City's CFL fans in a deuced fix: Only ESPN2 will have Grey Cup

Stop us if you've heard this before, but absent a major change in philosophy at either ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters, or at TCI, the city's cable carrier, Sunday's Canadian Football League Grey Cup, involving the Baltimore Stallions, will not be available to city residents.

That's because the game will air live on ESPN2, which is not available on the lineup offered by TCI, the city's cable carrier.


The two sides were able to reach a compromise last year that allowed TCI to take the feeds of the Eastern Division semifinal and the Grey Cup to a public access channel, but ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said that won't happen this year.

The reason: The network does not believe that TCI will be adding the 2-year-old channel to its lineup any time soon and does not want to spit in the face of systems that have carried "The Deuce."


"It's a fairness issue. If we were under the impression that they were going to add [the channel], then we would consider it, but the impression on our end is that the addition is not imminent," he said.

And just like last year, ESPN2 will not release the rights to the game to an over-the-air carrier in Baltimore, the only American city where the game matters. That, too, would defeat the purpose of trying to get cable carriers to add the channel to their lineups.

You can lay the blame for this fiasco right at the feet of TCI, which said more than a year ago that it would be adding the channel, and has proceeded to stonewall since. Unfortunately, the Stallions, who may be playing their last game ever for Baltimore, and their fans, end up the losers.

Coles Ruff, TCI's general manager, was out of the office yesterday and unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile in the suburbs, Comcast carries ESPN2, but though it continues to pat itself on the corporate back for its long overdue fiber-optic upgrade, the system still hasn't added Washington's Channel 50. That means the only way local viewers can see

Bullets and Capitals on television is to pay the premium charge for Home Team Sports.

With this kind of nonsense from the cable companies, is it any wonder satellite dealers are rolling in the dough?

'Hoop Dreams' premiere


For more than a year, this column has touted the movie "Hoop Dreams," a five-year chronicle of the lives of two Chicago-area high school boys through their basketball aspirations.

The film, conceived by three Chicago filmmakers as a public television project, airs tonight at 8 on PBS (channels 22, 26, 67). A half-hour reunion special, with James Brown as host, follows.

Though the documentary was robbed of a richly deserved Oscar nomination because of internecine Hollywood politics, "Hoop Dreams" went on to become one of the most heralded films of the year. With all due respect to NBC, this is real "must-see TV."

More hoops on the way

ESPN tonight premieres its college basketball schedule with a tripleheader from the preseason National Invitation Tournament, beginning with the Georgia Tech-Manhattan game at 7:30 p.m., followed by DePaul-Michigan at 9:30 and the Weber State-Fresno State contest -- marking the Bulldogs debut of former Nevada-Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian -- at midnight.

The numbers are in


Even with the San Francisco 49ers' so-so 5-4 record going into last Sunday's encounter with the Dallas Cowboys, and the rout that the game became, it still managed to get a whopping 21.7 household rating and 39 share of the audience in Nielsen's 33-market overnight survey.

That's the highest regular-season rating for a game since the Cowboys-New York Giants contest on Jan. 2, 1994, which drew a 22.0. Sunday's game did an incredible 50.6 in Dallas, a 38.5 in San Francisco and an impressive 16.6 here in Baltimore, more than double its lead-in, Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers (7.4).