Baltimoreans still have a ways to go to prove themselves as football fans, at least as far as watching the game is concerned, off the ratings for Sunday's inaugural Ravens game.
Assuming you couldn't get tickets, what could have been easier than to plant yourself on a couch and tune in your own team, particularly considering the game was a historic one?
Apparently that setup was too easy for Charm City residents, who showed indifference, compared to viewers in other cities. The Ravens-Oakland game drew an 18.9 rating and 48 share of the local audience on Channel 11 in the Nielsen overnights. That means that just under half of all sets that were on in Baltimore on Sunday were tuned into a portion of the game.
Before you start pounding yourself on the back for the achievement, consider these numbers from other NFL cities. The Broncos-Jets game got a 27.4/59 in Denver, and the Seattle-Chargers game delivered a 23.8/55 in San Diego. In San Francisco, the 49ers-New Orleans game did a 22.8/56, and the Green Bay-Tampa Bay game drew a 31.4/66 in Milwaukee. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers-Jacksonville contest did a 27.9/61.
Down the parkway in Washington, the Redskins-Philadelphia game garnered a 25.5/61. However, the most galling comparison for Baltimore is that the very Ravens-Raiders game seen here at 1 p.m. did a 19.2/49 in Sacramento at 10 a.m. for two teams that don't even play there.
In Cleveland, where viewership has been historically strong, the Ravens game posted a 16.1/44, just below the number Baltimore attracted for a game involving the team that used to belong to Cleveland.
Even the Monday night overnights made Baltimore football fans look bad. While the Dallas-Chicago game was getting a 20.3/33 across the country and booming numbers like 35.9/53 in Chicago and a 42.4/58 in Dallas, Baltimore was lagging behind with a 12.3/22.
Excuses for Sunday -- the warm, sunny weather and that it was the last long weekend of summer -- may abound, but the fact remains that people around the nation have always hinted that Baltimore is not much of a football town and used relatively low ratings to back up their claim. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his staff are, no doubt, having an "I told you so" chuckle over the numbers.
Find the missing team
An ESPN spokeswoman said the network had always intended the Phillies-Dodgers game as its main contest, but discovered that the Orioles game wasn't being telecast by anyone. ESPN then decided to produce and broadcast the game to Seattle and Baltimore, giving cable operators in those cities the option to carry the game of their choice.
Though operators in the area chose to take the Orioles, ESPN's sign-on from Philadelphia led some viewers to think that they wouldn't see the game from the Pacific Northwest. However, a Comcast spokesman said the network switched its feed just after the first commercial and beamed in the Baltimore-Seattle game.
The Burgin record
It used to be so easy for Baltimore native Elise Burgin on the tennis circuit. She'd just train, practice, show up for the matches and play. And when she retired from the sport and became an analyst, she would watch and react.
But now, as a sideline reporter for USA Network during its coverage of the U.S. Open, the game has changed for the Stanford graduate.
"Now I've got to make sure that the clothes look right. You have to go in for the makeup, and all those things that you have to be conscious of when you really want to be focusing completely on what you've got to do. There are some other things that go with it. As you go along, you get more comfortable with it," said Burgin.
Besides getting the cosmetic stuff down, Burgin, a women's doubles semifinalist at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1986, is learning the broadcasting business from the ground floor.
Each week she spends time at the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa., not only working on her on-air persona but also getting behind-the-scenes training.
"I decided if I wanted to learn this whole business that I needed to learn it from the ground floor. I've been learning everything you need to do in sports broadcasting from the production end, like learning to edit. If you want to know sports, you need to know the basics," said Burgin.
It bears mentioning that fellow Baltimore native and tennis whiz Pam Shriver is serving as ESPN's analyst during the Open. It also bears mentioning that since Gayle Gardner left Baltimore 13 years ago, the sports television market has been effectively closed to women in this town.
There have been openings at each station since then, and there have been qualified candidates such as Shriver, Burgin, racing analyst Kim Goodwin, ESPN's Bonnie Bernstein (who went to Maryland and worked on the Eastern Shore) and radio broadcasters Robyn Marks of WEAA (88.9 FM) and Pam Ward of WBAL (1090 AM), who fills in occasionally on Channel 11, but Baltimore's television sportscasters are otherwise exclusively male.
Perhaps there will be new on-air opportunities for women, growing segment of the sports viewing audience, with the arrival of the Ravens. We can only wonder.
Pub Date: 9/04/96