While ESPN's "SportsCenter" airs highlights every
night, the producers and hosts of the show "are concerned
about the effect on their audience -- particularly younger
viewers -- of replays showing professional athletes
celebrating victories by making throat-slitting gestures or
choke signs," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON
POST. ESPN's Dan Patrick, during a panel discussion
sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates, on whether athletes
are becoming more demonstrative to get on "SportsCenter":
"We are guilty of showing gratuitous celebration, and I'm
sure it leads to high school kids wanting to do it, too.
The whole thing of slitting your throat, that's
embarrassing, and we shouldn't do that. ... If there's an
honest, spontaneous celebration, great." ESPN's Chris
Berman: "I hate that. I don't know if that's our problem.
If it is, we need to do something about it. To me, that's
an NBA thing. It's one of the reasons I don't watch it very
much." ESPN Exec Editor John Walsh said that there "is
increasing pressure" to include more sports on the show, but
that the "obligation [is] to show to a large audience the
sports that are most popular. We have people from leagues
petitioning us all the time for more coverage. That's one
of the big changes in the last five or six years. We give a
lot more time now to auto racing and golf because the
interest is there" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
MORE ON HIGHLIGHTS: USA TODAY's "In Focus" section
examined the culture of sports news networks. FSN Exec
Producer John Terenzio: "Hockey fights, car crashes,
backboard-shattering dunks -- we show them all and make no
bones about it. There's viewer interest, and we're not
ashamed of it." ESPN News Dir Vince Doria said that the
"top priority in highlights is their relevance" to a game
story, "but there's room for interesting video -- and a
backboard breaking is interesting video" (USA TODAY, 5/20).
In Baltimore, Milton Kent: "So all that talk out of last
November's ESPN town meeting on sportsmanship must have been
just that -- talk. How else does one explain the judgement
of 'SportsCenter' producers to lead yesterday's overnight
show with the Orioles-Yankees melee over NBA and NHL playoff
highlights and a three-homer performance from
St. Louis' Mark McGwire?" (Baltimore SUN, 5/21).
The Canadiens and Canadian junior hockey each "wrapped
up significant" TV deals yesterday, but the Maple Leafs'
regional TV picture "isn't cleared up yet," according to
Lance Hornby of the TORONTO SUN. The Canadiens agreed to a
four-year deal with TSN to carry a minimum of 20 games a
season, marking the Habs' first appearance on an English
language network in midweek since '75-76. CTV Sports Net
(CTVSN) and the Canadian Hockey League agreed to a four-year
deal to show a minimum of 65 games per season. Hornby
reports that both TSN and CTVSN "continue their battle" to
control the regional midweek Leafs package." A decision "is
said to be about 10 days away" (TORONTO SUN, 5/21). In
Montreal, Pat Hickey writes that the Canadiens deal allows
TSN "to maintain a presence in the NHL," after being outbid
for the national package by CTVSN (GAZETTE, 5/21). CTVSN
was expected to announce that it had added the Expos to its
program lineup yesterday, but CTV VP Doug Beeforth said that
the deal "hasn't been signed yet" (FINANCIAL POST, 5/21).
PERSONALITIES: In Toronto, veteran Canadian announcer
Don Chevrier ranked the best hockey "play-callers," and
named Fox's Mike Emrick "in a class by himself," with ESPN's
Gary Thorne at No. 2 and Rangers play-by-play man Sam Rosen
third (William Houston, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/21).
...Flyers G Ron Hextall will work as a studio analyst for
ESPN2's "NHL 2Night" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/21)....A
cable outage in parts of Utah cut Insight Cable's service 20
minutes into the Lakers-Jazz Game Two (DESERET NEWS, 5/20).
...CBS Sales President Joe Abruzzese told 1,000 onlookers at
yesterday's CBS's fall network sales meeting, "No more
Sunday afternoon movies, no more Sunday afternoon figure
skating. The AFC, .. is on the rise, and so is CBS." CBS
TV President Les Moonves: "The NFL will add male viewers and
make us younger." Abruzzese also said CBS is "on target"
with ad projections of "breaking even this year," and has
$25M in new advertisers for its AFC package (Rudy Martzke,
USA TODAY, 5/21)....SportsLine USA shares fell 13% to 26 5/8
on news "that it may have lost the competition for the
production contract" for NFL.com (HOLLY. REPORTER, 5/21).
After ABC added "Sports Night," a sitcom starring
Robert Guillaume loosely based on ESPN's "SportsCenter" to
its fall lineup, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, a former ESPN
anchor, said, "I suppose you could do a half-hour
entertainment show based on 'SportsCenter.'" While the
sitcom "might work," Olbermann said the "problem is the
name. There's an awfully short corporate memory over there
at ABC. ... Back when I worked at ESPN, we started something
called ESPN2, and they made me go and do the flagship show
of the new network. Flagship. Flagship like 'Titanic' was
a flagship. The show was so bad it was selected as the
seventh-worst thing to happen in sports in the year 1993, by
Sports Illustrated. ... The name of this abomination?
'Sports Night.' Good luck, boys" (MSNBC, 5/20).