As great as the Sunday Night Football ratings have been again this season, things are in place for NBC to kill in the ratings this Sunday night (11/11). They couldn't have had a better matchup if they used flex scheduling. It's the 7-1 Chicago Bears vs. the 7-1 Houston Texans. The Chicago market always has high ratings for Bears telecasts, even when the team is not in first place by two games. The Texans are off to an amazing start, even to the point where the sports radio station which airs their games has shown ratings gains this season. (Not easy, considering how many times the four Houston sports talkers hadn't even combined to finish in the top 15!) In addition, with banks and government offices closed on Monday in observance of Veteran's Day, more people than usual in the Eastern time zone will be able to "stay up" for the conclusion of the game. If the game stays close, the ratings battle won't be.
College basketball is upon us. This Friday night (11/9) is when the "Battle on the Midway" will take place, as Syracuse takes on San Diego State aboard the USS Midway Museum Aircraft Carrier at 5 PM PT. Fox Sports Network is distributing the telecast, and has brought in Dick Enberg to call the game, along with Steve Kerr as analyst.
Meanwhile, a poor media reflection by Bobby Hebert, the former New Orleans Saints QB. Hebert, now a host on WWL New Orleans, was escorted out of the LSU press box last Saturday during the team's loss to Alabama due to "cheering" in the working media environment. It was at least the second time this (an ejection) has happened to Hebert, with this time happening when a record number of media credentials were issued for the game.
After years of coaching against each other in the NBC, the Van Gundy brothers are now both serving as analysts. Stan Van Gundy, most recently the head coach at Orlando, has joined NBC Sports Network and Radio as its NBA analyst. He is expected to debut on the NBC Sports Network telecast of Georgetown vs. Florida on Friday. Van Gundy will co-host a one hour NBA specific show on NBC Sports Radio. Actually, the bigger news is that Georgetown vs. Florida gives NBC Sports Network a rare live telecast with two prominent teams, since there is no NHL action. This is an improvement over the North Podunk State vs. Generic Southern (or so it seems) telecasts they have shown and have scheduled.
CINCINNATI: It's actually not a CBS station which is bringing the CBS Sports Radio Network to town starting at the first of the year. WMOJ-FM 100.3, which just dropped its music format in favor of holiday tunes, has announced it will carry the CBS lineup starting in January. Early indications are that the station will rely on the Network morning show since a co-host is Boomer Esiason, who played in Cincinnati during his most successful seasons. This will be an interesting test to see if people really do want sports radio on FM, since it will be a start-up. At the moment, WCKY ESPN 1530 and Fox Sports WSAI 1360 go up against the play-by-play and part-time sports talk on powerhouse WLW 700. So it's not as though either of those stations is starting a simulcast (at least not yet!) to promote and switch fans over to the FM dial for sports. For now. We'll see if either of those stations seeks an FM outlet or lets it ride to see what happens with 100.3 first.
Reds announcer Thom Brennaman gets a "home game" this Sunday (11/11) when he calls the Bengals game in Cincinnati against the N.Y. Giants. This is a rare opportunity for Brennaman, since Fox only gets one or two local telecasts when NFC teams come in, to not have to travel to call his game for Fox Sports. However, as of press time, the game had not sold out, leaving open the realistic possibility that Cincinnati fans will not get to see the game with his call. As usual, "coach" Brian Billick will serve as analyst.
DALLAS: The Texas Rangers are keeping their broadcast teams in tact for the 2013 season. Eric Nadel returns for his 35th season of broadcasting the Rangers, and will be joined again by Matt Hicks on ESPN 103.3, with Hicks returning for what will be his first "full" season. Steve Busby, a part of the team's radio and TV coverage for more than 25 seasons, will again work with Tom Grieve on the TV side in what will be Grieve's 19th season in the TV booth.
HOUSTON: The Rockets' season is now well underway, but many viewers are not able to see the telecasts on the new regional Comcast SportsNet. Three of the national services (A.T.&T, DirecTV, Dish Network) still are not offering the games or the channel to viewers, even though they carry other CSN regional networks elsewhere around the country. If the Rockets continue with a good start (2-1 at press time), it could make a difference in getting deals done. The Network also will have the Astros, but coming off a horrible season and switching over to the less familiar American League doesn't exactly create urgency for fans to demand those games. Some blame the teams and network, while others blame the carriers for this not happening yet. I blame both. Put the monthly price out there and let the fans decide whether or not it is worth it. The end user should have those choices.
CHICAGO: Comcast SportsNet Chicago is adding a lot more college hoops than it usually airs, most likely due to not having Blackhawks and NHL telecasts. The Network now has a 56 game schedule including DePaul, Loyola, Illinois Chicago, Illinois State, Bradley, and Southern Illinois University games. If and when the NHL returns, the Network would move conflicting telecasts to tape delay.
WMVP ESPN 1000 will air 19 of the The University of Illinois Chicago games this season. Dave Juday will now handle the play-by-play with Kenny Williams (the former Flame standout, not the White Sox baseball executive) as analyst.
LOS ANGELES: The power of Blake Griffin has come full force in the early going of the NBA season. The team he plays for has gone from being the "hapless" Clippers to the "Los Angeles Clippers". In a media miracle, the Clippers are being showcased on national TV (TNT, ESPN, NBA-TV) more often than the Lakers during this first month. If the current national telecast schedule holds for the regular season, the Clippers would have more total appearances than the Lakers.
PITTSBURGH: KDKA-FM 93.7 The Fan has named Ryan Maguire as its new Program Director, bringing him to Pittsburgh from KCSP Kansas City. Our congrats to the 35-year old Maguire, who began at WTKA Ann Arbor.
FINALLY: Of course, the saddest story in sports media this week is the sudden passing of Jim Durham, who spent the past few years as the voice of the NBA on ESPN Radio. So many great things have been, understandably, written and said about him this week, both as a person and as a broadcaster. All I can do is agree with them. He got his big break when he was in his late 20's and doing Chicago Bulls radio. When I first started covering NBA games in the early 70's, Durham was one of the first broadcasters I encountered. I was delighted to see that he didn't let his lofty postion get in his way. It showed in his personality, and his ability to provide accurate and exciting descriptions of every game. He was just on the air last week calling the Miami vs. Boston opener, starting his 40th season of calling NBA games. But he is already missed tremendously.