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NFL Should Change TV Policy

September 12, 2003|LARRY STEWART

Before the NFL will put a team in Los Angeles, it wants a state-of-the-art stadium.

Before the fans here will embrace a new team, they want something from the league -- more lenient television policies.

One always hears that most NFL fans in Los Angeles would rather get that extra game on television than have a team here.

The way it stands now, CBS or Fox have to black out the second game of a doubleheader in markets where an NFL game is taking place.

"I've always felt the blackout rules are antediluvian," Fox Sports chairman David Hill said. "That's a-n-t-e-d-i-l-u-v-i-a-n. It means prehistoric."

The current NFL contract expires after the 2005 season. During negotiations on a new deal, couldn't the networks put pressure on the NFL to change its policies?

"I don't think so," Hill said. "You can't fight city hall."

The NFL should look at it this way: How many people would decide whether to attend a game based on the number of games on television?

Probably none.

Flexibility Needed

At the prices networks pay for NFL rights, they should have the right to do what they want. For example, Fox wasn't allowed to switch from the lopsided San Francisco-Chicago game Sunday because, as a Fox spokesman explained, that game was not a "flex" game.

Not that Fox had a very interesting game to switch to, but NFL television policies did not give Fox that option. It's ridiculous. The networks need more flexibility.

The networks don't always make the right decision, but it should be their decision to make.

A Bad Sign

Could this be the year that L.A., now in its ninth season without an NFL team, goes through a major ratings decline?

While NFL ratings were strong throughout most of the country in Week 1, L.A. ranked 47th among the nation's 55 largest markets on CBS Sunday and 41st out of 55 on Fox.

The Oakland-Tennessee game Sunday night on ESPN got a 48.4 rating in Nashville, and an 8.3 here. The St. Louis-New York Giant game on Fox got a 30.1 in St. Louis, an 8.0 here. San Diego-Kansas City on CBS got a 29.4 in Kansas City, a 22.2 in San Diego and a 3.9 here.

A Key Issue

It's going to be at least four years before a renovated Rose Bowl, a renovated Coliseum, or a new stadium somewhere would be ready to host an NFL team.

How important is it to the networks to have a team in L.A.?

An item in Sports Illustrated in May indicated Fox's Hill does not want a team here.

"If the L.A. Armadillos are 2-10 in December and getting blacked out, how does that help our business?" Hill was quoted as saying. "I wish the NFL would understand that if there isn't a franchise in L.A., the sun won't sink into the ocean."

Hill, in an interview at the Fox studios in Century City this week, softened that stance.

"The key is, it has to be a winning team," he said. "On a personal level, I think it would be great if we had a winning football team here. It would be sensational.

"What worries me is that I'm hearing more conversation about USC and what Pete Carroll is doing. We're a football town, but we're a college football town."

CBS Sports President Sean McManus said his network would like to see a team in L.A. -- under the right circumstances.

"It all depends on whether it is an AFC team or an NFC team and how well that team plays," he said. "If it is an AFC team, that would be good for our owned and operated station [Channel 2]."

College Football

The USC-Hawaii game is on Fox Sports Net, with Steve Physioc and Tom Ramsey announcing. The ABC announcers on UCLA-Illinois game will be Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts.

ABC commentator Ed Cunningham did a terrific job on UCLA-Colorado last weekend. The former Washington Husky and Arizona Cardinal offensive lineman did exactly what a commentator is supposed to do -- provide insight that isn't obvious.

For example, midway through the second quarter, Colorado punted to UCLA's Craig Bragg, who almost returned it for a touchdown. Bragg was tackled by punter John Torp at the Colorado 32.

Instead of simply praising Bragg's return, Cunningham pointed out that if Matt Ware had blocked Torp rather than a defender behind Bragg, Bragg would have scored easily.

The Bruins went backward from the 32, got no points and ended up losing by two.

Play-by-play announcer Tim Brant also had a good game Saturday.

It wasn't the announcers' fault the picture went out the final two minutes of the game.

High School Football

Fox Sports Net begins its high school game of the week tonight at 7 with Hart and Los Alamitos playing at College of the Canyons. Although tonight's game is on Fox Sports Net, most games will be on Fox Sports Net 2.

Fox Sports Net, in a release, listed the high school the announcers attended. Play-by-play announcer Mike Lamb went to Clovis High outside Fresno, commentator John Jackson Jr. went to La Puente Bishop Amat, sideline reporter Petros Papadakis went to Rolling Hills Peninsula and sideline reporter Lindsay Soto went to El Toro High.

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