Ryder Cup to runneth over with pressure-packed moments

The Baltimore Sun

Withdrawing sports media notes while wondering why my bank is now charging for those lollipops it keeps by the tellers' windows:

* Cue up the David Bowie/Queen "Under Pressure," because that's what everyone talks about for this weekend's Ryder Cup. (The pressure, that is, not Bowie or Queen.) Between ESPN and NBC, 26 hours of the U.S.-Europe biennial golf event will be televised (today, 8 a.m., ESPN; tomorrow, 8 a.m.; and Sunday, noon, WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4).

"The pressure is amazing at the Ryder Cup - higher than any other event in all of golf," NBC's Johnny Miller said, according to highlights of a conference call this week.

Miller said the Europeans, three-time defending holders of the cup, still have to be the favorites.

"The Europeans are more aggressive, and they tend to have more camaraderie," he said. "They come out on Friday like they are in the third or fourth round of a tournament. In other words, they come out on Friday just smoking. If the U.S. wants to win, somehow [U.S. captain Paul] Azinger has got to get the U.S. around level with them scorewise by Friday afternoon."

Still, Miller predicts an American victory.

"Without Tiger [Woods] there, it surely isn't going to be easy, but if you're a gambler, a statistician could say, 'How can Europe keep making all these putts?' It's time, really, for the U.S. If you were just a betting man, the odds are the putting is going to flip-flop in the U.S.'s direction."

So that's one way to push golf in the midst of football season - stress the betting aspect.

* Cal Ripken Jr. returns to the TBS studio next month for its coverage of baseball's Division Series and the American League Championship Series. And the good news is Frank Thomas isn't coming back.

The invaluable Ernie Johnson is back to host the studio show, along with Dennis Eckersley and the Detroit Tigers' Curtis Granderson. Too bad for Tigers fans that they aren't in the playoffs, but Granderson fits in well in the broadcast.

The play-by-play roster includes Brian Anderson (Milwaukee Brewers), Chip Caray, Don Orsillo (Boston Red Sox) and Dick Stockton, and the analysts include MASN's Buck Martinez along with Ron Darling, Tony Gwynn, Harold Reynolds, Joe Simpson and John Smoltz.

Ripken did a nice job during last year's postseason, offering insights and being unafraid to be opinionated. He established an easygoing rapport with his studio cohorts.

* In opening his show on Fox 1370 Sports on Wednesday, talk host Jerry Coleman mentioned as his first news item the surgery on Gilbert Arenas' knee. Certainly, that was one of the day's biggest sports stories. However, would he have led off his show with something about a member of the Washington Wizards if the station hadn't just joined the Wizards' radio network?

When WVIE became a sports talk station, we heard about how its "freedom" derived from not carrying the Orioles or Ravens. It's really about freedom of choice, isn't it?

* A high-five to MASN for increasing next season's high-definition telecasts of baseball. The network will have up to 200 HD games of the Orioles and Washington Nationals, with one every night in 2009. (Maybe the Frager household will have an HD TV by then.) Not that the MASN folks pay much attention to me, but while they are upgrading, I also suggest they launch a nightly sports news show.

* If you were watching Monday night's Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game - and chances are good you were, as it set a cable television viewing record - you might have heard ESPN's Tony Kornheiser apologize for something he said. In case you were wondering what for, it was this: After ESPN played a bit of the Spanish game broadcast, Kornheiser, making fun of his lack of knowledge of the language, said, "I took high school Spanish, and that either means 'Nobody is going to touch him' or 'Could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning?' "

If you want, you could construe that as indulging in the stereotype of Latinos having subservient jobs. However, ESPN said Kornheiser's apology was sufficient and it planned no action. As was pointed out at Salon.com, Fox fired baseball commentator Steve Lyons for something similar - just a small joke that should have passed into the ether. And so should this.

* Navy and CBS Sports have extended their broadcasting deal through the 2017 football season. Starting in 2010, CBS has the rights to the Midshipmen's home games in the Notre Dame series. CBS College Sports Network (the former CSTV) carries some Navy home football games as well as men's basketball, lacrosse and other sports.

* Comcast SportsNet has added former Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington as a commentator. He will appear on some of the network's Redskins programming and on Friday's Washington Post Live.

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