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L.A. Fans Are Stuck With Pair of Teams Going Nowhere

November 13, 1987|Larry Stewart

If you're a National Football League fan, L.A. is not the place.

For one thing, Los Angeles viewers usually get shortchanged on Sundays because either the Rams or the Raiders are home, which restricts the number of NFL telecasts to one per network.

Now there is another complaint. The Rams are 1-7 and the Raiders 3-5, meaning that the rest of their games have little significance. Nevertheless, all Ram and Raider road games will continue to be televised here, often depriving viewers of seeing more important, or interesting, games.

Showing the local team, regardless of its record, may be the right thing in Denver, Minneapolis and Tampa Bay but probably not in a melting pot such as Los Angeles.

Despite what the majority of viewers might prefer, however, the NFL, through its television contract, dictates that Los Angeles must see the going-nowhere Rams and Raiders.

The networks don't have a say in the matter, and that's not right. It should be left up to them to gauge fan interest, and schedule NFL telecasts accordingly.

This Sunday, Los Angeles will get a fairly attractive NFL lineup.

Because both the Rams and Raiders are on the road, CBS is able to offer a doubleheader. It's the Rams from St. Louis at 10 a.m., followed at 1 p.m. by New Orleans (5-3) against San Francisco (7-1) in an NFC West showdown.

NBC's single telecast at 1 p.m. isn't much, though. It's Cincinnati vs. Atlanta in a battle of 2-6 teams.

At 5 p.m., L.A. viewers will get to check out the surprising San Diego Chargers (7-1) against the Raiders. The game will be shown by ESPN and by Channel 11 for viewers who don't have cable.

Because the game is a sellout, it will also be televised by ESPN and Channel 10 in San Diego.

The announcers for Sunday's Ram-Cardinal telecast will be Jim Lampley and Ken Stabler, who will be working most of the remaining Ram telecasts this season.

That's good news. Lampley is a solid play-by-play announcer, and Stabler is a fast-improving commentator.

"Ken has shown tremendous improvement each week," Lampley said. "The thing that amazes me most about him is his ability to see everything taking place on the entire field."

ESPN's first regular-season telecast last Sunday night, New England vs. the New York Giants, received a lower rating than three of its four exhibition telecasts.

The overall Nielsen rating for the game was 8.5, which includes viewers who also watched on local stations in Boston and New York.

One thing that hurt ESPN was that in most of the country, the game was on opposite the NBC miniseries, "Billionaire Boys Club."

Another negative factor may have been that most viewers were overdosed on football by that time, after watching it all day.

For Sunday's Raider-Charger telecast, ESPN's guest commentator will be former Raider John Matuszak. He worked a Raider-Dallas exhibition game in August, and although his performance drew criticism from some viewers, ESPN apparently thought enough of him to invite him back.

The big game in the Big Ten this season turns out to be Michigan State vs. Indiana. The Spartans, 5-0-1 in conference play, will take on the Hoosiers, 5-1, Saturday at East Lansing, Mich.

But the game will not be televised in California and Arizona, where ABC instead is showing Washington-UCLA.

Nothing wrong with that, but ABC would better serve its viewers by showing both games as a doubleheader. An adjustment should have been made.

The appointment of Tommy Hawkins as the Dodgers' new director of communications prompted Ed Bieler to write from Kansas City, where he has been working for radio station KCMO for a little more than a year.

Bieler, who called himself Superfan when he worked with Hawkins at radio station KABC in the mid-1970s, had this to say about his former colleague:

"Get behind the rather pleasant smile Mr. Hawkins generates and what you are left with is approximately 6 1/2 feet of nothingness. Walter O'Malley must be spinning in his grave.

"Let me tell you a personal story relating to Tommy Hawkins and his 'communication' skills. When I started to host 'Sportstalk' on KABC, Mr. Hawkins' role was to read an occasional sports headline at the top of the hour. . . . I expanded his on-air time considerably. . . . We had, I thought, a good professional relationship with never a cross word or hard feelings. In our business with the massive egos involved that was, and is, quite an accomplishment.

"Then one Thursday morning, without explanation, without warning, I was fired. I recognize that there is a stigma attached to the person fired. . . . But for the man who shared a booth with you for years not to pick up the telephone to call, and whether he meant it or not, ask how you are getting along is unforgivable. Or to just drop a post card in the mail to wish you well.

"Nothing. Just silence. This is the man the Dodgers have chosen as their 'director of communications.' Some communicator."

Superfan apparently is as outspoken as ever.

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