Cowboys don't have market cornered in dealing with a little drama

The Baltimore Sun

Wrapping up some sports media notes while reminding you it's not the size of the present that matters, it's how much it costs:

* Not only has the NFL bestowed the honor upon the Ravens to play in what is most likely the Dallas Cowboys' final game at Texas Stadium, but the league also made tomorrow night's game an NFL Network telecast (carried locally on WBAL/Channel 11). And, as if that weren't enough, the analyst pair for the game will include Deion Sanders.

Regular NFL Network game analyst Cris Collinsworth can't call the game because he needs to be in New York for his NBC duties Sunday, so Sanders and Marshall Faulk - the regular studio analysts - join play-by-play man Bob Papa.

When the announcing team held a conference call this week, Topic No. 1 was the Terrell Owens-Tony Romo-Jason Witten drama. Whatever actually happened in the Cowboys' locker room last week, it didn't hurt the team in Sunday night's victory over the New York Giants, so could it be that the media focus on conflict and supposed distractions is largely irrelevant out on the field?

Sanders said: "Let the truth be told: Each and every player inside the locker room is dealing with some type of injury, some type of pain, some type of personal drama, situation, whether it's the friend, the family, the girlfriend, the wife, the significant other; everyone is dealing with something. So we are used to competing and playing with drama in our lives.

"So I think really the media focuses more so on the dramatic than anything and highlight it, but guys are accustomed and acclimated to it."

* The Ravens, on the other hand, don't really have drama, and that comes from coach John Harbaugh.

Faulk said: "Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] and [owner Steve] Bisciotti, they have brought in a young head coach in John Harbaugh, and they have obviously given him the power to basically do as he wants to as a coach with that team.

"It's funny, whenever you're on a team and the team is bad and you get a new head coach, that head coach comes in and his power supersedes, say, a Ray Lewis. Ray has say-so, but John Harbaugh, because of how bad they were, comes in and has more say-so, and there's a trickle-down effect to players. ... Players look at that new coach and say, 'OK, well, I have to make sure I do my job now.' ... The players in general just start to play better because they understand: It's only a matter of time before that finger is pointed at you and that you're gone.

"So this team, guys have shut up; they have stepped up and they have elevated their play."

* The NFL Network goes almost all-Cowboys tomorrow from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., when game-related programming begins. (There is a break from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) The shows include America's Game episodes on Dallas' five Super Bowl champions and a profile of former coach Barry Switzer.

* Local ratings for Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game put Pittsburgh and Baltimore in first and third, respectively, in the NFL for the weekend. In Pittsburgh, 48.1 percent of the audience watched the game. In Baltimore, the number was 35.7. And while the share in Baltimore - measuring the percentage of homes watching among households where television was in use - was an impressive 56, it was 70 in Pittsburgh. Less than a third of homes in Pittsburgh turned on their TVs to watch something other than the Steelers.

* HBO's Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football debuted this week. As with every HBO sports documentary, it is worthwhile viewing. (The show is being replayed several times, including 11 a.m. tomorrow, and is available via On Demand.)

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