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Good times, bad times for Orioles

THE BALTIMORE SUN

What you think of this week's ratings is likely contingent on whether you find a half-consumed glass of water to be 50 percent full or 50 percent empty.

Subscribers to the former theory, say people like Orioles owner Peter Angelos, would see the fact that Orioles games last week doubled all of its head-to-head competition and provided good lead-ins for succeeding telecasts, smile and say, "Verily, this is good."

However, pessimists, like your basic ink-stained wretch reporter, would see the fact that only one of four recent Orioles telecasts surpassed its seasonal average, and none came close to last year's average, frown and say, "Gloom and despair reign over the land."

Or something like that.

Anyway, the four-game series between the Orioles and the Blue Jays posted ratings and shares ranging from a 7.6/22 on Sunday to a 12.3/21 on the preceding Thursday, according to numbers furnished by Channel 11's Sharon Walz, this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings provider.

Interestingly enough, the Orioles telecasts helped pull up the ratings for the programs that followed. For instance, last Friday's game, which did a 10.1/19 for Channel 54, gave a great lead-in to the Baltimore Football Club's regular-season opener in Vancouver, British Columbia, which garnered a 5.5/14. The football game's highest quarter-hour was the 15 minutes right after the Orioles game.

Over the weekend, Channel 13's Orioles coverage helped boost the St. Jude Classic golf tournament that followed, as it beat the U.S. Senior Open on Channel 11 on Saturday, and lost by just two-tenths of a point on Sunday.

Channel 11's Wimbledon coverage fluctuated wildly from a 4.1/13 on Saturday to a horrid 1.6/6 during the day Monday, which had to hurt the station, since two of the five hours of tennis replaced programming (and, more importantly, ad time) usually controlled by WBAL.

Excellent boxing adventure

With a little luck, and some heavy cash, HBO might be able to put together a tournament designed to produce an acknowledged heavyweight champion.

The network yesterday announced plans to get eight of the division's champions and top contenders -- Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, George Foreman, Michael Moorer, Evander Holyfield, Herbie Hide, Ray Mercer and Tommy Morrison -- into a seven-fight go-round starting this October, with the winner making as much as $30 million.

"Our aim is to create a tight group of fights, with the fighters we have under our contract, to establish who is the real heavyweight champion," said Seth Abraham, chairman of sports for Time-Warner, HBO's parent company, to the Associated Press.

Astute fight fans will notice the absence of Oliver McCall and, most significantly, Mike Tyson from the list. Abraham said both are welcome, but doubts they'll participate, since each man is under the clutches of Don King and are signed to fight on Showtime.

HBO's move is a brilliant one, on two counts. First, it has arranged a solid block of programming with fighters the public wants to see. More importantly, the network will assure itself a piece of the Tyson gravy train at the tournament's end, since the winner will have some form of title.

"The guy the public would like to see fight Mike Tyson is the guy who is the best. We have him," said Abraham.

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