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Fresh air

The Baltimore Sun

Sports media notes to pick over, like that box of Valentine's chocolates you'll dive into after giving your sweetheart at least a one-day head start:

WHFS (105.7 FM) announced a 12-game Orioles spring training broadcast schedule, starting with Feb. 28's opener against the Florida Marlins at 1:05 p.m. Joe Angel and the King of the Hawaiian Shirt, Fred Manfra, return to the microphones.

Rumors were floating around that ESPN was dropping sideline reporters Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya from Monday Night Football. As it turns out, the network does plan to alter their roles, but ESPN said it's not cutting them from the MNF roster.

ESPN's statement: "Kolber and Tafoya will remain an important component of our Monday Night Football coverage in ways that will be broader than the singular role of a 'sideline' reporter. They will provide on-site, pre- and post-game reports on several outlets, including SportsCenter, Monday Countdown, ESPNews and ESPN.com. They will be on call patrolling the sidelines during the game and will report if necessary. Their precise roles are still to be finalized."

But who's going to ask the coach what his team needs to do in the second half?

It's not a four-hour Super Bowl pre-game, but Fox will precede Sunday's Daytona 500 coverage with a one-hour, 20-minute preview show starting at 2 p.m. (WBFF/Channel 45 and WTTG/Channel 5). Much of the program will focus on the race's history, as the 500 marks its 50th race. Chris Myers is the host, joined by analysts Jeff Hammond, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds. Mike Joy will call the race.

Fox has placed buried cameras in each of the four turns for ground-level perspective on the cars whizzing by. Fox is calling them Gopher Cams, which should be fine as long as Caddyshack's Carl Spackler isn't in attendance at Daytona.

During a conference call this week, Waltrip was asked about NASCAR possibly loosening its reins and letting drivers be themselves. He wasn't wild about the idea.

"It makes me a little bit nervous," Waltrip said, according to highlights released by Fox. "I know how these guys are. They do have to have some restraints on them. They do have to know what their limits are, and they do have to know where the lines are. I'm not a real big fan of saying, 'Hey we're going to lighten up and let boys be boys.' "

All the NBA needs now is Ryan Seacrest. Tomorrow night's Slam Dunk contest winner will be determined by a fan vote via text message or at NBA.com. The dunking contestants are the Memphis Grizzlies' Rudy Gay (Archbishop Spalding), Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, Toronto Raptors' Jamario Moon, Minnesota Timberwolves' Gerald Green and Ruben Studdard.

TNT's coverage of Saturday night's NBA All-Star activities, which includes the dunking competition, begins at 8. The All-Star Game itself is Sunday night at 8:30. Look for Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Magic Johnson, Mike Fratello, the casts of Law & Order and Without a Trace - all of your TNT favorites.

CNBC debuted its documentary Swoosh! Inside Nike this week, and as the exclamation mark in the title suggests, there is more than a hint of the gee whiz in the program. Most of the documentary could have been produced by an in-house Nike unit.

Yes, the program mentions reported sweatshop-like conditions at the overseas plants that manufacture the company's products, but the documentary also leaves a rather large hole. Swoosh! doesn't deal with how Nike's big endorsement deals and advertising have helped create a sports culture that elevates the individual star while diminishing the importance of team, particularly when it comes to basketball.

But if you're a "sneakerhead," that probably won't deter you. The program airs again Monday at 9 p.m. and midnight and Feb. 24 at 10 p.m.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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