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NASCAR avoids crash

It's a solid second in national ratings

Boston's parochial viewing habits are well-established. Here in the nation's fifth-largest TV market, the sports fan tunes to Red Sox and Patriots games, giving both franchises regional ratings numbers that are the envy of most other cities.

Nationally, the picture is a little different, especially when you're talking regular-season games.

Football, of course, is No. 1 with NFL games on ABC, CBS, and Fox averaging a 10.5 rating for the 2003 season.

What do you like for No. 2? Major League Baseball? The NBA? Golf?

Try NASCAR. The exhaust circuit averaged a 5.8 national rating on Fox last year and a 4.6 on NBC, when most races air against pro football. That averages to a 5.2 for the two networks.

"NASCAR continues to be an amazing television phenomenon," said Fox Sports president Ed Goren. "It's clearly the strongest, most consistent televised sport in both ratings and demographics from February through June. NASCAR's ability to withstand obstacles that have clearly siphoned viewers from many spring sports events is an outstanding accomplishment."

Meanwhile, baseball did a 2.7 for its Saturday afternoon package on Fox last season. The NBA? A 2.4 rating on ABC. The NHL? A 1.1 on ABC. Golf, including the majors, did a 3.1.

High numbers

The usual Boston trends held over the weekend, as the Red Sox and Patriots posted impressive ratings. Sunday's Patriots-Cardinals telecast did a 29.6 rating (55 share), an 11 percent increase over the team's second game last season. Saturday's Fox telecast of Sox-Yankees did a 15.5 rating and 32 share, the best for a Fox regular-season Saturday Game of the Week in Boston since (what else?) Sox-Yankees did a 13.5 (28 share) last Aug. 30. Friday's Sox-Yankees telecast did a 17.5 rating (32 share), the highest for a Channel 4/38 game in the two seasons they've held the rights to the Friday night package. Ed Goldman, vice president and general manager of the two Boston Viacom stations, said, "The quarter-hours were on track to be the highest-rated game of the season before the rain delay. With Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina on track to go head-to-head Friday, that might be the highest-rated Sox game of the year." ESPN's July 25 Sunday night Sox-Yankees game currently holds that distinction with an 18.8 rating.

Step up to the mike
Ken McGlothin of Hyde Park, winner of the Sam Adams "Announcer for an Inning" competition, will do play-by-play of the third inning of tonight's Red Sox-Orioles game (NESN, 7 p.m.). He was a finalist a year ago, and clearly raised the bar this year, edging John Leahy in the voting by a panel of Boston media judges in last Thursday's finals. McGlothin has a degree in communications (Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.), but instead of working behind the microphone, he is an executive with Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation and works functions as a DJ for Music Express. "I'm planning to focus on the play-by-play and hope to hand off smoothly to Jerry Remy," he said. "My dad Charlie is coming to the game with me, and he's as excited about this as I am." McGlothin will do an interview to air on the pregame show, then tour the NESN studios before the game. "If it opens a door in the broadcast business, that will be a bonus," he said . . . The Patriots are on their bye week, but there is plenty of football this weekend. Saturday, Boston College-Wake Forest gets a noon TV start on ESPN2. Fox has the NFL doubleheader on Sunday and will send this area Eagles-Lions (Channel 25, 1 p.m.) followed by Packers-Colts (Channel 25, 4:15 p.m.). CBS sends Browns-Giants our way (Channel 4, 1 p.m.). All three games are scheduled to be available in HD . . . "Sportsplus" on NESN (tomorrow and Thursday at 11:30 p.m., following the new "Sports Desk") will feature the Globe's Bob Ryan and Nick Cafardo along with Bobby Orr, who will talk about the next hockey game to be played in the FleetCenter -- the fifth Celebrity Hat Trick to benefit the Leary Firefighters Foundation. The game is a week from Sunday (Oct. 3) at 3 p.m. The foundation has distributed more than $3 million to the Worcester Fire Department and the Fire Department of New York. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster . . . Sox radio voice Joe Castiglione was on the set Sunday morning when his son Duke, host of "Sports at the Round Table with Duke Castiglione" on New York's Channel 2, had Sox GM Theo Epstein and Yankee GM Brian Cashman together for a segment. Next week, Joe and Yankees radio broadcaster Charlie Steiner are scheduled to do the show. No mustard commercials, please.

A baseball trade
Harold Reynolds of ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" goes "undercover" at Fenway Park tomorrow night, switching places with Sox clubhouse attendant Edward "Pookie" Jackson and ballgirl/Fenway ambassador Kelly Barons. His escapades will air on "Baseball Tonight" at 10 p.m. tomorrow from Fenway while Jackson and Barons will join Karl Ravech and Peter Gammons on the set in Bristol, Conn. A goofy idea? Perhaps. But Reynolds has the people skills to make it work . . . Outdoor Life Network has the Gravity Games nightly tonight through Saturday at 8:30 . . . HBO is airing the Roy Jones Jr.-Glen Johnson light heavyweight bout Saturday at 10:15 p.m. from Memphis. The bout marks the network's switch to covering boxing in high-definition (available on HBO HD). HBO will rebroadcast last Saturday's Bernard Hopkins-Oscar De La Hoya fight as part of the card. That fight, which aired in standard definition, was taped in HD and will re-air in that format as well.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is

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