Lowenstein's loony quips enliven dull home opener

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Whatever yesterday's Orioles home opener telecast lacked in excitement and suspense, it more than made up for in hilarity, thanks to everybody's favorite wacky, iconoclastic analyst, John Lowenstein.

Listening to Lowenstein work a broadcast is the television equivalent of watching Dennis Rodman play basketball in that both are totally unpredictable, which can be good or bad.

Lowenstein, in his 11th season as an Orioles analyst, was a font of twisted syntax, malaprops and just flat-out daffiness yesterday on Channel 13 during the Orioles' 7-0 loss to Milwaukee.

Lowenstein is refreshingly candid and honest. He doesn't pull punches and is pretty good at assessing the mood of a game, accurately pronouncing, for instance, "There ain't nothing happening," in the sixth, when the Brewers had posted a 5-0 lead.

But often, Lowenstein's most astute observations get caught in a jumble of mangled metaphors that may or may not be intentional.

For instance, in the third, after Kevin Seitzer connected on a home run to left off Mike Mussina, Lowenstein observed that the pitch had been delivered with "promise and potential," a phrase that co-analyst and former Orioles teammate Jim Palmer mocked.

Later, Lowenstein noticed that the Brewers had "squeezed the Orioles like butter between two pancakes," and that Milwaukee had "handily massaged" Baltimore pitching.

He observed in the eighth that the replacement umpires would vanish "like snow in the desert sun," now that the regular umpires had reached agreement with Major League Baseball, and finally asked, "Who could imagine the horror of it all?" during the postgame wrap-up.

Lowenstein is, to be sure, an acquired taste that doesn't appeal to baseball purists, but he certainly makes a nothing day, like yesterday, worthwhile.

Carrying the trey

When Hubie Brown makes a point, he makes it forcefully.

During a recent NBA playoff preview conference call, Brown, one of Turner's NBA analysts, made the observation that up to eight teams have a chance to win the league championship.

That seemed innocuous enough, but then Brown let loose on the three-point shot, saying the trifecta is "ruining basketball at the high school, college and professional level."

The reason: Teams take quick three-pointers on one end, leading to long rebounds that don't allow them to get back on defense, and they give up layups or easy transition baskets. In addition, with the three-point line being moved in closer this season, defensive teams can cover a shooter much more easily out of a double-team than before.

"It makes for bad-percentage basketball at playoff time. Defense upgrades itself 25 percent during the playoffs, and with that line closer, now I can pressure you better," said Brown.

Proud as a peacock

Good news abounds for NBC's NBA coverage, which is drawing bigger and bigger numbers.

First, for the 26 regular-season broadcasts, NBC posted a 5.2 rating and 14 share, up 14 percent from the 4.6/12 from the year before.

Yes, the boffo numbers posted during the return of Michael Jordan helped, but he only appeared in four regular-season telecasts. After a shaky start on its Christmas debut, the network's ratings climbed slowly.

This past weekend's five-game playoff package produced a 7.8/19 in the national overnights, up 16 percent from last year. Four of the five games broadcast by NBC showed ratings improvement from 1993-94, with only Saturday's Seattle-Los Angeles Lakers game -- interrupted 24 minutes by a power failure -- down, and in that case only 2 percent.

The big winner was the Charlotte-Chicago game, which drew an 11.4/21, up 52 percent from the Golden State-Phoenix contest the year previous.

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