'Mic'd Up' finds excitement in dull Ravens-49ers game

The Baltimore Sun

While recalling what comedian Fred Allen (look him up in your history books) once said about television - it's called a medium because nothing on it is ever well-done - here are this week's sports media notes:

This is one of the reasons you have paid for the NFL Network. Tomorrow at 8 p.m., the channel presents Ravens at 49ers: NFL Mic'd Up. NFL Films put microphones on 10 players and coaches in Sunday's game and used 12 additional cameras to produce a one-hour special with a truly inside look at the game.

The last time NFL Films did this, for 2004's Ravens-New York Jets game, the result was a tremendously entertaining program for anyone who likes football even a little. During Sunday's game on the Ravens' side, Ray Lewis, Derrick Mason, Ed Reed, Brian Billick and Rex Ryan wore mikes. The narrative is carried by tape of the radio play-by-play, so expect to hear a lot of Gerry Sandusky.

A preview snippet showed how NFL Films captured the excitement - like a couple of kids, really - Lewis and Mason carried onto the field when playing for the first time at the one-time home of Joe Montana. Another segment displayed 49ers coach Mike Nolan's frustration with his defensive coordinator when Nolan knew the Ravens would run a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one but the 49ers couldn't stop it.

The 2004 version earned two Sports Emmy nominations. If this Mic'd Up manages to make Sunday's 9-7 clunker of a game compelling, NFL Films deserves to walk off with as many Emmys as its president, Steve Sabol, can carry.

Once upon a time, you might have heard this exchange: "Where you going?" "Got to see a man about a horse." Tomorrow at 4 p.m., you can see a couple of channels about a bunch of horses.

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is producing two hours of coverage of the Maryland Million races from Laurel Park, airing on MASN and WNUV/Channel 54, climaxing in the Maryland Million Classic, scheduled to go off at 5:40 p.m. HorseRacing TV's Laffit Pincay III and Caton Bredar anchor the telecast.

ESPN debuts E:60 - an hourlong program featuring in-depth pieces on sports - Tuesday at 7 p.m. This will be ESPN's version of HBO's Real Sports, which has set the bar mighty high for TV sports journalism.

For all of its devotion to quick-hitting, highlights-driven, opinion-spouting programming, ESPN has demonstrated with Outside the Lines that it can produce coverage of important issues that goes beyond the sound bite and commentator's bluster. However, ESPN's plan to take viewers behind the scenes and devote part of E:60 to watching the reporters working on their stories seems like a miscalculation. The cult of personality that infests some of the network's other shows doesn't need to be spread here.

E:60 - we can agree that's an awful name, right? - will air 15 original episodes a year. Four programs in October will be followed by five starting in April and six starting in June.

Sometimes you have to get stuck in traffic to be reminded of how repetitive a morning sports talk show can be. In this case, that "you" was actually me on Tuesday morning. ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning - and I'm generally a fan of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic - hashed and rehashed nothing but Joe Torre's future with the New York Yankees and the wild ending to the Dallas Cowboys-Buffalo Bills game.

I understand the nature of the show is that listeners might often catch only snatches of it, but after the third segment devoted to the same topics, I would have liked to have heard about something else. I also would have liked cars on the Beltway to be moving faster than 5 mph, but I can't blame either Mike for that.


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