MASN has been making presence known

The Baltimore Sun

Your mailbox is over its limit, I'm being told, so I'd better get through some of these e-mails and clean out the notebook while I'm at it.

A few of you might recall a song by the group the Sweet called "Ballroom Blitz." Here we are, just three days from the Orioles' opener, and we're getting a MASN Blitz. (You turn the tube/and before you can move/it turns into a MASN Blitz.)

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is putting word out about the new channel for Orioles games in a big way. Over there a billboard, over here a newspaper ad and a sudden rush of commercials on television. If you've watched much sports lately, you've probably seen the clever, high-energy spots.

In addition to directing fans to its Web site (, MASN has set up a toll-free phone number (877-469-6276) for those viewers unsure on which channel their cable or satellite system is carrying MASN.

And, speaking of satellite, no word yet of a deal for Dish Network to carry MASN, though a spokesman for Dish wouldn't say it's not still possible.

Curt Menefee is replacing Joe Buck as host of Fox NFL Sunday. The network announced that Buck will give up his pre-game show duties and return as full-time lead NFL game announcer. The move should be seamless, given that Menefee was on Fox's post-game during the 2006 season, proving to be a genial host. Fox no longer will take the show on the road each week, instead keeping Fox NFL Sunday in a Los Angeles studio.

Fox said Buck was given a choice of being studio host or play-by-play man and chose to call games.

Speaking of football, ESPN did not really come out and say why it replaced Joe Theismann with Ron Jaworski on Monday Night Football. Though Tony Kornheiser has said he had no problems working with Theismann, many observers cited a lack of chemistry between the two analysts. As anyone who has seen Jaworski's numerous appearances on Pardon the Interruption can attest, the ex-quarterback and the columnist seem to be quite a convivial combination. During Monday's conference call to make the announcement, Jaworski said he and Kornheiser "have been friends for over a decade."

ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson praised Theismann's work and said nothing more revealing about the change than "sometimes you have longevity, sometimes you build." Which sounds like corporate-speak for "you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

On CBS' Final Four preview show tomorrow (3:30 p.m., WJZ/Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9), among the planned features are pieces looking back at Marquette's 1977 championship team, Greg Gumbel's interview with UCLA coaching legend John Wooden and a roundtable discussion featuring coaches Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Ernie Kent of Oregon and Bruce Pearl of Tennessee. For those who recall his appearance at a Tennessee women's game this season, Pearl presumably will keep his shirt on.

When they call the major league opener between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets on Sunday night at 8 on ESPN2, Jon Miller and Joe Morgan will be starting their 18th season together. Has it really been that long?

ESPN and ESPN2 will carry five games on baseball's more traditional Opening Day Monday, but the ESPN2 version of the Orioles vs. the Minnesota Twins will be blacked out here. So call MASN and find out what channel it's on for your TV - or watch the simulcast on WJZ. (However, those of you with high-definition TV will miss out on ESPN2's HD version of the game.)

And still more of ESPN, with bad news out of Bristol: Chris Berman will continue to call "select Wednesday night" baseball games.

Some eyebrows were raised when former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson worked as a network radio analyst on NCAA games featuring son John Thompson III's Hoyas. But it's not as if we haven't had similar instances in broadcasting. A couple of examples: Bob Griese was in the booth when son Brian played quarterback at Michigan, and Ned Jarrett was behind the microphone when son Dale drove the NASCAR circuit.

Judging by e-mails, I apparently angered a chunk of people by saying the controversy over Major League Baseball's Extra Innings deal was overblown. Despite Congress' interest, the package of out-of-market games might end up being available only via DirecTV - disenfranchising those who want to view Extra Innings through cable TV or Dish Network. Last year, that was about 230,000 subscribers, a big number if you're one of those individuals. (Though you don't hear much protest over the NFL's DirecTV-only package.)

Good thing I'm not that widely read. By the second 100,000, it might get old being called dumb and fat.

A column in yesterday's Sports section incorrectly identified the television information for the Orioles' season opener Monday against the Minnesota Twins. The game will be available only on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.The Sun regrets the errors.
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