Big Ten blitz

Spilling out the weekly sports media notes, then quickly trying to sop them up before they permanently stain the carpet:

If you are ... Penn State, good news: Comcast's recent deal with the Big Ten Network means you can catch the Nittany Lions and the other conference programming on your cable system starting with the football season. Comcast said the Big Ten Network will be available to Baltimore-area customers starting in mid-August as part of the Sports and Entertainment package, a digital-level extra that includes the NFL Network.


As it did for the previous Orioles-Washington Nationals series, MASN will combine its announcing teams during game telecasts tonight through Sunday. Orioles analyst Buck Martinez teams with the Nats' Don Sutton, and MASN will split play-by-play evenly between Jim Hunter and Bob Carpenter. Orioles sideline reporter Amber Theoharis and Nationals counterpart Debbi Taylor apparently couldn't work out a deal, so both have to work.

For comparison's sake and for what it's worth, the Orioles' three games on MASN Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday drew ratings of, respectively, 3.7, 5.1 and 3.7. On approximately the same dates last year, four games on June 21 through 24, against the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, the telecasts had ratings of 3.2, 4.6, 3.2 and 1.8. (It should be noted that last year's games included a weekday afternoon and two 9:30 p.m. starts. Ratings provided by WBAL.)


Starting Monday through the end of the tournament next Sunday, Comcast SportsNet will air Tee Time at the AT&T; National from Congressional Country Club, site of the Tiger Woods-hosted PGA event. The half-hour show's hosts are Chick Hernandez and Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.

Williams, a member at Congressional, will be telling fans to watch where they're walking because they're killing the grass. And if he happens to spot a golfer taller than 6 feet 5, maybe he'll offer him a scholarship.

The NFL Network reportedly will name Bob Papa as play-by-play man to replace Bryant Gumbel on its Thursday night games. Three people familiar with the process told Newsday Papa is the man, though it hasn't been announced. Papa is the radio voice of the New York Giants. He also is known, of course, as the host of a program from New York's Museum of Modern Art, called - get the rim shot ready - MoMA and Papa.

NBC's Wimbledon coverage begins at noon tomorrow (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4). Analyst Mary Carillo said to always keep your eyes on the Williams sisters.

"Venus is clearly the best grass-court player of her generation, and right behind her is Serena," Carillo said yesterday, according to highlights of a conference call. "Those two have absolutely dominated this tennis tournament. I say it all the time: Jocks win Wimbledon, and those are clearly two of the best athletes in the game. They can make the adjustments. They can play physical tennis. They can think on the move."

John McEnroe goes with Roger Federer to win again.

"I still pick Federer," McEnroe said. "I'd be surprised if anyone else could beat Roger besides Rafa [Rafael Nadal]. All you have to do is see what has happened in the last 24 hours to make you realize and appreciate how great a run Roger has had, how consistent he's been."

No running on the pool deck. NBC and USA Network will have coverage of the Olympic swimming trials from Omaha, Neb. - featuring Baltimore's gifts to the chlorine set, Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff - starting Sunday on NBC, Monday through Thursday on USA, then back to NBC next Friday through July 6. Each hourlong program starts at 8 p.m., except the last Sunday, which airs an hour earlier and runs two hours. Bob Costas, Dan Hicks, Andrea Kremer and the man with one of the all-time great sports names, Rowdy Gaines, handle the announcing duties.


Sunday's Outside the Lines on ESPN (9:30 a.m.) looks at the impact of a slow economy and high fuel prices on NASCAR. One team owner warns that six teams could be in danger of folding if they don't get infusions of cash from sponsors.

Fox's Joe Buck appeared on David Letterman's show Monday night. His best lines came during a discussion of how Viagra reportedly is being used like steroids and human growth hormone as a performance-enhancing drug by athletes. The upside of this trend, Buck said, "is that they should be easy to spot." He also noted that use of the drug could cut down on headfirst slides.

Speaking of late-night appearances, the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce made his entrance on Jimmy Kimmel's show this week in a wheelchair, spoofing his dramatic playoffs injury and return.