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HTS labors to fill schedule amid strikes and lockouts


For a programming chief who has seen two of the three major professional sports his channel carries take a powder in the past three months, Jody Shapiro seems remarkably composed.

Shapiro, the executive producer and director of programming for Bethesda-based Home Team Sports, heads a sports broadcasting entity that televises the Orioles, Washington Capitals and Washington Bullets.

That is, when the Orioles and Capitals aren't on strike or locked out, leaving gaping holes in the programming schedule. But Shapiro says the absences of hockey and baseball, though regrettable, haven't proved to be insurmountable.

"It has been sometimes complex and sometimes difficult, but there's also been some stuff that I've been really proud of," said Shapiro. "For example, Tuesday night, we would have had the Capitals on, but instead we had Martina Navratilova's farewell from tennis. When I flipped over to ESPN, I watched celebrity softball."

Still, Shapiro says he knows that some HTS subscribers, particularly those who signed up for the regional channel's award-winning Orioles coverage, have been unhappy with its absence, but he believes any anger will dissipate once the games return.

"We think we deliver a heck of a product without them [baseball and hockey]," said Shapiro. "Once they come back, we'll be even stronger."

Sticking close to home

Upon further review, Channel 2 has decided not to send Scott Garceau and Tom Matte to Winnipeg for Sunday's CFL Eastern Division championship game between the Baltimore CFLs and Blue Bombers.

Instead, Garceau and Matte will introduce the game, do a halftime show and wraparounds, while the station carries a "dirty feed" of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. signal, which is an airing of the pictures and sounds provided by the CBC with local commercials inserted at the proper moment.

Joe Lewin, Channel 2's vice president and general manager, said the station decided against sending its announcers because to do so would have involved renting a production truck, a sparse commodity so close to a game date.

"At this point, you couldn't even find a truck," said Lewin. "What we're doing isn't cheap. When something likes this comes together this late, you have to be flexible."

On the air tonight

Tonight's "Inside the NFL" (11, HBO) goes on location to Minneapolis to feature the Minnesota Vikings, with interviews with quarterback Warren Moon, wide receiver Cris Carter, defensive tackle John Randle and nose tackle Henry Thomas, as well as a feature on running back Terry Allen, who has bounced back from two reconstructive knee surgeries.

The Thursday TBS game of the week (8 p.m.) matches the past two NBA champions, the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, from the Summit, with Verne Lundquist and Chuck Daly on the call and Fred Hickman and Dick Versace in Turner's Atlanta studio.

Stick to the sidelines

Former NBC announcer-turned-New York Knicks coach Pat Riley made comments in this week's TV Guide that make a pretty solid case for the argument that networks should think long and hard before hiring coaches as analysts.

Riley said he wouldn't adhere to NBC's demands to "go after" players and coaches during his one-year-and-out stay with the network after three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I always had a foot in the coaching door, so I was not going out to submarine anybody," Riley said in the article. "I wouldn't be critical of coaches or players, because I knew there was a bigger picture."

Here's hoping NBC, which has openly welcomed coaches into the booth, only to see them to head back to the sidelines, has paid attention.

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