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West Coast will get left out

November 07, 2008|DIANE PUCIN | Pucin is a Times staff writer

Maybe Alaska is being punished for producing Sarah Palin, but then that would mean Hawaii is getting its knuckles rapped for giving us Barack Obama.

But how else to explain why those lonely outposts, along with California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and slivers of Idaho and Nevada, are the only places in the country where viewers will get the USC-California game on television Saturday?

At stake in the matchup between the 21st-ranked Bears and seventh-ranked Trojans: a possible Rose Bowl berth and a Pacific 10 Conference title, plus any slim possibility USC has of making the BCS national championship game.

But only 18% of the country will get the Pac-10's gaudiest game of the season. The other 82%, the lucky ones, will be watching the other half of ABC's "doubleheader" coverage -- No. 2 Texas Tech against No. 8 Oklahoma State.

Who could have figured that the glamorous, offensively dynamic teams with realistic national championship hopes in early November would be the teams from Lubbock, Texas, and Stillwater, Okla., instead of the ones from Los Angeles and Berkeley?

Pac-10 spokesman Jim Muldoon said Pac-10 games that are part of the ABC split-coverage packages will get anywhere from 18% to 30% national exposure but that it can't get much lower than 18%. "We'd prefer 100% of course," Muldoon said, "but I think Texas Tech is becoming a great story."

This year's game features two of the nation's top wide receivers -- Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech, whose acrobatic, sideline tiptoe touchdown gave the Red Raiders a last-second upset of top-ranked Texas last week; and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant.

And it features quite a back story. Last year Oklahoma State beat Texas Tech, 49-45. The teams combined for 1,328 yards and 62 first downs in a game that took four hours, two minutes. A day after the loss, Texas Tech defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich resigned and Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy was provoked into his rage-filled tirade against local columnist Jenni Carlson that became a YouTube classic with Gundy's catch phrase, "I'm a man, I'm 40," refrain.

If you want to watch the reprise and you live in a Pac-10 state, you'll have to drive to Utah. Or purchase ESPN's GamePlan package.

Please see TV

On Sunday at 11:30 a.m., NBC is airing a 90-minute documentary directed by Dave Michaels (brother of Al Michaels) on the 2008 Paralympic Games, and there will be no better television (sports or otherwise) on offer this weekend. I promise.

Among the featured athletes is 42-year-old Nick Scandone of Newport Beach, who almost made the 1992 Olympic sailing team. Ten years later Scandone was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells and is always fatal.

Scandone's desire to stay alive and compete in Beijing will make you cheer more than any Lakers game. The ending is a good one. There's a gold medal involved.

Also profiled is Marlon Shirley of Chula Vista, who ran against South African Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius is the double-amputee runner who successfully fought a ban that prevented him from competing against able-bodied runners while using his Cheetah Flex-Foot artificial limbs.

Michaels, who directed the gymnastics coverage from Beijing, said he was inspired to do the Paralympics show while watching a Visa commercial featuring wheelchair racer Cheri Blauwet.

"I was vaguely aware of the Paralympics," said Michaels, 59, of Westlake Village. "But until I saw that commercial I just didn't realize what stories there were to tell."

The documentary kicks off 28 hours of taped Paralympic coverage on Universal Sports from Monday through Nov. 16. Universal Sports is available in the Los Angeles area on Charter cable channel 305; Time Warner channel 226; and Cox channel 805.

'MNF' exit poll

The Pittsburgh Steelers' 23-6 win over the Washington Redskins was only the second-highest rated "Monday Night Football" game of the season even though presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were the halftime entertainment.

The Steelers-Redskins game was watched by just over 10 million people, earned a 10.2 rating and helped ESPN rank No. 1 on Monday for overall audience.

But the game still placed second this year to the Sept. 15 "MNF" game between Philadelphia and Dallas, which was seen in 12,953,000 homes.


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