In AFC booth, even Enberg can't wait for NFC

It seems as though everyone in the known universe wants to watch Sunday's NFC championship game between Dallas and San Francisco.

Even NBC's Dick Enberg, who will be calling the Pittsburgh-San Diego AFC title game, has gotten caught up in the NFC swirl.


"We're the hors d'oeuvres, and the main course is going to come TC after us in terms of national interest," Enberg said during this week's television critics press tour in Los Angeles. "I hope that after our game is over, we'll be able to watch it [Dallas-San Francisco]. I'm anxious to see how that'll turn out."

So will virtually everyone else. Last year's NFC showdown, between the same two teams but played in Dallas, was the fourth-highest-rated sporting event of the year, drawing a 31.6 rating and a 54 share of the available audience.


Since their Nov. 13 regular-season meeting -- won by the 49ers, 21-14 -- did a 15.1/ 28 in the national ratings, Sunday's game, from San Francisco's Candlestick Park (4 p.m., Channel 45), should draw no worse for Fox, and, given the hype that's preceded it, could do a lot better.

"This game is one you could see coming two years ago, three years ago," said Fox analyst John Madden, who will be in the booth Sunday with Pat Summerall. "I don't think anyone ever argued that the Cowboys and 49ers wouldn't be playing for the NFC championship. It was so anticipated that it made other games seem smaller than they should have been."

For the record, Summerall and Madden, who are wrapping up their 14th season together, both see the game as close, even given that Dallas running back Emmitt Smith likely will play at reduced speed with an ailing hamstring.

"This game is a coin-flip, and if Smith is healthy, it's a closer game. I don't see how you could make somebody a touchdown favorite," said Summerall.

Said Madden: "Anybody who says they know or something's going to be a lock is full of baloney. If they knew what was going to happen, they wouldn't be here."

One thing we know for certain: A lot of us, Dick Enberg included, will be watching to find out what will happen.

Meanwhile . . .

There actually will be another football game Sunday, and its winner, in theory at least, will have just as much chance to win the Super Bowl as the Dallas-San Francisco victor.


At least, that's what Bob Trumpy and John Dockery, who, with Enberg and Hannah Storm, will work the Pittsburgh-San Diego game from Three Rivers Stadium (12:30 p.m., Channel 11), would like you to believe.

"The most entertaining game will be between the Steelers and the Chargers, because I don't see the game at San Francisco as being close, if Emmitt Smith is not 100 percent," said Trumpy, who will be in the booth with Enberg.

Said Dockery, who will work the sidelines with Storm: "The better game, the more competitive game is the one in Pittsburgh. San Francisco, if they play the way they're capable, I don't see anyone catching them."

Neither Trumpy nor Dockery, who appeared on a national teleconference this week, seemed to grant either Pittsburgh or San Diego an edge over the other. The Chargers beat the Steelers in San Diego in the regular-season finale, 37-34, in overtime, but many Pittsburgh regulars rested in that game.

"Any time you beat a team, there's a psychological edge," said Trumpy. "You can look at the tape and see what you did well and try to apply that to your preparation."

Other stuff to watch


The final three rounds of the Hawaiian Open take place in prime time on TBS, with tonight's third round starting at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m., while from our "How the mighty have fallen" files: The Boston Celtics make their lone TNT appearance tonight at 8 p.m., when they play host to the Utah Jazz.

Locally, Channel 54 will have an ACC basketball doubleheader tomorrow, with North Carolina at Clemson at noon and Maryland playing host to Wake Forest at 2 p.m. Also, at noon, Home Team Sports will air both games of the Morgan State-UMES men's and women's doubleheader from Hill Field House.