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Before, after games, 2 stations duel for Ravens fans' affections


While the Ravens are locked in battle each Sunday, there's another a little skirmish going on the radio for the ears of football-listening fans, before and after the games.

As CBS Radio's WLIF (101.9 FM) and WJFK (1300 AM) are getting fans psyched for game coverage and stoking them afterward every Sunday afternoon, WBAL (1090 AM) is attempting to siphon off listeners and -- more importantly -- advertising dollars by doing its own pre- and post-game Ravens show.

As you might figure, both have their selling points and drawbacks.

Ravens coverage on WLIF begins two hours before the game (though Gary Stein is the host of an excellent look around the NFL three hours before kickoff on WJFK), and if its pre-game show contains nothing else, it's full of testosterone.

Channel 45 news anchor Tony Harris oversees the proceedings, either from Camden Yards or from the ESPN Zone on away weeks, and Harris, the third pre-game host in as many years, has blended in fairly well, though he has a tendency to get a little too hyped up, as in the introduction to Sunday's show, when he seemed ready to gnarl off a piece of raw meat with his teeth.

Analyst and former Colt Bruce Laird, now nicknamed the "Bad Boy" by Harris, appears to have something meaningful to say now and then about the team's strategy or performance, but seems more interested in playing up to the persona that Harris has given him. Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal, by contrast, is often the voice of reason (sorry, Ron Smith) on the program, but he doesn't get enough time to be reasonable.

After the game, Laird, Stan "The Fan" Charles and Paul Mittermeier lead two hours of interviews and phone calls, and it's usually pretty solid, though there are times when we wish Charles weren't so cantankerous with callers. Mittermeier, a WJFK producer, may be the best football analyst in town, though, in all candor, he's not exactly besting a crowded field.

Meanwhile, WBAL's one-hour pre-game show with host Gerry Sandusky is a much more sedate and orderly affair, heavier on information, if not the attitude and posturing. Sandusky is a solid pro, and he leads contributors like former Colt Stan White and Greg Sher through their paces.

During the post-game, rising star Steve Milewski fields callers, minutes before sponsor-laden WLIF/WJFK can get to them, and handles them nicely. Sher and White provide their own analysis along with gathering player and coach reaction from post-game news conferences. It's nothing spectacular, but it moves well.

One piece of advice for WBAL producers: It would be helpful for people heading to Ravens games if you gave them true traffic information, like whether there are road delays getting to the stadium or the trouble spots on light rail rather than the Mass Transit Administration propaganda that airs during the pre-game and post-game show.

And for both outlets, here's an oft-stated but nonetheless fervent request: Please lose the cheerleader tone that accompanies all Ravens programming. There are more "we's" tossed around during these shows than in the kitchen of a French restaurant. When listeners tune in, they want information, not unabashed homerism.

Direct connection

Beginning today, DirecTV subscribers will be able to tune into CNN/SI, as it becomes available on channel 205.

The all-sports news channel, the worthy challenger to ESPNEWS, brings 4 million new subscribers to the party with DirecTV's pickup, bringing its total subscriber base to 14 million, cable and direct broadcast satellite included.

Sadly, though, Baltimore-area viewers are still unable to get either channel on their local cable menu. Are you listening, TCI, Jones and Comcast?

Cup coverage

ESPN gleefully announced that it has secured the rights to the America's Cup races in 2000, to be sailed off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand.

More than 70 hours of coverage will air on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic, with nightly race coverage of the challenger semifinals and finals, followed by prime-time airings of the best-of-nine championship series, beginning Feb. 18.

ESPN has attracted substantial critical acclaim and solid viewership with its coverage of the Cup races in 1987, 1988, 1992 and 1995.

A Lifetime of change

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Lifetime CEO Doug McCormick, who has been with the cable channel since its creation 16 years ago, may be leaving at year's end, when his contract expires.

The departure of McCormick, whose channel caters to women's issues and concerns, could be bad news for the growing but still relatively small market for televised women's sports.

Under McCormick's stewardship, Lifetime, which is half-owned by Disney, has taken chances on some niche programming, like women's hockey, the WNBA and documentaries about women's athletes that other outlets (like its corporate brother, ESPN, for instance) wouldn't touch.

The ratings haven't been great, but they are building, and we can only hope that whoever replaces McCormick will follow his lead.

Pub Date: 12/01/98

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