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Once Again, There's No Way for Local Fans to Outfox NFL Rules

November 11, 1994|LARRY STEWART

It has to be said once more: The NFL's no-doubleheader rule is stupid, antiquated, asinine and unfair--particularly to people living in two-team markets such as Los Angeles and New York.

Because of the rule, which forbids one network from televising two games in a market where an NFL game is being played, Fox can't televise Sunday's Dallas-San Francisco game in Los Angeles.

The network's lone telecast has to be a 10 a.m. game because the Raider-Ram sellout at Anaheim will be on NBC at 1 p.m.

What's behind the no-doubleheader rule? The NFL's original thinking was that a television doubleheader could hurt attendance at the local game. But how many people would actually consider staying home if there were one more game on television?

Nobody with the NFL will say it, but maybe the rule has been kept, despite public outcry, because the league knew it was getting into the pay-per-view business. That began this season with the Sunday Ticket packages for satellite dish owners.

The NFL hasn't wavered when it comes to the no-doubleheader rule. It would probably take an act of Congress to get the NFL to drop it.

If you want to see the Cowboys and 49ers on Sunday and don't own a dish, you'll have to find a sports bar that is showing it.

Why didn't the NFL give Dallas-San Francisco to ABC as a Monday night game? Well, Fox didn't fork over $1.58 billion to get second-rate games.


Speaking of antiquated thinking, isn't it about time the Lakers stopped their longtime practice of delaying telecasts of road games in the East?

The old thinking was that the delays gave fans a chance to get through rush hour and home before the games started. But the days of rush hour ending by 6 p.m. are long gone, and people now have VCRs if they don't want to miss the start.

Even more ridiculous than the Lakers' delayed telecasts are their delayed radio broadcasts.


CNN landmark: ESPN's "SportsCenter" is a viewing habit for many sports fans, and Prime Ticket's "Press Box" has made inroads as a local half-hour news show.

And then there is CNN's "Sports Tonight" with Fred Hickman and Nick Charles, who will do their 3,000th show together tonight at 8.

They did their first on June 1, 1980, the day the show made its debut.

If you're tired of Keith Olbermann and the gang at ESPN and all their cutesy little sayings and puns, Hickman and Charles are a good alternative.

They come across as if they really like one another. And you know what? They do.

"You can't fake chemistry," said Charles, 48. "He brings out the best in me, and I think it's the other way around too.

"We're more than just good friends. I truly love the guy. We never play that game of one-upmanship. We talk to each other and listen to each other for eight hours a day, and the last half-hour we do the show together."

Hickman, 38, left the show for nearly two years in the mid-'80s to work in local television in Detroit.

"I hated the town, had bad experiences there," Hickman said. "I hated working in local television. I hated the job.

"I knew I belonged in Atlanta with Nick. I knew that is where I felt most comfortable."

Why did he leave in the first place?

"I was 26 at the time and feeling 10 feet tall and bulletproof," Hickman said. "It was a little more money and I thought I needed a change."

Charles said he once came close to leaving, but now says, "I don't want to go anywhere else. This is home for me."


Charles, a Chicago native who graduated from an inner-city trade school, was a cabdriver when he talked his way into getting an audition for a sportscasting job at the television station in Springfield, Ill.

He was 24 at the time. He got the job, which paid $135 a week, $65 less than he had been making driving the cab.

He didn't know it at the time, but there was a 14-year-old kid named Fred Hickman living in Springfield at the time.

Hickman grew up and went to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He wanted to be a radio disc jockey, but ended up landing a job as a sports anchor at the same Springfield television station, WICS, where Charles began his career.

Hickman is sometimes referred to as the "play-of-the-day-guy." His play-of-the-day gimmick was the brainchild of a producer at "Sports Tonight." Hickman didn't like it.

"I thought it was a ridiculous idea, and spoofed on it," he said. "But it didn't go away."

Hickman apparently is doing something right. He is the 1994 winner of the Cable Ace award for best sports anchor in cable television. And "Sports Tonight" won Ace awards in 1986 and '87.

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