Channel 54 to hit the road in Baltimore Football deal

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Baltimore Football Club and Channel 54 have hooked up on a deal for local telecasts of six, or possibly seven, games this season.

WNUV will air a package of all road contests, beginning with the June 24 exhibition game in Miami against Birmingham, as well as a one-hour season preview special, and a possible weekly half-hour coach's show.

"We're very, very excited," said Robert Epstein, director of sales and marketing for channels 54 and 45. "We feel it's a linchpin toward moving us forward in sports coverage."

Channel 2 had carried a limited number of Canadian Football League games last year, and had some ratings successes, drawing respectable 5's and 6's and a solid 11.5 for the Eastern Division final, which beat a Washington-Dallas NFL game head-to-head. But with the recent affiliation switch, Channel 2 was unable to clear enough games to make a '95 schedule viable.

Epstein said Channel 54 took great pains to ensure that CFL telecasts would not compete with Orioles games, which the station carries, or NFL contests, which Channel 45 airs. Only one game, the Oct. 1 meeting at Saskatchewan, will go up against an NFL telecast.

Epstein said the station will not produce the games, but will pick up feeds from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. or the Sunshine Network. No decision has been made on the announcers for the broadcasts.

Here's the WNUV CFL schedule: June 24 vs. Birmingham at Miami, 7:30 p.m.; June 30 -- British Columbia, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 2 -- Edmonton, 9:30 p.m.; Aug. 6 -- Calgary, 4:30 p.m.; Sept. 2 -- Hamilton, 8 p.m.; Oct. 1 -- Saskatchewan, 4 p.m. A seventh game, on Aug. 19 at Memphis, will be added if ESPN does not pick it up.

HBO scores with Liston

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of one of the most infamous fights in boxing history -- the rematch between Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay -- HBO debuts yet another winning documentary, "Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life and Death of a Champion," at 8 tonight, with repeats starting next Monday.

The one-hour show probes the troubled life of Liston, from his birth into a family of 25 children, his constant scraps with police in three cities, his rise through the heavyweight ranks, two ballyhooed fights with Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, and his mysterious death at his Las Vegas home in January 1971.

The documentary examines all facets of Liston's persona, examining his image with fans and reporters, who came to see and describe him in the most unflattering terms, and his surprisingly cuddly relationship with children.

The film also deals extensively with the dark side of Liston's life, namely his reported dealings with the mob, and the persistent rumors he threw the Lewiston, Maine, rematch with Clay.

Ultimately, the viewer is left to see Liston not as the caricature he has become, but as a three-dimensional human. Once again, HBO has delivered a program it can be proud of.

Conference calls

ESPN has struck again with two more conference deals for college basketball coverage.

First, the network has added the Western Athletic Conference to its "Big Monday" package, as the WAC will now get four of its games in the midnight slot next season, and five more throughout the season, including the league championship game. Also, 11 WAC men's games and two women's games will air on ESPN2.

ESPN tacked on another six years to its deal with Raycom and Jefferson-Pilot for Atlantic Coast Conference men's games. From now through 2000-2001, ESPN will carry 20 ACC men's games a year, as well as two women's games and three other women's events.

The network also will air all nine games of the ACC tournament, except in markets, such as Baltimore, that are subject to blackout because of Raycom coverage. In addition, ACC information will be made available on-line through the ESPNET SportZone on the Internet.

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