Not watching Ravens? Maybe dancing tickles your fancy

The Baltimore Sun

Nervously typing out this week's sports media notes while hoping that soon the leaves will be falling faster than the Dow:

* Monday night's Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game didn't hit the heights nationally in the ratings that the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles did this season. Ravens-Steelers got 8.8 percent of the national audience, about 8.6 million homes, compared with the 13.3/13 million for Cowboys-Eagles. (Then again, the latter game did set a record for biggest cable television audience.)

Locally, the combined viewing added up to a 34.8 rating - 22.4 on WJZ/Channel 13 and 12.4 on ESPN. In Pittsburgh, the numbers were even higher, with a 48.1 total (34.4 on the ABC affiliate and 13.7 on ESPN).

The Pittsburgh rating is still more impressive considering that all those people at Heinz Field couldn't be counted among the TV audience.

* So what were folks watching instead of the Ravens on Monday? Some apparently prefer to see football players stepping across a dance floor rather than doing their gyrations on a field.

Dancing with the Stars (featuring former defensive lineman Warren Sapp) got a 9.8 on WMAR/Channel 2. It aired from 8 to 10 p.m., covering the first 90 minutes of the game broadcast. The next-most-popular program while the Ravens played was Life on WBAL/Channel 11, with a 7.5. Life, of course, features celebrities competing against each other in the popular board game of the same name. (OK, no, it doesn't, but if someone programs that as a show, I had better get a check.)

Perhaps you're curious what programming besides football drew the most Pittsburghers during the game. Even if you're not, it was CBS' Two and a Half Men, with an 8.8. Isn't the kid on that show 35 by now? (No Dancing in Pittsburgh, by the way, because the game was on an ABC affiliate.)

* Ian Eagle will be calling Sunday's Ravens-Tennessee Titans game for CBS, and he's always accommodating with offering his thoughts heading into the weekend.

"Usually, with rookie QBs, you'll see a glazed look in their eye - but I haven't noticed that with Joe Flacco," Eagle said via e-mail. "So far, he's been composed and mentally tough, mistakes don't seem to faze him and he is able to play through them. Right now, the Ravens' philosophy is run the ball and rely on their defense and kicking game, but gradually they are going to allow Flacco to use that strong arm and take some shots down the field. The Titans' defense may be the most complete unit in the NFL, and Flacco is going to see some things Sunday that he hasn't seen yet in his first three games as a pro."

Mmmm, glazed, like doughnuts. Just like Ron Jaworski last week. What is it with these guys trying to make me hungry when they talk about the Ravens?

* Cal Ripken Jr.'s strategy for handling Manny Ramirez: Walk him, but don't let him know you're going to walk him. According to highlights provided by the network, here's what the Orioles Hall of Famer said about the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger on TBS on Wednesday:

"I think from a team strategy ... if you're facing Manny you say: 'Manny will not beat us. I don't care if we walk him every single time up. Let's make somebody else beat us.' I think by not putting up the four [intentional walk sign] and walking him, you kind of get in his head a little bit. You want him to expand the strike zone a little bit, you want him to want to play the game and want to hit. I have no problem with pitching around him every time up."

* ESPN has replaced Barry Melrose, who has taken his mullet back to coaching, with Matthew Barnaby as NHL studio analyst. Barnaby played 15 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Buffalo Sabres. Advice to SportsCenter anchors: Watch what you say. Barnaby accumulated more than 2,500 penalty minutes in his career.

* NBC's first week of flexible scheduling for Sunday Night Football kicks in Nov. 16, but the network has the Cowboys-Washington Redskins tentatively set, so that seems unlikely to change.

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