Fox's Sunday lineup a bonanza for Boston
Fox, the network of the National Football Conference, doesn't get to Foxborough very often, but it's making up for lost time this weekend.
If Sunday goes as Fox has planned, the network will be broadcasting from the Boston area starting at noon, when "NFL Sunday" originates from Gillette Stadium with host James Brown and panelists Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmy Johnson.
Fox's Sunday plans include the Patriots, playing in the network's primary NFL game, followed by a League Championship Series doubleheader:
Seahawks-Patriots (Ch. 25, 1 p.m., HD) with Dick Stockton filling in for No. 1 play-by-play guy Joe Buck to work with analysts Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman and reporter Pam Oliver.
NLCS: Game 4. (Ch. 25, 4:30 p.m., HD). Thom Brennaman with analysts Steve Lyons and Bob Brenley.
Yankees-Red Sox: Game 5. (Ch. 25, 8 p.m.) Buck will work with analysts Tim McCarver and Al Leiter, and reporter Chris Myers.
The Sox-Yankees Game 5 originally was set for a 4:30 p.m. first pitch. Concerns over where to send the Boston market if the football game ran long had to be a consideration in flopping the ALCS and NLCS starting times.
One guy happy with the schedule is Fox25 general manager Gregg Kelley. "We generated record ratings with Sox-Yankees a year ago," he said. "And all indications are we'll do even better this year."
In Boston, last year's seven-game ALCS averaged a 40.9 rating and 63 audience share on Fox25. The now-infamous Game 7 did a 52.9 rating and 73 share, peaking at a 56.6 rating twice with an audience share of 81 in the final half hour. The rating is the percentage of TV sets in the market tuned to a show while the share represents the percentage of sets "in use" that are tuned in.
"Yankees-Red Sox is the matchup everyone wanted," said Kelley. "It means the road to the World Series has to go through Boston."
It also may mean that the LCS ratings, at least in these parts, will be higher than those for the Series.
"Let's just say it should be an historic sports day," said Kelley.
Like seeks like
The Patriots privately may wonder what they have to do to break baseball's stranglehold on newspapers and talk radio, but there was only mutual admiration between the teams Sunday.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, appearing with CBS4's Steve Burton on Sunday's "5th Quarter," congratulated the Sox on their division series win, saying he'd been at Friday's game, and that the Kraft and John Henry families were friendly. "You can feel the karma," said Kraft. "There's something special going on. This could be the first town with two championship teams in the same year in the new millennium."
Almost immediately, Ch. 4 switched to Dan Roche with Sox GM Theo Epstein at Fenway Park. Epstein said the reason he agreed to go on the air was to be able to congratulate the Patriots on winning their 19th straight game.
Sunday's Patriots game did a 28.8 rating (61 share) while Friday night's Red Sox-Angels Game 3 did a combined 29.7 rating (20.1 rating/39 share on Ch. 5 and a 9.6 rating/19 share on ESPN).
High on HD
Fox has confirmed it will air both the LCS and World Series in its new 720p (progressive) high definition format, the one in use for NFL telecasts . . . WEEI has taken its hosts on the road and both morning and midday shows will originate from the ESPN Zone in Times Square today and tomorrow. The afternoon "Big Show" and evening "Ted Nation" will be live from Yankee Stadium, with Ted Sarandis on until at least 2 a.m. after Games 1 and 2. Jon Wallach will continue live local broadcasting from Boston until 6 a.m. WEEI also has expanded its pregame show to an hour, with Ellis Burks joining each night as an expert analyst . . . NESN will run Part 1 (tonight) and Part 2 (tomorrow night) of "Red Sox Rewind: The Season" at 6:30, followed by a 7:30 pregame show, and a postgame show with host Tom Caron and analysts Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley (tonight) or Jim Rice (tomorrow) . . . Fox25 also will have pregame shows tonight, tomorrow and Friday at 7:30 p.m. with sports anchor Butch Stearns in New York . . . NECN will go directly to a postgame "Sports LateNight" after the final pitch with Chris Collins and Mike Giardi in New York. FSN, too, will go live with a postgame show, with Greg Dickerson at Yankee Stadium and Gary Tanguay and John Valentin in studio . . . None of those postgame shows is likely to match the 15.5 rating Ch. 5 got for its half-hour Friday night, memorable for Mike Lynch trying to get Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez to interrupt their victory lap to go on air . . . ESPN Classic's "Woodie's World" -- a compilation of Haywood Hale Broun's essays for the CBS Evening News -- looks at the 1967 and 1968 Red Sox, plus the birth of sports talk radio in the form of the "Sports Huddle" (Eddie Andelman, Jim McCarthy, and Mark Witkin) as it kicks off its third season Thursday at 7 p.m. . . . The Globe's "SportsPlus" show Thursday (NESN, 7 p.m.) will feature Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy recapping Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS with Caron as host. The Friday and Saturday night shows, with former Patriot Tim Fox and the Globe's Ron Borges, will look at Sunday's matchup with the Seahawks. With Boston College grad Matt Hasselbeck as Seattle's starting QB, there will be a discussion of BC quarterbacks in the NFL.
On second thought
"NFL Sunday" panelist Johnson on the then-unbeaten Seahawks: "If they stay healthy, their next tough game is against Philadelphia in the playoffs." The Seahawks went on to fall to the Rams, 33-27, Sunday with a trip to Foxborough awaiting them this weekend. Bradshaw rethought his "He's a jerk" comment on Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "This is a live show, and I never should have called him a jerk," said Bradshaw Sunday. "I never have met this man. My point was that silly rules like no white socks, no flip-flops, and feet flat on the floor are no good for grown men. Now, I'm the first one to tell you I love to be disciplined but also to be treated with respect. Now, hats off to Coughlin, he's doing a wonderful job. But down the road, let's see what happens." . . . Aside to CBS: Dick Enberg kept telling us to "listen up" for the audio of some of the big hits in Sunday's Patriots-Dolphins game. It had all the impact of two swizzle sticks being tapped together on a "normal" TV audio system . . . CBS's Dan Dierdorf did nothing Sunday to sully his reputation as a solid analyst. On Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: "He's almost the Mike Martz of the AFC. The Patriots have no offensive tendencies for opponents to key on." . . . Whatever scenic shots of Boston Fox gets this week, it will be hard-pressed to top the blimp shots of Fenway Park, the Charles River, and downtown that ESPN had Friday, and the just-starting-to-turn foliage around Foxborough that CBS enjoyed Sunday . . . You know the Patriots weren't giving CBS sideline reporter Armen Keteyian any inside information on quarterback Tom Brady's bloodied face or the reasons fullback Corey Dillon missed most of the fourth quarter . . . CBS won't have an early game coming in Sunday. Its late game, Steelers-Cowboys (Ch. 4, 4 p.m.), will be called by Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and Bonnie Bernstein . . . BC returns from a week off with a noon game at Pittsburgh Saturday on ESPN2. Pam Ward, Mike Tomczak, and Dave Ryan have the call . . . Northeastern University athletic director Dave O'Brien and football coach Rocky Hager will be on CN8's "Sports Pulse" Thursday. CN8 will air Saturday's NU-Harvard game Saturday at 12:30 p.m. . . . Sean McDonough and Craig James will be calling No. 16 West Virginia at UConn football tomorrow night (ESPN, 7:30) . . . ESPN begins its NBA coverage with a 7:30 a.m. game Thursday from China when the Rockets and Kings play an exhibition in Shanghai. The showcase for Rockets center Yao Ming continues with a midnight ESPN game between the teams Saturday in Beijing. Mike Breen and Bill Walton call the games.