WASHINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of Washington Redskins fans could miss the opening of their team's 4:15 p.m. game tomorrow because the local CBS affiliate must televise the earlier-starting Ravens game in its entirety if the game remains close.
It is an unusual scenario - the Ravens potentially pre-empting the larger-market Redskins on their own turf - that has Redskins fans aghast.
"Can you believe it?" one Redskins fan wrote on EXTREMESKINS.com, a team-owned chat board. Another fan wrote, "The Ravens need to lose early and fast."
WUSA, Washington's CBS affiliate, says it knows what will happen if Redskins fans tune in for the kickoff against the Cleveland Browns and instead find the end of the Ravens at Miami Dolphins game, which starts at 1 p.m and is available in Baltimore on WJZ.
"They'll go nuts," said Allan Horlick, WUSA's general manager.
But WUSA says it is bound by NFL rules. And the league isn't budging.
A team's principal market must televise every game except home contests that don't sell out. Teams also have secondary markets that generally show their away games. Washington is a Ravens secondary market, as Baltimore is for the Redskins.
Sunday is one of those rare days in which WUSA's principal and secondary teams are playing on the same network back-to-back.
The average NFL game this season lasts 3 hours, 3 minutes, so the station should be able to accommodate both teams' games. But games sometimes run long. Four of the five Ravens games this season have been finished in 3:09 or less, but the Sept. 29 overtime loss in Pittsburgh took 3:36.
The NFL says it wouldn't be fair to Ravens fans watching WUSA to cut away from their game. "We're certainly going to be following it closely, and if the outcome is not certain, we'll remain with the Ravens," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "We have an obligation to the fans who have watched for 3 hours and 15 minutes."
Horlick said he proposed to the NFL that any Ravens-game spillover be switched to one of its secondary digital channels, but the league refused. "We recognize there are Ravens fans living in the Redskins markets," Horlick said. "But there are, what,100 Redskins fans for every Ravens fan? 500?"
Ravens president Dick Cass declined to comment, and Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson wasn't immediately available.
Said the NFL's McCarthy: "We hope that this is a competitive game that will get done about 4:14. We're trying to do the best thing for all of our fans."
Tomorrow, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Miami by 3