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The following lists the top 20 "Recreational Sports Videos" of '97, in terms of sales (BILLBOARD, 1/10 issue). NO. TITLE NO. TITLE 1) MJ: Above & Beyond 11) MLB: Super Sluggers 2) TWIB: Plays & Bloopers 12) '96 NBA Finals 3) MJ: Air Time 13) MJ: Ultimate Collection 4) '96 World Series 14) Ult. Fighting Champ. IV 5) MJ: Come Fly With Me 15) M. Ali: The Whole Story 6) NBA At 50 16) Packers: Super Bowl XXXI 7) Mike Tyson: Inside Story 17) MLB: Pinstripe Destiny 8) T. Woods: Son, Hero & Champ. 18) Dream Team '96 9) Cowboys: Super Bowl XXX 19) Dorf Goes Fishing 10) MJ's Playground 20) '96-97 NBA Championship
RADIO: Jeff Torborg "has emerged as a leading candidate" to replace Mike Flanagan as lead analyst on HTS Orioles TV broadcasts this season. Torborg, who works as an analyst for Fox MLB broadcasts, would "miss virtually all weekend games" from June through the end of the season, which "might be a major stumbling block to his candidacy" (Milton Kent, Baltimore SUN, 1/8)....Former Astros C Alan Ashby was named the radio analyst for Astros road games, and will host a post-game show after home games (Astros). NETWORKS: In L.A., Larry Stewart reviewed Fox Sports Net's new show, "The Last Word," with Jim Rome and Wallace Matthews. Stewart: "The first word on 'The Last Word' is potential. If you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a TV show after one episode. But after the debut of 'The Last Word' Monday night, the initial reaction is that the foundation is there, but the show needs work" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7)....ESPN's '97 college football ratings showed a 22-28% improvement over '96 among male viewers in the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 categories. Overall, ESPN's college football ratings increased 6% from 2.23 in '96 to 2.37 in '97, with an 11% increase in viewership, from 1.556 million to 1.725 million households. ESPN's "College GameDay" was up 25%, from a 1.2 to a 1.5 (ESPN). NOTES: CNBC's Tyler Mathison reported that the March launch of ESPN Magazine "is expected to cost" $75M ("Business Center," 1/7)....Raycom Sports and Sunbelt Video will syndicate "Think Fast," a NASCAR-endorsed weekly show available in September. The 30-minute show, hosted by NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, will teach children problem solving and science based on NASCAR technology (Raycom).