Gumbel, Simms to carry CBS back into NFL loop Saturday


Only the most die-hard 49ers or Seahawks fan, or those with a certain short-term financial investment, will have more than a passing interest in Saturday night's San Francisco-Seattle NFL preseason game (Channel 13, 8 p.m.).

The only lasting significance to the game is to get a preview on how CBS will cover professional football after four years on the sidelines, and in the midst of that preview will be announcers Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms.

The former NBC pair will make their debut as CBS' No. 1 football-broadcasting team with some curiosity attached to their performance.

For Simms, the former New York Giants quarterback who was a part of a three-announcer backfield at NBC for two seasons, this year will provide his chance to show that he can call the analyst signals alone.

Simms practiced last week at the Meadowlands with Gumbel, and the two seemed to hit it off famously.

"It worked great last week and I expect it will be great this week and into the season," said Simms. "It [the two-man booth] is simpler. Instead of having to work around three people, you only have two. It's going to give us a lot of room, a lot of freedom."

Meanwhile, in a delicious coincidence, Gumbel, who signed the network off the NFL at the end of the 1994 NFC championship game, will usher CBS back into the sport that it put on the map after anchoring NBC's studio show.

"It's one of those strange quirks of fate that it was my duty to have to sign off after the 49ers-Cowboys game. Anyone who has been around me knows that the happiest times of my professional life were the five years I spent at CBS [before the NFL left]," said Gumbel yesterday. "The opportunity to be able to return to CBS is a joyous one, and we are all looking forward to the first of many great seasons of football on CBS. The whole thing is kind of an emotional thing for me. I'll probably have to calm myself."

Joked Simms: "I hope I don't have to slap Greg on the air to get him calm."

The total package

Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball teams will make a record 222 television appearances, scattered among the league's television slate, ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS, Home Team Sports and Fox Sports Net. Most importantly, every single conference game will be on television.

That's a first for any collegiate conference, according to commissioner John Swofford, who made the announcement yesterday, and it puts the ACC on par with the NFL as the only big-time sports leagues to get their entire schedules on television.

Locally, that means Maryland fans can quit griping when the odd game against North Carolina State doesn't show up on the tube because now it will be televised. Most nonconference games, however, will not be televised, and in some cases, that's a good thing.

Forest greenery

Sahalee Country Club, in suburban Seattle, the site of this weekend's PGA Championship, provides one of the most beautiful settings many golfers have ever seen. In fact, Lance Barrow, CBS' coordinating producer for golf, says Sahalee "might be the greatest looking golf course that's not on the ocean."

But its tree-laden layout and small, fast greens promise to provide a challenge for the field, which includes at least 90 of the top 100 golfers in the world.

"Most of the guys who use their drivers are putting them away," said analyst Gary McCord, who will man 16 this weekend. "This is going to be like firing a gun down the fairway. A guy that's a straight shot is in good shape."

The course also threatens to wreak havoc on the broadcasters as well. Barrow said the network has had to put in a few of those big cranes in order to cover the 6,900 yard, par-70 course, because of all those big trees, which might do a number on the eight radio-frequency hand-held cameras CBS plans to use.

Coverage opens today on TBS at 2: 05 p.m. for six hours, with a recap at 12: 37 a.m. on Channel 13, with a repeat of same tomorrow. TBS will carry morning coverage on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m., with CBS taking over each day at 2 p.m.

Locally, Channel 13 will duck out of Saturday's third-round telecast at 4: 30 p.m. to carry the Ravens' preseason game against the New York Jets. Station officials promise to run crawls across the screen to keep golf fans happy, but if that's not enough for you, Washington's Channel 9 will carry all of Saturday's action.

Weekend ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last weekend:

Event ............ Day ... Ch. .. R/S

Orioles-Twins .... Fri. .. 13 ... 12.5/25

Ravens-Bears ..... Sat. .. 13 ... 12.4/23

Ravens pre-game .. Sat. .. 13 ... 9.2/21

Orioles-Twins .... Sun. .. 54 ... 7.2/17

QB Challenge ..... Sun. .. 13 ... 3.7/9

Golf ............. Sat. .. 13 ... 3.0/9

Cubs-Cards ....... Sat. .. 45 ... 2.4/7

QB Challenge ..... Sat. .. 13 ... 2.0/6

Golf ............. Sun. .. 13 ... 1.8/4

Women's tennis ... Sun. .. 45 ... 1.5/4

PGA preview ...... Sun. .. 13 ... 1.5/4

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