ESPN's draft coverage goes a round and a round

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The TV Repairman:

Between them, ESPN and ESPN2 will have 17 hours of the NFL draft tomorrow (noon-10 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-7 p.m.) with no less than 15 people yammering at you from New York, eight team headquarters, Bristol, Conn., and maybe even commissioner Paul Tagliabue's garage.

Everyone is fairly familiar with the first three dozen players chosen, if they've read any or listened, then its six rounds of taking the word of the folks who prepare the scouting reports. Many might argue with justification there's a slight case of overkill here.

* People figuring George Foreman is a lock facing anyone named Axel Schulz are conveniently forgetting he's a professional with experience and that Big George took a big-time hammering from Michael Moorer before delivering the knockout punch that won him a heavyweight title. Prior to that, he lost to chinless Tommy Morrison and had to hang on to beat Alex Garcia, who looked positively atrocious while being shut out by Buster Mathis Jr. on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights."

HBO will cover its house fighter's first defense against Schulz (21-1-1) tomorrow (10 p.m.), and, in attempting to puff up the challenger, points out he beat Bonecrusher Smith in his last fight seven months ago. A flyweight bout pitting Danny Romero (23-0) and Francisco Tejedor (42-2) also will be shown, which will make make the slow and ponderous heavyweights appear almost inert.

* ESPN has the Dodgers vs. the Marlins on baseball's "opening night" next Tuesday, then charges back with a tripleheader on Wednesday opening day: Yankees-Rangers at 1:30 p.m., Mets-Rockies at 7:30 p.m. and Astros-Padres at 10:30 p.m. There's three alternate games, too, which means if you take it all in it will be as if the first three weeks of the season weren't $H missing after all.

* The 30-minute pre pre-game show WBAL radio is calling "Countdown to Baseball," and who plagiarized that name (?), probably doesn't have a chance because the Orioles command such a rights fee that wall-to-wall commercials are a must.

* The NBA game tomorrow on NBC (3:30 p.m.) does involve Michael Jackson (Hornets vs. Bulls). Need ye ask? Sunday's double dip as Michael takes a day off is Magic vs. Knicks at 1 p.m. and Seattle vs. Phoenix at 3:30.

By the way, what makes Wheaties (via a commercial) think Jordan "is attempting the greatest comeback in the history of sports?" A gent named Ben Hogan made a pretty impressive return to golf and the U.S. Open back in the early '50s.

* Fox hockey has Flyers vs. Sabres at 3 p.m. Sunday opposite pro hoops and the Orioles-Phillies on Channel 13 at 1:30 p.m. Good luck! NHL teams still have it in the back of their minds to put first- and second-round playoff games on pay-per-view (at $15-$20 a pop), but at least one (St. Louis Blues) decided not to do it this year since there was no first half of the season. The North Stars attempted PPV a couple of years ago and now they play in Dallas.

Three weeks into its first venture with the NHL and Fox continues to compare ratings put up by ABC a year ago as though there's some sort of relationship between the two. You don't suppose these guys think they're doing a better job, do you?

* "Baseball," the epic 18-hour series by Ken Burns, is on public television again (MPT, 9 p.m., Monday). What, is it solicitation time again so soon?

* The NFL is really getting aggressive with these fan surveys. It cites two polls, conducted by the Harris Poll and Money magazine, as revealing pro football is the favorite sport of 25 percent of respondents while baseball gets a lowly 11 percent. Hey, that's only 36 percent, who gets the rest? That's the 64 percent question.

* The Vincent Pettway-Simon Brown bout for the former's IBF junior middleweight title at USAir Arena a week from tomorrow will be on Showtime but blacked out in Baltimore-Washington. . . . The NFL Quarterback Challenge, being conducted in Orlando, Fla., tomorrow, is of such interest and importance that NBC is taping for showing Aug. 12-13.

* Home Team Sports has zapped tomorrow's Orioles-White Sox game from Sarasota, no crews being available to man the cameras, etc. Capital Classic high school hoops, played at Cole Field House last week, fills in at 1:30 p.m.

* What a dumb idea, Major League Baseball passing out "Welcome to the Show" bumper stickers to be given out at games as a peace offering to fans. "The Show" is how minor-league ballplayers refer to the big leagues, but lots of fans probably think of college hoops when hearing the term.

* You never know what you might learn paying attention to the badinage going on during a golf telecast, tough as it may sound. For instance, did you know Tom Watson has not won a tour event since 1987?

* You're never going to guess which teams they have lined up for the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton July 29 on ABC. Yup, the new kids on the block, Jacksonville and Charlotte. The game certainly doesn't figure to detract from the induction ceremonies.

* Well, it's better than nothing. The NCAA women's gymnastics championships, a terrific show popular among sports fans, matches Michigan, Georgia, Utah, UCLA, Alabama and Oregon State this weekend, but it won't be on CBS until a week from tomorrow, and then for only an hour (3-4 p.m.)

* Jon Miller is right when he sinks a harpoon into The Baseball Network's plan to regionalize playoff games if and when the owners and players allow the season to run its due course. "Look what ESPN did to turn the NCAA basketball tournament into a big thing [with great early-round coverage]," the O's announcer told USA Today. "I wish baseball would let ESPN do the playoffs. We'd do it right." Amen.

* Quite frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a hoot if Joe Montana is a studio analyst, a game-site commentator or a sideline reporter -- for NBC, ESPN, TBS or CBS radio. All Joe does is grin. Isn't it enough that he was a great quarterback and should be remembered that way?

* Channel 2 is doing nine hours of Preakness Day activity from Pimlico and environs May 20 beginning at 9 a.m., then picking up ABC's coverage of the big race at 4:30 p.m. Hopefully, it won't find need to post parental advisories on the screen as the cameras scan the infielders having their R-rated fun.

* "Hoop Dreams," the widely acclaimed documentary detailing the life and times of a couple of Chicago schoolboys as they look to make basketball their life, hits the video stores next Tuesday. . . . After about a thousand years on Channel 20, the Washington Bullets are moving to Channel 50 in Washington. You can hide, gang, but the true masochist will find you.

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