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Volume 24 No. 117

Sports Media

          The following lists final ratings from selected events     from the past weekend.  All times are EDT.  Numbers are from     the networks.  CBS's ratings were unavailable (THE DAILY).
Road to the Visa Triple Crown
European Gymnastics
"NBA on NBC": Pacers-Knicks
"NBA on NBC": Jazz-Spurs
Indy 500 Time Trials
CART: Rio 400
"NBA on NBC": Pacers-Knicks
"NBA on NBC": Sonics-Lakers
"NBA on NBC": Bulls-Hornets

RATINGS NOTES: Through 14 games of the NBA Playoffs, NBC's average rating of 6.0/17 is down 2% from last year's 6.1/17....Through the first three weeks of the NHL Playoffs, Fox's 1.8/5 is down 10% from last year's 2.0/5 (THE DAILY). ...In L.A., Larry Stewart reports that KCAL received a 16.1/22 for the Lakers-Sonics Game Five, compared to TNT's 3.5/5 local rating. That equals 2.4 million viewers on KCAL and 525,000 on TNT. Stewart notes that the preceding Jazz- Spurs game on TNT got a 4.0, "so L.A. viewers made a conscious effort to switch. This tells us that L.A. must love [Lakers broadcasters] Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz" (L.A. TIMES, 5/15). In related news, Tom Hoffarth reports that the WNBA Sparks "could have" Hearn for six telecasts on Fox Sports West. Details haven't been finalized (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/15)....Fox Sports Midwest's coverage of Game Three of the Blues-Red Wings series drew an 8.5 rating, the highest rating for any event in FSMW history. An average of 94,000 viewers watched the entire game (FSM)....In Toronto, Rob Longley reports that TSN's first round coverage of the NHL Playoffs was down 25% while CBC's ratings were down "slightly" from last year. CBC featured the Oilers and Senators, the "upstart Canadian teams," while TSN had Flyers-Sabres and Penguins-Canadiens, "matchups that looked good on paper, but fizzled" (TORONTO SUN, 5/15).

          Former CBS golf analyst Ben Wright has admitted that he
     made disparaging remarks about lesbianism on the LPGA Tour,
     and said he was "stupid, naive and weak" for following CBS's
     advice in the incident's aftermath, according to Jaime Diaz
     in SI's "Golf Plus" section.  Wright: "I was so bloody
     stupid; stupid, naive and weak.  A day doesn't go by that I
     don't regret how I reacted."  Wright "admits to suffering
     from bouts of deep depression and a lingering sense of
     shame" resulting from the three-year-old incident, which
     resulted in his suspension from CBS.  After telling
     Wilmington News-Journal reporter Valerie Helmbreck, who was
     covering the '95 LPGA Championship in May of '95, that,
     "among other things, 'lesbians in the sport hurt women's
     golf,'" Wright was "summoned" to CBS's offices in New York,
     where he says the net's lawyers and execs "hammered out a
     cynical damage-control strategy in which Wright was to deny
     having made the statement and to discredit Helmbreck." 
     Wright, on his on-air denial of the statements: "Those were
     not my words; they were written to reflect the strategy of
     the network.  The most stupid thing I did was remain silent. 
     I should have come out and said, 'Hey, I said all these dumb
     things, and they were wrong.'  I think people would have
     forgiven me for that" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/18 issue). 
          CBS RECALLS DIFFERENTLY: While CBS had no comment on
     Wright's statements in SI, Diaz points out that much of its
     hierarchy has changed since the incident.  However, Douglas
     Jacobs, who was CBS's General Counsel at the time, said
     Wright's description of the events surrounding the incident
     "is completely untrue."  Helmbreck, whom Wright recently
     called to apologize, said she "never imagined CBS would go
     to those lengths to destroy me. ... I was shocked by the CBS
     strategy, especially saying that they had done a thorough
     investigation even though they had never even talked to me." 
     Helmbreck left the newspaper in January '97.  Wright, who is
     under contract with CBS at $400,000 a year through November
     '99, said that he "wants another shot" at doing TV work
     (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/18 issue).  CBS Dir of Communications
     LeslieAnne Wade, on Wright's comments: "Ben Wright's version
     of the truth is as distorted as it was in 1995."  David
     Kenin, who was CBS Sports President at the time of the
     incident: "We never told (Wright) to lie or alter any truth. 
     When we found out he had not told the truth, we had to act
     on that" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/15). 
          REAX: In Chicago, Michael Hirsley writes that Wright
     has "put the network and himself under scrutiny."  Hirsley:
     "If substantiated, his charge's impact would reach to
     executive-level positions. ... If his accusation is not
     substantiated, Wright has surely jeopardized his professed
     desire to work on TV again" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15)....In
     Fort Lauderdale, Michael Mayo, under the header "Wright's
     Cover-Up Charges Taint CBS," writes that the "only redeeming
     thing" for CBS is that "most" of the department's top execs
     have left since the incident (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/15).

          DA DA DA: ESPN's Chris Berman, Dan Patrick and Bob Ley
     will host the 90-minute, 20,000th edition of "SportsCenter,"
     Sunday at 11:00pm ET (THE DAILY).  In Hartford, Dom Amore
     writes that the 20,000th show "smacks of self-congratulatory
     journalism," but "we must cut 'SportsCenter' some slack,
     even as ESPN's hype machine grinds into overdrive.  The Big
     Show is that big, that good, and we owe it that much"
     (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/15).  In St. Petersburg, Ernest Hooper
     writes that life without "SportsCenter" "is almost
     unimaginable" (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/15).  The AP's Josh Dubow
     notes that ratings for "SportsCenter" are down 17% for the
     first quarter of '98, which can be "partially attributed" to
     competition from FSN and CNN (AP/DETROIT NEWS, 5/15).  
          NOTES: Turner Sports has reached an agreement with NBC
     Sports to televise cable-exclusive early round coverage of
     The Presidents Cup golf tournaments in 2000, 2002, 2004 and
     2006 (Turner Sports)....ABC will not use the Jockey Cam
     during its Preakness coverage.  ABC Sports Producer Curt
     Gowdy: "The majority of trainers and owners have not
     supported our efforts to use it" (USA TODAY, 5/15)....In
     Chicago, Jim O'Donnell writes that the "[p]ros and cons of a
     major investigative book on the ways and means of Jerry
     Reinsdorf are being discussed by one extremely capable
     Chicago-based writer" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/15)....GOLF
     WORLD reports that The Golf Channel "has decided to slightly
     reduce the responsibilities of its most visible face, Peter
     Kessler," saying that it "hopes to develop other talent and
     ease his heavy workload" (GOLF WORLD, 5/15)....TSN VP/
     Programming Phil King, on why TSN picked up an ESPN feed of
     the U.S. National Spelling Bee Finals: "Is it a sport, no,
     but it is a competition" (TORONTO SUN, 5/15)....SFX
     Entertainment's PACE Motor Sports, an event producer, and
     Petersen Cos. are join to produce auto/motorcycle special
     events plus other co-partnership opportunities (AD AGE,
     5/12)....Univision signed Oscar de la Hoya as its "prime
     communicator to the Hispanic community," and he will appear
     in Univision programming, promos and PSAs (VARIETY, 5/11). 

          Sports Illustrated's recent cover story on pro athletes
     fathering out-of-wedlock children was the subject of an op-
     ed by NY-based writer Barbara Walder in NEWSDAY.  Walder
     wrote that the "behavior of the SI editors who published the
     article, and editorial writers at The New York Times and
     elsewhere who praised it ... should be in question, not the
     private behavior of the athletes."  Walder called the story
     "shoddy, exploitative and in some ways, ridiculous" and
     "written in a combination National Enquirer, Ladies' Home
     Journal and Harvard Lampoon style."  She called the story a
     "cheap, easy way to make news and to seem important." 
     Walder: "But all that phony high-mindedness is just an
     excuse to take the low road, examining the sex and personal
     lives of some professional athletes in a way those editors 
     -- if it was done to them -- would surely see as unfair,
     racially insensitive and dishonest. ... Is this any of our
     business?"  Walder concluded by noting that "almost all" of
     the athletes "financially support their out-of-wedlock
     children."  Walder: "It's easy to take shots at pro
     athletes.  But it's sports journalism like this SI story
     that should be in everyone's sights" (NEWSDAY, 5/14).