Free falling

The Baltimore Sun

Presenting more sports media notes while looking ahead to perhaps our greatest national holiday, embraced by those of all faiths and no religion, by those with every shade of skin, by those whose American roots go back 400 years or last year and by those from one end of the political spectrum to the other, Super Bowl Sunday:

Just added to the Super Bowl festivities: The coin for the flip will be carried out to midfield by ESPN's Dana Jacobson, who will walk arm-in-arm with the Pope and Pat Robertson. John Edwards and Rudolph Giuliani join Tom Petty at halftime to sing "Free Falling." An hour before kickoff, finalists compete for the Punt, Pass and Kick title, with the winner entering a short-term relationship with Jessica Simpson.

The thing is, the Super Bowl long ago reached such a bloated state that none of those three sounds completely outside of the realm of possibilities. With that in mind, here is some of what Fox (WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5) actually has planned for its pre-game show, which runs 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.:

* Promoting the Daytona 500 by giving viewers the confusing presence of NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson during the same telecast featuring NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson.

* Using the discreet charm of American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to interview celebrities on the red carpet.

* Bringing in Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, Denver Broncos safety John Lynch, San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten to discuss the game with "insider" Jay Glazer.

* Deploying the man of a thousand voices, Frank Caliendo, to make Super Bowl picks using three of those voices (a wild guess -- one will be John Madden).

* Premiering Idol judge Paula Abdul's "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow," which sounds less like her "new hit single" than a way to live your life.

Somehow, Fox News Sunday plans to tie in the Super Bowl with the Super Tuesday presidential primaries during a three-hour Fox Super Sunday starting at 9 a.m. Fox News' Shepard Smith anchors from the Super Bowl site in Glendale, Ariz., and the program features campaign reports from various Fox stations. Fox's news release said the program "will explore the social impact of the Super Bowl and how it intertwines with politics." Almost makes you want to watch, huh?

Meanwhile, at ESPN, the three-hour preview show begins at 11 a.m. with the Sunday NFL Countdown crew. The noon half-hour sounds like the one to watch: ESPN profiles New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's Naval Academy roots, and Kenny Mayne seeks tickets to the game while pressured by his Sopranos pals from this season's earlier Tony Sparano/Sopranos bit.

If it were up to me, the NFL wouldn't play preseason games, but I will acknowledge that the Ravens' move to put their exhibition season (along with other, to-be-determined programming) on WBAL/Channel 11 should promote a certain degree of synergy with the club's radio home at WBAL (1090 AM) and 98 Rock (97.9 FM), all owned by Hearst.

Saturday night's U.S. Figure Skating Championships (featuring Bel Air's Kimmie Meissner) on WBAL was Baltimore's top-rated sports show of the week. It finished just ahead of Monday's American Gladiators, another NBC show carried by WBAL. You can debate whether the latter really is sports programming, though I'd let you engage in that discussion with Wolf.

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