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Sports on TV: NFL Draft Faces Double Coverage

2006-sports-television-heistandThe NFL draft, the biggest sports event where nobody moves much, has come to this: prime time red-carpet shows on two channels.

With the first round in prime time Thursday, ESPN and NFL Network plan red-carpet shows for celebs entering New York's Radio City Music Hall for an event whose spectators are known for booing loudly and wearing off-the-rack NFL jerseys. But, says ESPN producer Jay Rothman, "there's a strong effort by the league to have more glam!" Says producer Eric Weinberger of NFL Network, which is doubling its draft coverage to 38 hours: "It's up to the NFL, NFLN and ESPN to make it more of an awards show, a huge entertainment atmosphere."

Like when prospects, he says, are picked: "We'll make a conscious effort to concentrate on that moment when they're picked and crying and hugging their families."

Off-site, ESPN plans to have cameras in the homes of at least 25 potential draftees while NFL Network will have cameras in at least six team "war rooms." Despite the lack of action, each network says there's plenty to go around. "We've worked closely for months," NFL Network's Weinberger says. "But when the draft starts, I don't think either pays much attention to the other." Says ESPN's Rothman: "We hope more people are watching us than them. But we play nice in the sandbox."

Berman Stays Put

ESPN is expected to announce today that Chris Berman has signed a multi-year contract. Asked about speculation he might leave, Berman said Sunday, "This is my home. I'd love to finish here, and I'm going to. I'll be here as long as they'll have me."

Berman, who joined the then-month-old ESPN in October 1979 for an overnight show that began at 3:15 a.m. ET, had a contract set to expire on May 10 - his 55th birthday. Given that ESPN/ABC is interested in TV rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Berman suggests he's ready for new challenges: "I took just a tad of Russian once upon a time. I'll have to find my old book. . . . That would be awesome."

Online Skirmish

You know online sports rights are getting some value when there's a skirmish over them. This has happened with NASCAR. Fox had planned to debut postrace NASCAR coverage online Sunday, in what would have allowed it to take advantage of its staffers already being on-site and allow for coverage that can't fit into the time constraints of TV.

But NASCAR.com, managed by Turner Sports, killed the idea by asserting it has exclusive online rights and, in a statement, says that it had "proactively approached Fox over a period of time with a variety of collaborative online media options that, unfortunately, have been rejected." Says Fox spokesman Dan Bell: "Since this would have been a commercial-free undertaking, our goal was simply to have all parties agree that this would only benefit NASCAR fans, but obviously that didn't happen."

Spice rack...

 In HBO's 24/7 reality series, boxer Shane Mosley's trainer Naazim Richardson outlines an obvious strategy for Mosley in his May 1 fight against Floyd Mayweather: "Shane is going to punch Floyd in the mouth. Then Floyd is going to sprout wings, grow a tail and fangs and claws and turn into a dragon. And spit fireballs. Shane has got to use lateral motion to miss those fireballs, step on his tail and punch him in the stomach." Sure it's old school, but nothing beats moving laterally to sidestep spit fireballs... Near the finish of CBS' Strikeforce mixed-martial arts show Saturday, a melee between fighters' entourages broke out that prompted CBS' excitable Gus Johnson to take on the odd role of advocating calm - "gentlemen, we're on national television!" But maybe that was why they started fighting in the first place... Fox's Kenny Albert, in the 19th inning of a 20-inning Mets-Cardinals game Saturday, helpfully informed viewers he hadn't left the booth since the game began. Mercifully, he stopped short of offering details on how he coped... Ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, on Dan Patrick's DirecTV show, on the potential reaction if the NFL does not suspend Ben Roethlisberger: "A lot of people are talking about race. The bigger issue is position. The message would be the NFL is protecting quarterbacks - again." And you know Roethlisberger has a PR problem when NASCAR TV analysts take shots. Says Fox's Darrell Waltrip: "Riding around on a motorcycle without a helmet - that pretty much defines him."

Say what?

CBS' David Feherty, on Sirius XM Radio, had this take on Tiger Woods at the Masters: "His swing looked like it was a toilet door on a prawn trailer and yet somehow or other he managed to will himself into hitting those great shots." A prawn trailer?... NBA Commissioner David Stern, on ESPN Radio, suggests the idea of dealing with teams who rest stars at the end of the regular season is "a very difficult subject." But ESPN/ABC's Jeff Van Gundy@, on Sirius XM, suggests that teams get $500,000 for every win in the season's last 20 games and pay $500,000 for every loss. He admits that sounds "crazy." Well, yes, because nobody would bet that much without getting point spreads... Fox's Terry Bradshaw begins rehearsals next month for a one-man Las Vegas show that, he says, will be "kind of a Mark Twain thing where he'd give his philosophy of life and people would listen." Bradshaw says he's "not going to do it unless it's really good" and "for Vegas, it has to have a lot of humor." So, he says, "I'm coming out in a Spandex thong thing to get the crowd going."

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