Put ESPN2 hopes on hold as FCC rule gets into place


For city cable subscribers, it sure must have been nice to get a look at the Grey Cup Sunday night on ESPN2. The anticipation for a future menu of college basketball, bodybuilding and "Talk2" host Jim Rome insulting guests left and right must be off the charts.

Well, keep that enthusiasm in check for a while longer, because it seems that the network won't appear on the city's lineup until perhaps into the new year.

Kathy Roberts, marketing manager for city franchise holder United Artists Cable, said the system's plans to add ESPN2 by the end of this month or early December have been slowed. The holdup is a Nov. 10 Federal Communications Commission decision that allowed cable companies to add up to six new channels, while charging customers up to $1.50 more per month.

Roberts said United Artists is deciding how to place and bill any new channels, either under the expanded basic category, where ESPN resides, or under the "a la carte" designation, where stations such as TNT or the Sci-Fi Channel are listed.

At any rate, Roberts said, city customers shouldn't expect to see ESPN2 before late December or January.

Judgment lapse

Tom Matte may very well have permanently retired the trophy for biggest homer during Sunday's Grey Cup radio broadcast on WJFK (1300 AM).

With 1:36 left in the fourth quarter, B.C. receiver Ray Alexander was credited with a catch in Baltimore territory, although the ball popped free when he and CFLs cornerback Irvin Smith hit the turf.

Matte, a part-owner of the Baltimore franchise, screamed at the top of his lungs, "That's a bunch of [trash]," and "That's bull," repeating the tirade later when the Lions were permitted to take back a timeout call.

It is difficult to believe that neither the radio station nor Channel 2, which allowed Matte to do color on its television broadcasts, could find someone, anyone, else to act as analyst who didn't have such an obvious conflict of interest.

If Matte is permitted to return to the CFLs booth next season by either entity, we'll know that objectivity is out and unprofessionalism is in.

HTS on hoops

Home Team Sports launches its 121-game men's college basketball schedule tomorrow night with Georgetown-Morgan State, and continuing through a triple-header of Metro Conference tournament quarterfinal games on March 11, with all but 19 of them airing live.

The bulk of HTS' schedule will be devoted to games from the Colonial Athletic Association and the Atlantic 10 Conference, though games from 14 conferences will air.

Locally, Loyola and Maryland-Eastern Shore will make HTS appearances, and the channel will carry a limited schedule of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games.

On the women's side, HTS will air next weekend's Central Fidelity Bank Classic with Tennessee, Virginia, Penn State -- all ranked in the top 15 by the Associated Press -- and host Richmond next month, as well as a twice-weekly schedule of ACC games, starting in January.

Pretty good octet

ESPN airs what it hopes will be an annual festival, pairing the last teams left in the previous year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, tonight in the "Great Eight" from the Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.).

Tonight's doubleheader matches Boston College and Florida at 7 p.m., with Duke and Connecticut going at about 9:30. Tomorrow, Purdue and Missouri tip off at 7, with Arizona and Michigan in the late game at 9:30.

In case you're wondering what happened to Arkansas, the defending national champion, the Razorbacks begged out, opening the door for Connecticut. Brad Nessler, Dick Vitale and Lesley Visser will be your on-site tour guides for both nights.

Jumping the gun

CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer spoke prematurely Sunday when he said former Southern Cal men's coach George Raveling had joined the network.

LeslieAnne Wade, a CBS spokeswoman, said the network has had discussions with Raveling, who retired from coaching this month after a car accident. Wade said Raveling may very well be added to CBS' roster, but not quite yet.

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