In the topsy-turvy world of network television, you just never know where your next great idea or hire is going to come from. At Fox, for instance, the best addition to its football crew, pre-game show analyst Cris Collinsworth, came straight from the head of one of its chief competitors.
When NBC was forced to fold up its NFL shop, Collinsworth, the mainstay of its pre-game show, was wavering between coming to CBS for its New York-based, AFC-centered show or going to Fox's NFC-oriented program, which originates from Los Angeles, and told his agent he thought he would go to CBS.
"He [Ebersol] said, 'If you have a chance to go to Fox, go. [Fox executive producer Ed] Goren and [president David] Hill are the smartest, most visionary guys out there. It's a great show. Don't even think about it.' Once I heard that, I took the offer. Ebersol's the guy who put me over the top," said Collinsworth.
Though Fox's show has been accused of being over the top by a number of writers (this one included), Collinsworth, the 1997 Sports Emmy winner as best studio analyst, has provided a sensible center to the show, which features Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw, even if he sits on the far right of the set.
"Fox has a very definite attitude and approach, and I like it. I mean, how much real new information are we really going to lay on you at that point?" said Collinsworth. "We just say we'll give you a little information and we'll entertain you. That's a pretty rare attitude in the industry in terms of what I'm used to."
The Fox show has been the ratings leader for some time now, so those wily network guys must know a heck of a lot more than us dopey critics, eh?
By the way, Collinsworth will sit down Sunday (Ch. 45, noon) with former Giants general manager (and Baltimore native) George Young, who heads the NFL's on-field operations, to chat about officiating and the return of instant replay.
Having a Blast
It's been quite a while since anyone around here has been able to say they saw a Blast game on television, but the latest incarnation of the indoor soccer team returns to the airwaves tonight on Home Team Sports, when the team plays host to the Cleveland Crunch.
Channel 45 sports anchor Bruce Cunningham will call play-by-play, and former Blast player Bobby McAvan will provide analysis on the five-game HTS package. Kickoff tonight is at 7: 30, and Dave Johnson (the broadcaster, not the former Orioles pitcher or manager) will be host of a highlight show Wednesday at 5: 30 p.m.
Stop the music
CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer, who does a pretty good imitation of a curmudgeon when prompted (and an even better one when not), is not one of those people who thinks the college game will pick up more fans because of the NBA lockout.
But Packer, who joins Jim Nantz for tomorrow's Connecticut-Michigan State game (Ch. 13, approximately 3: 30 p.m.), the season premiere of CBS' men's college basketball package, doesn't exactly have a warm and fuzzy feeling for the NBA.
Packer, who has blamed the league for not acting to slow the flow of underclassmen to the pro ranks, lashed out this week at NBA officials and commissioner David Stern, accusing them of "greed" in the way they market the sport.
"Their own greed created a problem [underclassmen leaving early] that has now come back to haunt them. The answer isn't that it's hurt the college game, but that it's hurt the game of basketball," said Packer. "They're losing sight of the sport itself. What they've really done is create an atmosphere where somebody who comes to the game comes to see the girls dance or how loud the music is or how far they can throw the T-shirts. It has nothing to do with the game."
More from Packer, on Maryland's chances, next week.
Around the dial
It's a terrific weekend for sports viewing and listening, but then, when isn't it?
CBS' coverage of the Ravens-Tennessee game Sunday (Ch. 13, 4: 15 p.m.) features a bit of a twist. Since the network will have eight games to carry but only six regular production teams, two extra crews are being pressed into service, and one of them, CBS' college football studio squad of Tim Brando, Craig James and Lou Holtz, will do the Ravens game. If the preliminary game, New England-Pittsburgh, runs long, CBS is obliged to leave that game for the Ravens. It's the NFL law.
The Maryland men's basketball team gets its first network broadcast treatment of the season, when its semifinal matchup with Stanford in the BB&T; Classic from Washington on Sunday airs on ABC as the launch of that network's basketball schedule (Ch. 2, 1 p.m.). The second semifinal, George Washington-DePaul, airs around 4 p.m. on HTS, which will have the consolation and title game Monday, starting at 6 p.m.
ABC (Ch. 2) has a monster tripleheader of college football conference championship games tomorrow, beginning with the Western Athletic Conference title game at 1 p.m., with the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference title games directly after. ESPN gleefully picks up the 2 p.m. telecast of the UCLA-Miami game that CBS had to abandon because of a hurricane in October, but the Eye network will have Army-Navy (Ch. 13, noon).
Finally, Orioles play-by-play man Jim Hunter will chat up the new additions, Albert Belle and Charles Johnson, tonight at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM).
The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in the Baltimore area from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 (R-Rating; S-Share):
Event, Day, Ch., R/S
Ravens-Colts, Sun., 13, 18.1/40
NFL post-game, Sun., 13, 17.3/37
Skating, Fri., 13, 11.6/19
rTC Ravens post-game, Sun., 13, 10.3/22
"NFL Today", Thu., 13, 9.8/18
Redskins-Raiders, Sun., 45, 9.1/16
NFL post-game, Thu., 13, 8.3/21
49ers-Giants, Mon., 2, 8.1/13
Pub Date: 12/04/98