There won't be any cheesy comedians, Vegas lounge acts or direct appeals for your money, but let there be no mistaking that NBC's telecast of this weekend's Ryder Cup matches is something of a golf telethon.
When you add in 16 1/2 hours of the network's own coverage tomorrow and Sunday with 10 1/2 hours of telecasts today on USA, produced by NBC, and you get something that looks and sounds like a telethon.
But unlike those hours in the middle of the night, when the lesser name celebrities get the bulk of the telethon's air time, all the NBC hands declare that the Cup's format makes for Must See TV.
"It's compelling for the viewers and for us," said NBC lead analyst Johnny Miller. "The hours do peel away, though, but there's always a shot to be made, a weird placement. There's always something to say. The hours are pretty amazing. This is ground-breaking coverage."
Of course, the centerpiece of the telethon is the 24-player competition between the teams from Europe and the United States. Although the United States leads the overall series, 23-7-2, the Europeans have won the past two Cups, in part because a stronger sense of commonality.
"The Europeans are a tighter-knit group," Miller said. "They bond after the round, they go to the pubs together. They're just a tighter group."
The U.S. delegation, with captain Ben Crenshaw and 10 of the world's top 14 players, including the top two ranked players on the planet, Tiger Woods and David Duval, would appear to be the heavy favorite to capture the Cup, but you shouldn't expect to hear rooting from the American telecasters.
"I think all of us know what result we'd like to see Sunday night, but the thing we need to do is root for good matches," said course reporter Mark Rolfing.
NBC will trot out an armada of 35 cameras around The Country Club on the outskirts of Boston, including a new camera cabled through a tree and positioned on a branch over the tee box on the sixth hole, to give viewers a direct overhead look at the golfers as they strike off the tee.
Miller and Dick Enberg will anchor the proceedings, with Rolfing, Gary Koch, Roger Maltbie and Dan Hicks reporting from the course. Bernard Gallacher, the captain of the winning 1995 European team, will contribute analysis, while Jim Gray will bird-dog Crenshaw and European captain Mark James.
USA's coverage begins at 7: 30 a.m. today. NBC (Channel 11) will come on the air at 8 a.m. tomorrow and at 10: 30 a.m. Sunday.
Playing by the rules
Never let it be said that ABC's Al Michaels doesn't study his playbook, or in this case, rule book.
At the end of the first half on Monday night in Dallas, both Michaels and analyst Boomer Esiason noted that the Cowboys, lined up to receive a Falcons punt, could get a free kick after a fair catch.
But Michaels rather astutely pointed out that even as time expired in the half, Dallas could, under the rules, extend the period for the free kick, if they wanted to.
You could probably count on one hand the number of announcers, whether they had played the game or not, who could recite such an esoteric rule on command, and still have some fingers left.
Numbers don't lie
Virtually everyone is crowing about their early season NFL ratings successes. ESPN, for instance, is proud to note that its Sunday night package is up 37 percent in viewership from a similar point last year and 34 percent in ratings.
CBS, meanwhile, is noting that its NFL game ratings are up 31 percent from this time last year, while its pre-game show ratings are up a modest 4 percent.
And finally, switching to baseball, our friends at Turner gleefully point out that their Tuesday night telecast of the Atlanta-New York Mets game beat ESPN's telecast nationally.
Around the dial
Perhaps the best feature you're likely to see this weekend is Paul Crane's piece on Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt and his family's efforts to adopt two Ukrainian children. It airs at 7: 30 a.m. Sunday on "Page One with Nick Charles" on CNN.
If you saved your pennies last weekend and passed on the Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad pay-per-view fight, figuring it would air soon on cable, you made the right call. HBO will air a tape of the welterweight fight at 9: 45 tomorrow night as a part of a program that includes the live telecast of the 'Sugar" Shane Mosley-Wilfredo Rivera bout.
On the pre-game show circuit, Josie Karp finds out what's up with St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner, the former Arena Football League signal caller, for CNN's "NFL Preview" at 10 a.m. Sunday. And speaking of quarterbacks who have directed their team past the Ravens this year, CBS' Marcus Allen chats with Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart on Sunday's "NFL Today" (Channel 13, noon).
Both Howie Long of Fox and Sean Salisbury of ESPN have pieces on the Redskins and their offensive display this season. Compare and contrast at 11 a.m. on ESPN and noon on Fox (Channel 45).
Finally, ESPN Classic will air "America's Cup 2000: Breaking the Spell" at 8 on Monday night to get you stoked for the coming yacht races. And since this space will be dark next week, we'll note in advance the Oct. 4 debut of "One on One," a new Home Team Sports interview program hosted by veteran Washington sportscaster Steve Buckhantz. The first victim is former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. The program airs at 8: 30 p.m.
Pub Date: 9/24/99