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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Time Change for 'Monday Night' Game

April 02, 1999|LARRY STEWART

ABC's one-year experiment is over. "Monday Night Football" will revert to a 6 p.m. PDT start next season, with a 6:07 kickoff.

ABC made the change official Thursday, when the NFL schedule was announced.

ABC had a 6 o'clock start for 28 seasons, then changed it to 5 last season. But ratings, particularly on the West Coast, took a big dip. The L.A. rating for "Monday Night Football" went from 18.9 in 1997 to 14.9 last season.

Teams making three appearances next season on "Monday Night Football" are Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, Minnesota, Miami, the New York Jets, Green Bay and San Francisco. Arizona makes a rare Monday night appearance Sept. 27, playing host to the 49ers.

CREDIBILITY DEPARTMENT

News flash! Keith Olbermann may be returning to ESPN--as a "SportsCenter" anchor. Sources say Olbermann is tired of seeing his head on Fox Sports News billboards. Something about its shape.

OK, we made that up.

But Olbermann going back to ESPN--sure, anything is possible--is about as likely as Michael Jordan playing for the Charlotte Hornets next season, which Olbermann reported might happen.

Despite denials all around, Fox Sports News is sticking with Olbermann's report.

"We feel good about our sources and feel good about the story," executive producer John Terenzio said.

What else is he going to say?

Olbermann has a reputation for taking a "let's-throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-sticks" approach. It appears that's what he did here in an effort to draw attention to Fox Sports News and himself.

As with any news-gathering organization, what Fox Sports News needs more than attention and billboards is credibility, and it may have taken a hit in that department.

NO. 32 IS NO. 42

As part of ESPN's "SportsCentury" series, a half-hour profile of Sandy Koufax will be on tonight at 7:30. Koufax, who wore No. 32 for the Dodgers, was named the 42nd-greatest athlete of the 20th century. He is the only pitcher in the top 50.

The hard thing for ESPN was getting Koufax to agree to an interview. At first, he turned down all requests, but Charley Steiner finally persuaded him to do it. Steiner became friendly with Koufax after meeting him a year ago through Kevin Kennedy, Steiner's ESPN radio partner who has since gone to Fox Sports Net. Kennedy is a longtime friend of Koufax.

Steiner did the interview in Florida, at a hotel near Vero Beach, but Steiner does not appear on camera. And as it turned out, little from the interview was used in the show. What others have to say about Koufax is more interesting.

REAL CELEBRITIES

We all know about celebrity golf events--a few big names mixed with mostly soap opera stars, washed-up comedians and has-been athletes. But the first Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Golf event, which was taped at the new Ocean Trails Golf Course in Palos Verdes and will be on ABC on April 11, Master's weekend, truly earns the tag "celebrity."

Nine of the biggest names in show business got together the weekend before the Academy Awards at the picturesque golf course that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and will be open to the public in early July. Kevin Costner, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Chris O'Donnell were in one group, Jack Nicholson, Joe Pesci and Andy Garcia in another and Will Smith, James Garner and Michael Douglas himself in a third group. Joining them were noted teaching pros Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Jim Flick.

"We had about $300 million worth of talent there in one place," said Terry Jastrow, the former award-winning ABC golf producer and current head of Jack Nicklaus Productions who created the event. "The two-hour show [11 a.m.-1 p.m.] will be about personalties, humanity, and camaraderie, with a little golf mixed in."

The event benefits the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which helps needy people in the film industry. Douglas, a member of the board of directors, said, "For everyone who makes it in Hollywood, there are thousands of people who are struggling."

Douglas and Jastrow have been friends since Jastrow's wife, Anne Archer, starred with Douglas in "Fatal Attraction."

SHORT WAVES

Marv Albert makes his TNT play-by-play debut tonight at the Lakers' game in Phoenix, working with Reggie Theus and sideline reporter Cheryl Miller. The game will also be on Channel 9 with Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz. . . . Kenny Albert, Marv's son, who did a fine job on his first horse racing event when Fox televised the Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, is back in Arcadia this weekend for the Santa Anita Derby. He will again be joined by analysts Ron Ellis and Jay Privman. Suzy Kolber will serve as paddock reporter.

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