Never let it be said that NBC is sleeping on the job.
After all the good notices Fox received for the computer-enhanced puck during last month's NHL All-Star Game, the boys in the Peacock network labs have worked up a little something special for Sunday's NBA All-Star extravaganza.
"It's a major breakthrough technically that we're still clearing with [NBA vice president] Rod Thorn. We're putting a blue dot with a glow on Ahmad Rashad, so we know where he is at all times," cracked Marv Albert, the lead voice of NBA basketball on NBC.
If the past is any indication, you won't need a blue dot to find Ra- shad. You'll just have to look around the Eastern Conference bench whenever Michael Jordan is sitting down, since the two are usually inseparable.
Jordan's return is one of the biggest stories surrounding the 46th version of the most entertaining of the All-Star games of the four major team sports, held this year at San Antonio's Alamodome.
"The biggest difference now is that it's a social happening for the country," said analyst Steve Jones, who will join Albert and Matt Guokas for Sunday's telecast (Ch. 11, 6 p.m.). "People actually mark this date on their calendars, and they will travel from far-off places to get there to be involved."
The All-Star festivities begin tonight with a one-hour preview at 10 on TNT, which will join with NBC, BET and Nickelodeon for|| TC simulcasted one-hour "Youth Celebration" at noon.
At 7 p.m. tomorrow, TNT has the "All-Star Saturday" lineup, with the rookie game -- featuring former Maryland star Joe Smith and Bullets forward Rasheed Wallace -- as well as the three-point shooting and slam-dunk competitions.
By the way, WWLG (1360 AM) will air ESPN radio's presentation of Sunday's game as well as a two-hour "Meet the All-Stars" special tonight at 10.
Hoisting the Cup
The ABC family and FIFA, soccer's international governing body, have announced that the network and its two cable subsidiaries, ESPN and ESPN2, will carry all 64 games of the 1998 World Cup tournament from France.
ABC will carry at least 14 games, including the championship match, with the other two networks -- each 80 percent owned by ABC -- carrying the remaining games. As with the 1994 Cup, the three outlets will air the games uninterrupted by commercials.
The racing form
For Eli Gold, the move of his NASCAR call-in show, "RaceTalk," from Prime to TNN means there's nothing, like the show's location and time slot, left to guesswork.
"We were the highest-rated show when all the regionals [cable networks] were carrying it, but none of them were carrying it at a standard time," said Gold. "Then, TNN came along and said, 'We'll give you a Saturday night at 6 p.m. slot.' Even if every Prime affiliate carried it, we'd have 42 million homes. TNN's home count is about 63 million. It was a no-brainer to move the show."
Meanwhile, ESPN2 has launched the daily version of its "RPM 2Night" racing show with John Kernan as host, airing at 7 p.m., coming this week from Daytona, Fla.
The sweet science
There's a full slate of televised fisticuffs, provided you have the right cable connections.
HBO has a junior welterweight doubleheader tonight (9:30) as unbeaten Oscar De La Hoya meets Darryl Tyson in one fight, and Julio Cesar Chavez, who hasn't fought on HBO in five years, takes on Scott Walker in another.
Showtime has an intriguing tripleheader tomorrow night (9:30) involving fighters of both genders. In one bout, undefeated IBF welterweight champion Felix Trinidad fights Rodney Moore, with Tommy Morrison getting a heavyweight challenge against Arthur Weathers.
Christy Martin, a substitute school teacher by day, will fight Sue Chase in what is being billed as the first live women's boxing match on U.S. premium television, proving, perhaps, that women have just as much a right to beat each other senseless in front of a nationwide audience as men.
Is this a great country or what?