Promos throw stage lights on 'SportsCenter'


To the serious sports fan, there may be no more hallowed program than ESPN's "SportsCenter," the evening news of athletics. The "da-da-da, da-da-da" of its theme song is as familiar as the national anthem, and its anchors are known worldwide.

Yet, for all the programs under the ESPN umbrella, "SportsCenter" has been the show that received the least publicity.

"I think people have sort of taken us for granted. It [SportsCenter] is always there," anchor Dan Patrick said during a recent conference call. "When you thought of ESPN, it was Dick Vitale and Chris Berman."

That is, until a delightful promo campaign titled "This is SportsCenter," which took viewers behind the scenes and showed the anchors interacting with the athletes they report on.

Those spots won the network and its ad firm, Wieden and Kennedy, a sports Emmy last week, and a new set, even funnier than last year's, should do no worse.

In the new batch, athletes such as Gheorghe Muresan of the Washington Bullets, the Harlem Globetrotters, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh and former greats George Mikan and Gordie Howe make the trip to Bristol, Conn., to hang out at "SportsCenter."

The funniest of the lot of promos involve "commercials" the anchors have done in the past and a wicked take-off on "We Are The World" style songs.

Of course, the campaigns do raise the question of whether newscasters compromise themselves by taking part in such light fare, a question that Patrick's colleague, Keith Olbermann, says is a legitimate one.

"You pick your spots where you have fun, and that's usually with the highlights," Patrick said. "Our track record stands against anyone's. We still know what you have to do."

Scheduling quirks

In case you hadn't noticed, five months before the Ravens' opener, Channel 11 already has started running promos touting itself as the place where the team will play -- and for good reason.

Assuming all their home games sell out in time to lift the local blackout, all but three of the Ravens' contests will air on Channel 11, which, as an NBC affiliate, is home to AFC games. Only the Sept. 29 game against the New Orleans Saints and the Oct. 27 contest with the St. Louis Rams will appear on Channel 45.

The Oct. 13 game against Indianapolis will air nationally on TNT, but, under NFL rules, must be made available to all local over-the-air stations, including those such as channels 13 and 54 that don't regularly carry the NFL.

Two potentially interesting Redskins home games -- the Sept. 1 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Nov. 24 clash with the San Francisco 49ers -- will not be seen in Baltimore because they clash with Ravens home games.

Nationally, officials at ABC and NBC can't be happy with the NFL's decision to give the Dallas Cowboys-Miami Dolphins game on Oct. 27 to Fox.

The game, which will match the Dolphins' Jimmy Johnson against the team he coached to two Super Bowl titles, would have drawn monster ratings for ABC on Monday night.

Meanwhile, NBC, whose AFC markets are decidedly smaller than Fox's NFC cities, will have an even harder time catching Fox in the seasonal ratings tussle, assuming that the Nov. 11 Cowboys-49ers game does as well as last year's game, which was the highest-rated Sunday afternoon regular-season contest in 10 years.

Packer in the Hall

CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer has been selected by the Basketball Hall of Fame as this year's Curt Gowdy Media Award winner for broadcasting.

Bob Hentzen, a longtime sports editor and columnist at the Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, was selected as the print winner. Hentzen and Packer will receive their awards at the Hall's induction ceremonies May 6.

Pub Date: 4/29/96

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