit broadcasts, such as Friday night, when the Spirit's home game with Canton takes precedence over the Bullets' season opener against Orlando.
"The Bullets make sense for us," said WWLG general manager Paul Kopelke. "There's a ton of really worthwhile games out there, and with the Bullets available you go get them."
Though WXCY (103.1 FM), an Annapolis-based progressive rock station, aired the full schedule of games and they could be heard in portions of the metro area, the Bullets had not been carried on a Baltimore station for more than 25 contests a year in the last five or six seasons, said Matt Williams, a team spokesman.
Kopelke credited Nestor Aparicio, host of the nightly "Sports Forum" talk show and the analyst on Spirit telecasts, as the driving force behind making the Bullets and WWLG simpatico.
"Nestor's the one who put it together. Nestor and Matt Williams hashed it out, and it only took four days," said Kopelke, who added that the station will carry the Bullets' post-game and call-in show as well as game broadcasts from the flagship station, Washington's WTEM (570 AM).
By the way, our spies report that "Nasty" Nestor and Josh Lewin of WBAL (1090 AM), who both attended a Bullets news conference yesterday, reached a rapprochement over Aparicio's charges of talk show plagiarism. While it might not have been Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, it's good to see folks making nice with each other.
After all, we just want to see everyone happy.
Tipping off with ABC
The Maryland men's basketball team is scheduled for three potential appearances on the 1994-95 season schedule ABC released yesterday.
The Terps' Dec. 10 contest with Massachusetts at the Baltimore Arena kicks off the 11-telecast, 30-game schedule. Maryland's Feb. 19 meeting with Cincinnati at San Antonio's Alamodome and their regular-season finale at Virginia on March 5 are also on tap for regional coverage.
One highlight of ABC's schedule, which will be produced by Raycom, includes a Feb. 5 women's game, matching defending champion North Carolina against Virginia, marking what is believed to be the first women's basketball game carried by a broadcast network that is not airing the NCAA tournament.
In total, 21 teams that participated in last year's men's tournament, including all of the Final Four teams -- Arkansas, Arizona, Duke and Florida -- will appear on ABC this winter.
Ratings and stuff
If it's a Sunday afternoon, and if the Miami Dolphins are on, then Baltimoreans will watch, as evidenced by last weekend's ratings, furnished by Channel 2's Peter Leimbach, this week's official "On the Air" ratings supplier.
The Dolphins-Patriots 4 p.m. contest on Channel 2 topped Sunday's menu of games, drawing a 12.5 rating and 22 share. The Kansas City-Buffalo game on Channel 2 at 1 p.m. did a 7.2/18, and Washington-Philadelphia on Channel 45 at 1 p.m. posted a 6.6/16.
On Saturday, the second game of ABC's college football doubleheader, the Penn State rout of Ohio State, led the day with a 7.5/17 on Channel 13, and its lead-in, Nebraska-Colorado, did a 5.0/16. The Notre Dame-Navy game on Channel 2 at 1:30 did a paltry 2.5/7.
The Notre Dame numbers continued a trend in which Irish football games this season have performed poorly in the local ratings, contrary to what's happening nationally.
No Notre Dame contest has been the most popular football offering on any Saturday that it has aired in this market, and even Maryland games (against Florida State, Wake Forest and Clemson) have beaten Irish games (Michigan, Purdue and Stanford) when they've appeared on the same day.