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Ratings Boost: Thanks Yanks!

Fox had safely predicted this year's World Series would get the biggest one-year jump in Series TV ratings ever. Now, it looks like a sure bet.

Game 5 of the New York Yankees-Philadelphia Phillies Series on Monday averaged 10.6% of U.S. households, up 10% from last year's Tampa Bay Rays-Phillies Game 5. That leaves this year's Series average so far at 11.4%, up 36% over last year Series, which drew record low ratings.

That gives this year's Series a virtual lock on beating the record for a ratings rise, which was the 27% jump in ratings from the 2000 Mets-Yankees Series in New York to the seven-game Yankees-Arizona Diamondback Series in 2001.

Meaning? Well, this year's boffo TV box office might suggest baseball has picked up some big new momentum if anybody could also guarantee the Yankees would always appear in the Series. And that they'd face a really good team that also plays in a big TV market with a zealous fan base. (Philadelphia's local TV ratings have topped all other markets for every Series game, including its 41% rating for Game 5 compared to New York's 28.7.

It's hard to tell how - or even whether - the Series' earlier start times might be affecting ratings. Game ratings still usually peak, as they did Monday, for action after 11 p.m. ET.

And here's a mystery wrapped in an enigma: Outside the teams' local markets, the TV market where Series ratings have jumped the most this year is Raleigh, N.C. - up 112%.

CBS' Jim Nantz@, in a divorce ruling in a Connecticut state court Monday, was ordered to pay $916,000 annually in alimony and child support. In ending the 26-year marriage of Jim and Lorrie Nantz, Judge Howard Owens said "our nation's most prominent sportscaster" must pay $72,000 in monthly alimony until she remarries or he dies, as well as $1,000 weekly in child support for their teenage daughter. They'll also split various properties.

Although Nantz, 50, acknowledged he started dating a 29-year-old woman before the divorce was final, the judge wrote that the marriage had deteriorated years before and that the new relationship "in no way contributed to the breakdown of the marriage." Nantz had contended that his wife lost interest in his career and joining him on travel for work.

Nantz, who earns at least $3.2 million annually from CBS, filed for divorce last year. Cynthia George, attorney for Lorrie Nantz, who had been seeking $1.5 million annually in alimony and child support, had no comment on the ruling. Nantz's attorney, Gaetano Ferro, said the sportscaster "never wanted it to come out this way, never wanted a public spectacle."

Using ethnic stereotypes - whether they're intended to make positive, negative or just nonsensical points - is understood to be strictly out-of-bounds on TV sports and often results in offending announcers being suspended or even fired.

But what constitutes such a stereotype? You be the judge: During Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans NFL game, CBS' Gus Johnson@ noted Titans running back Chris Johnson had "gettin'-away-from-the-cops speed."

After being asked for a comment, Johnson made this statement: "If there is a perception of racism in this analogy, it is not coming from me. People of all races have run from the law. However, to those who are offended, I apologize."

Notre Dame's 40-14 rout of Washington State on Saturday night wasn't exactly a win for NBC. In drawing 1.4% of U.S. TV households, NBC's coverage had the lowest rating of any show on the four major broadcast networks last week. . . . ESPN's Breeders' Cup coverage Saturday will add a new wrinkle to help viewers become better bettors. Its analysts will have video screens they can touch to call up the exact payouts of all kinds of possible bets, such as trifectas, as the odds change before races. So you can see exactly how much you'd win and might just have a little extra incentive to stay tuned.

Here's an on-air prospect you probably never thought of drafting for your TV sports fantasy roster - Mike Tyson@.

In live coverage on promoter Don King's donkingtv.com, Tyson called undercard fights Saturday night before bantamweights Yonnhy Perez and Joseph Agbeko fought in the main event. The Las Vegas Sun concluded that Tyson's commentary - which included points such as "it is so ironic that the jab can be so effective" - was "most surprising and delightful."

There's no reason future Olympic speedskaters can't help hype cable TV comedy.

With the U.S. Speedskating team's main sponsor - DSB Bank NV - having recently declared bankruptcy, the team turned to Comedy Central's The Colbert Report for sponsorship. Host Stephen Colbert @announced on Monday's show - whose guests included skating legend Dan Jansen - that the team would have "Colbert Nation" emblazoned on their uniforms. Rather than donate to the team directly, the show will ask viewers to contribute online.

Colbert, who plays a self-important talk-show host on his satirical program, told the Associated Press that his logo will go on skaters' "enormous, billboard thighs" and that he'll "be looking for that logo as it comes around the final turn. It will be easy to see because it will be in first place."

Added Colbert: "My character sees the Olympics as war, but nobody gets hurt. It's a way to peacefully figure out who has the top country."

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