NBC's Cross sees AFC on respect drive

THE BALTIMORE SUN

So, where's all that talk about the subpar AFC now?

That's what NBC analyst Randy Cross wants to know, especially after last Saturday, when the Cleveland Browns marched into Dallas and knocked off the smug Cowboys.

That game, Cross said, might have put a momentary halt to the shouting that the Super Bowl essentially will take place between Dallas and San Francisco in the NFC title game.

"We didn't solicit it out of Denver, but they [the Broncos] told us that everyone in the AFC walks a little taller after that game," said Cross. "They're getting tired of hearing about how inferior the AFC is. But until you win games in late January, it doesn't matter how you feel or what you think. You've got to do it."

Cross, a former 49er who came to NBC this year from CBS, and play-by-play partner Charlie Jones will be in Pittsburgh on Sunday (Channel 2, 4 p.m.) to call the Browns-Steelers showdown for AFC Central supremacy and a chance to play host during the conference playoffs.

"You're not likely to see anything big in the way of scoring," said Cross. "It's going to be pretty old-fashioned football and not very many big plays, unless [Cleveland running back] Eric Metcalf breaks loose."

Weekend wanderings

For the first time in months, CBS presents a full afternoon of activity tomorrow, and the good news for local viewers is that Channel 11 will give "Baywatch" and "Rescue 911" a rest and allow us to see what the rest of the nation sees.

The CBS day commences at noon with the Division I-AA football title game from Huntington, W.Va., matching defending champ Youngstown State and Boise State, followed by a preview of the leading candidates for college basketball Player of the Year at 3:30. At 4, Kansas travels to Indiana in college basketball.

ESPN goes strong to the goal with four college basketball games tomorrow, leading off with Ohio University-Xavier at noon and a nighttime tripleheader starting at 7:30.

In between the day and night sessions, the total sports network will present a taped firefighter's competition from August, a skiing event that was taped nine months ago and "Amazing Games," which will include a segment devoted to "competitive grass cutting."

No kidding.

Whither Wood?

Good news on the Phil Wood front. His services with Washington's WTEM (570 AM) were not terminated in the station's recent housecleaning, but were reduced, and at his request.

Wood said yesterday he had asked station officials to scale him back from his nightly 10 p.m.-2 a.m. shift to part-time duties, so he could spend more time with his family, which grew by one in September with the birth of his second daughter.

That reduction was to take place when Wood's contract expired in March, but when the station moved to slash costs last month, WTEM and Wood reached agreement on a contract buyout. He will return to the air on Thursday nights and on weekends after Jan. 1.

And finally . . .

This is the last "On the Air" column for 1994 and, in the spirit of the season, here's an ever-so-brief list of things to wish for in 1995:

* An injection of tact for Fox and analyst Jimmy Johnson, who will announce Sunday if he will return to coaching or stay in broadcasting.

The fact that Fox is staging a "news event" for its pre-game show is shameful enough, but Johnson compounded it by wearing the caps of clubs he's rumored to be considering, a clear slap in the face to coaches of those teams.

* As much air time as possible for ESPN's Craig Kilborn. If you close your eyes, you'll swear you're hearing comic Dennis Miller. Kilborn's just as funny, but without Miller's bombast.

* Just a little corporate responsibility from Comcast and United Artists, who should understand that providing shoddy service is not a nice thing to do, even if you have governmental permission to do so.

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