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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Soccer Gets Some High Scores in France

July 10, 1998|LARRY STEWART

The World Cup final on ABC and Univision on Sunday at noon between Brazil and France may not be a huge event in the United States, but it is everywhere else, particularly in France.

Of France's 60 million people, about 24 million watched their national team defeat Croatia to advance to the final, and half the country is expected to be watching Sunday.

World Cup ratings on ABC and ESPN haven't been too impressive, but they're not bad when combined with those for Univision's Spanish-language telecasts. Some English-speaking viewers say they prefer Univision, and the main reason is Andres Cantor and his famous calls of "GOOOOOOOAAAAL!"

Geoff Mason, the executive producer of France 98 for ABC and ESPN, said all the slow-motion cameras are one reason the referees have been under such scrutiny.

Anyone who saw replays of France's Laurent Blanc getting red-carded Wednesday could see it was a bad call. He hit Croatia's Slaven Bilic in the chin, and Bilic was shown rubbing his forehead.

"Bilic is an attorney, if that tells you anything about his acting ability," Bob Ley, who will announce Sunday's game for ABC with Seamus Malin, said from Paris on Thursday.

Mason said he believes that four years from now, at the next World Cup, replays will be used for such important calls. Let's hope so.

BASEBALL ON THE RISE

Ratings for baseball are up everywhere, and ESPN, after taking a dip in the ratings during the first quarter, jumped 18% in the second quarter, largely because of baseball. . . . ESPN got a 7.7 national rating for Monday's Home Run Derby, up from a 5.7 for last year's event. The 7.7 matches the second-highest non-NFL rating for ESPN. The only one higher is an 8.0 for a Georgetown-St. John's basketball game in 1985. . . . Another sign of baseball's resurgence is the 13.3 national rating and 25 share Tuesday's All-Star game on NBC got. The rating was up 13% over the 11.8 Fox got last year.

The next time the Dodgers make a big trade, will they again put Tom Lasorda on camera to announce it, as was the case last Saturday? Talk about creating your own scoops. . . . Shortly after Lasorda announced the trade, Fred Claire, doing a game for ESPN radio, said on the air it was a good trade for the Cincinnati Reds. He pointed out closer Jeff Shaw had never had more than four saves before last season. Shaw did have 42 saves last season and has 23 this year.

SHORT GAME IS EVERYTHING

Next week, Fox is expected to announce its entry into golf will be a made-for-TV event on Thanksgiving Day that has the potential of becoming another Skins Game. It will be the $1-million Par-Three Championships at Aviara, a Four Seasons resort in Carlsbad, with Sun Microsystems as the sponsor.

Two fivesomes made up of players from the PGA, Senior PGA, LPGA, International PGA, plus a couple of legends, will play 18 par-three holes, with a million-dollar bonus going to anyone who gets a hole in one. Various charities will also share in the prize money.

Among players already lined up are Annika Sorenstam, Justin Leonard, Jim Colbert and Jesper Parnevik.

The event is the brainchild of Michael Weisman, who was the executive producer at NBC Sports in the early '80s when Don Ohlmeyer brought the Skins Game to that network. (It later moved to ABC).

"If we have one-tenth the success of the Skins Game, I'll be thrilled," Weisman said.

He said he got the idea from USA network and CBS announcer Bill Macatee, who came back from the Masters a few years ago raving about the par-three tournament there.

"It will be interesting to see if the women and the seniors can beat the PGA players with their short games," Weisman said. "And with 180 shots at a hole in one, we'll likely get one. Even the shots that come close will be exciting."

MORE GOLF

Women's golf got a much needed shot in the arm from a thrilling, two-day battle between Se Ri Pak and crowd-pleasing amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn last Sunday and Monday. The final round on NBC on Sunday got a solid 2.6 rating--not bad for women's golf--and the Monday playoff on ESPN got a respectable 0.5. But last year's final round, with Nancy Lopez in the hunt for her first Open title, got a 3.8. . . . The U.S. Senior Open at Riviera July 23-26 will be televised by NBC, but CBS' Gary McCord will be there. McCord, who turned 50 on May 23, will play in the event after shooting a 72 during regional qualifying in Albany, N.Y.

SHORT WAVES

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