Don't look for the networks to call time


Boy, that football off-season really flew by, didn't it?

Actually, football, or for that matter, any sport, never really goes away long enough for anyone to miss it these days. With free-agent signings, minicamps, hot stove talk and the rest, all the major sports have pretty much settled into 12-month-per-year operations.

Of course, it's certainly in the leagues' best interests to have you thinking about them all the time, and not just during the season and on game days. After all, those Cal Ripken T-shirts are just as attractive at Christmastime as they are in late July.

But increasingly, the Big Media are getting into the year-round act, too. It used to be only sports talk radio that trafficked in off-season programming, but the networks are joining in more and more (re: "NBA Inside Stuff" and the new "NFL 2Night" on ESPN2).

And they have billions and billions of reasons to do it. The rights fees for big-ticket sports have increased exponentially over the past few years, so much so that the networks have had to create additional programming to bring in advertisers who will help them recoup their outlays.

With four outlets (ABC, CBS, ESPN and Fox) on the hook to the NFL for nearly $18 billion over the next eight years, chances are that we'll see more and more football programming, like tomorrow's Hall of Fame Game (Channel 2, 7 p.m.) and the American Bowl (ESPN, 10 p.m.), in the not-too-distant future.

We can only hope the golden goose doesn't lay so many eggs as to kill interest. You can bet the networks and the leagues hope so, too.

Long's time

Fox has giddily announced the re-signing of football pre-game show analyst Howie Long to a five-year contract.

Long, who captured the 1996 sports Emmy award as best analyst -- the first studio guy to win the award -- is the last of the Fox crew to re-up with the network and will join James Brown, Terry Bradshaw and newly transplanted Cris Collinsworth back in the Hollywood studio.

Long has also signed a three-picture deal with 20th Century Fox films, having already appeared in "Broken Arrow," "Firestorm" and "That Thing You Do."

At the movies

"BASEketball" the sport may not crack the public's consciousness, but the new film, which opens today around the area, is a laugh riot.

The movie stars Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the real-life creators the hit cartoon "South Park," as the fictitious creators of a new sport, combining baseball and basketball.

An A-list group of announcers, including Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Dan Patrick, Kenny Mayne, Tim McCarver, Jim Lampley and Pat O'Brien, have cameos in the raucous film that pokes fun at virtually every sporting cliche and social convention in search of a laugh.

The search is almost always successful, though you may be ashamed to tell friends you saw it. Parents of pre-high school students should be forewarned that the language and subject matter might be a bit much for youngsters, but everyone else will get a huge chuckle.

Around the dial

The Goodwill Games conclude this weekend, and Lampley, for one, may be glad for the rest. Not only is he host of TBS' prime-time coverage, but he is also calling the Goodwill boxing tournament (doesn't that seem like a misnomer) on HBO.

TBS' telecast airs tonight, tomorrow and Sunday nights at 8: 05, with HBO's coverage of the boxing finals going tomorrow at 11 p.m. CBS, meanwhile, goes on the air at 2 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday, but, barring a rainout of Sunday's Orioles-Royals game, Channel 13 will only have tomorrow's Games broadcast.

Speaking of baseball, Fox's game of choice is the Yankees-Mariners clash at 4 p.m. tomorrow (Channel 45), while our friends in Washington will get to see the Braves-Cardinals game at 1 p.m. on Channel 5.

The NASCAR crowd invades the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most hallowed American raceway, for tomorrow's Brickyard 400 on ABC (Channel 2) at 1 p.m., with an edited re-air Sunday at noon on ESPN.

Finally, in women's sports programming for the weekend, Se Ri Pak goes for her third major LPGA title of the year in the du Maurier Classic, airing today at 1 p.m., tomorrow at 1: 30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., all on ESPN.

The WNBA's defending-champion Houston Comets, with just one loss to date, defend their home court tomorrow against the Cleveland Rockers (Channel 11, 4 p.m.), the hapless Washington Mystics try to steal one against Los Angeles on Monday night (ESPN, 9) and the Sparks try to fend off Phoenix tonight at 9 on Lifetime.

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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