Combing picks

Presenting another week of sports media notes while wondering whether I can convince my wife - citing noted horticulturist Peter Griffin of Family Guy - that dandelions count as flowers:

When I was a little boy, my parents took me to Radio City Music Hall. I don't recall a whole lot, other than how the restroom seemed absolutely huge and the tiles gleamed like nothing I had ever seen before in my young life.


Oh, and there was a guy in a New York Jets jersey who was booing the Rockettes.

Yes, it's NFL draft weekend, live from New York's Radio City. I've already made my requisite Rockettes mention, so all that's left is something about Mel Kiper Jr.'s hair.


The big news about this year's draft presentation is how the NFL has cut down the amount of time between first-round selections, from 15 minutes to 10. That means ESPN has to show the kind of agility the scouts look for from prospects who are put through the paces at the combine in Indianapolis.

"We found that fans love debate," ESPN senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman said, according to highlights from a conference call this week. "They want banter about their team, they want good information with meaning and they want the analysis of their pick. Having built this infrastructure for now 16 years, I know what we've done well and I know what we've done wrong. When it becomes a show when you're chasing cards at the podium and reacting to picks, it is a less compelling TV show. The challenge is ... we need to keep it tight and fleet-footed."

Chris Berman, Kirk Herbstreit, Ron Jaworski, Keyshawn Johnson, Kiper, Suzy Kolber, Chris Mortensen, Steve Young, Mike Tirico and just about every other ESPN personality except Barry Melrose - though just think how his mullet could challenge Kiper's pompadour - will flash before our eyes as live coverage begins at 3 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN (over to ESPN2 at 8 p.m.) and then 10 a.m. Sunday. Between those stationed at Radio City and reporting from team sites - by the way, Sal Paolantonio will be with the Ravens - ESPN will have 14 on-air faces covering the draft on its main show tomorrow.

(Please note: Kiper hair reference taken care of.)

"It always amazes me the different evaluations you get on a number of players, from loving them or not liking them, from being a first-round pick to free agent," Jaworski said. "That's how much the opinions vary on players. I think that is why it's so exciting on Saturday and Sunday, because although we think we have a pretty good idea of where people are going to be slotted and they're going to go, there's always an incredible surprise."

Former Ravens coach Brian Billick will be analyzing as part of the NFL Network's draft programming tomorrow. He appeared on ESPN Radio 1300's Mark Viviano Show yesterday and flashed some of that entertaining sarcasm that we hope he doesn't lose on TV. Asked about quarterbacks, Billick said he wasn't sure he was qualified to speak because, after all, he apparently was responsible for every bad quarterback who has come through Baltimore.

WBAL Radio (1090 AM), the Ravens' flagship, starts its draft coverage tomorrow at noon. Sun columnist Peter Schmuck will be part of the proceedings until the free food runs out.

Game 7 of the Washington Capitals-Philadelphia Flyers series set a record for a Comcast SportsNet hockey telecast in Baltimore, averaging 40,000 households - 95 percent of which believe the second Flyers goal should have been wiped out by goalie interference.


Even when the game isn't good - or maybe especially when the game isn't good - it's worth watching TNT's halftime to show to hear Charles Barkley. On Wednesday night halfway through the noncompetitive Boston Celtics-Atlanta Hawks game, he said (according to a TNT transcript): "I was actually watching House of Payne. I wasn't watching this game. I'm just waiting for the second game with the Lakers and the Nuggets."

And don't mention that the strained back of the Celtics' Paul Pierce might give Atlanta hope. "If [Pierce] has got a back strain, hamstring, hemorrhoids, migraines, it doesn't matter," Barkley said, "[the Hawks] still can't beat the Celtics."

ESPN Radio has named Scott Van Pelt co-host of Tirico's afternoon show (1 to 3), which now will be known as Tirico & Van Pelt. Van Pelt, a University of Maryland grad, had been serving as one of the three rotating co-hosts along with Herbstreit and Michele Tafoya on Tirico's show. ESPN says Herbstreit and Tafoya "will continue to contribute" to the T&VP; show and will still fill in for either of the regular hosts.

In addition, Van Pelt will fly solo as host of a one-hour show at 3 p.m. (not aired in Baltimore), replacing Stephen A. Smith, who ended his radio program on ESPN's New York affiliate earlier this month. Of course, Van Pelt always could do his Screamin' A. impression.