Clear sound, hi-def picture, but not sharp commentary

Putting this week's sports media notes into focus while realizing that the news of ESPN/ABC's plan to televise the Winter X Games in high definition probably isn't the nudge that is going to put an HD television in the Frager household:

Once upon a time - like when ESPN used to carry it - you wouldn't go 43 minutes into a SportsCenter without a mention of the NHL when it was in season. But such was the case Wednesday night, when that was the amount of time that went by on the late show before the first hockey highlights.


As it turned out, the first game even offered something unusual - an 11-round shootout between the Capitals and the Panthers. Those are the teams from Washington and Florida, by the way.

You like your Army-Navy game with a heaping helping of pageantry? WJZ/Channel 13 is giving it to you. Its coverage of tomorrow's game here starts at 9 a.m., three hours before the CBS telecast.


Speaking of Channel 13, the radio show hosted by its sports anchor, Mark Viviano, on ESPN 1300 has a promo for the program featuring a quick sound bite from John Travolta. Which is pretty cool, except the actor sounds as if he misses a syllable in pronouncing the host's name as something like "Viano."

As someone who has been wrong more than a few times, let me suggest that Jalen Rose could have used a little hand when he appeared on ESPN2's First and 10 on Wednesday. In a discussion of how last night's Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys game wasn't going to be seen by most of the country because the NFL Network isn't widely available, Rose made an argument that included this: "The masses don't have cable."

Being that he was on an ESPN channel, even if Rose didn't get the information right, his talk counterpart, Skip Bayless, or host Dana Jacobson should have set him straight. In fact, the masses do have cable (or satellite). ESPN itself estimates the network is available in more than 90 million of the country's households, or nearly 90 percent.

During NBC's Sunday night telecast of the New England Patriots-Philadelphia Eagles game, the sound from the field was particularly sharp. Viewers could distinctly hear the calls by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He kept saying, "Alert! Alert!" before shouting out other signals. And no, I don't think he was just making his teammates aware girlfriend Gisele Bundchen was at the game.

You'll hear this phrase a lot on TV from now until the end of the year - and it might even creep into print, I'm sorry to say - about college or pro football teams that can put themselves into a bowl or a playoff spot simply by winning their games: "They control their own destiny."

At, the first definition of destiny includes "something that is to happen," and the second definition reads, "the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events."

If something is predetermined, you can't control it. And don't substitute "fate" for "destiny," either. Same thing.

You could say a team is in control of landing a playoff berth, though I suppose I could also argue that "control" is incorrect as well, because - unless the game is fixed - a team can't simply order its opponent to lose. And so many things are out of a team's control - the weather, injuries, officials' calls.


It seems I'm destined to quibble this morning.

Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., Versus (also known as one of the channels you'd give up for the NFL Network) will air a one-hour special looking back at the California-Stanford game 25 years ago. That was the game that ended with the multiple-lateral, run-through-the-band kickoff return for a touchdown by Cal.

Versus says this special, called The Play, marks the first time John Elway has "both seen the game and talked about it" since 1982. Besides Elway, those on the program - carried just before the channel's telecast of this year's Cal-Stanford game - include Gary Tyrrell, the Stanford trombone player bowled over by Cal's Kevin Moen on the winning touchdown.

Versus calls this "the most famous play in college football history." Being that I'm in such a quibbling mood, I'd rebut by saying the Doug Flutie Hail Mary for Boston College immediately springs to mind as just as famous.