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Analysts split over a rivalry

November 13, 2009|DIANE PUCIN | ON SPORTS MEDIA

Dan Patrick said he's willing to play the role of Henry Kissinger during NBC's "Football Night in America" show that precedes "Sunday Night Football," negotiating harmony between former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and former New England Patriots star Rodney Harrison, who are now analysts.

Harrison calls Sunday night's game between the Colts and the Patriots the "greatest rivalry in the NFL right now."

No surprise, Harrison is picking the Patriots to win. For football reasons and not the heart, he says. Dungy picks the Colts. He has well-conceived ideas on how the Patriots won't be able to pressure Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. It has nothing to do, Dungy said, with him being close to his former team.

Dungy and Harrison are relative newcomers to this TV gig. Harrison said he cringes now when watching replays of his first nervous week on the air.

"Doing this job isn't easy," Harrison said. "You've got earpieces and guys talking into your head and trying to keep your thoughts together. All of a sudden, a couple weeks ago, my mom said, 'Rodney, just be yourself. They didn't hire you to be some guy on CNN reporting the news.' "

Dungy said his initial reaction to his early performance was obvious but not easy to fix. "The hardest thing for me," Dungy said, "is that I've always tried to explain things to players, to make absolutely clear why I was doing something. On TV you don't have time to do that. You can only give your opinion quickly."

Keeping up with the TV ratings

The inbox is flooded every week with news from Fox and CBS and ESPN and NBC that some such NFL game is the highest-rated ever.

Michael Weinisch, a senior researcher at the Nielsen Co., says it's not bragging. "NFL ratings are definitely at the highest level in recent memory," Weinisch said. "The average audience per game so far is 17.2 million viewers. That's a 14% increase over last year."

In the Los Angeles market, NFL ratings are up 13% from last season. The highest-rated sporting event in Los Angeles since the start of the new TV season in September: Game 6 of the American League Championship between the Angels and the Yankees.

DirecTV vs. Versus: stalemate continues

NHL ratings on Versus are up to an average of 311,000 a game after 14 games compared to 263,000 a year ago, even though 14 million DirecTV customers are still without the network that also carries college football games (the Arizona-California game is on at 4 p.m. Saturday). No agreement appears imminent. DirecTV took Versus off the air Sept. 1 when its contract expired.

You and your (NBA) companion

NBA Digital has added something called the NBA TV Companion to the nba.com website. Rather than get up for a beer or maybe switch occasionally to another program, say, like "Top Chef" (hey, it's a competition too), NBA TV Companion advertises itself as, "a unique application that will simulate the experience of an NBA arena press box by giving fans access to pregame media notes, real-time statistical information, breaking news, 3D shot charts and play-by-play analysis."

Trust me, though, the arena press box does not have recliners or free hot dogs or popcorn on demand. Or even 3D shot charts.

There are also halftime and postgame video highlights.

The NBA says 57% of Americans with Internet access at home use the TV and Internet simultaneously. Apparently you aren't all playing Farmville without watching television at the same time.

Good to watch Friday

Could be a good college football game at 5 p.m. on ESPN2 when undefeated Cincinnati plays host to West Virginia. An MLS semifinal between Houston and the Galaxy is on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.

Good to watch Saturday

The best national game that can be seen widely is Florida at South Carolina at 12:30 p.m. on Channel 2. The best national game that is harder to find may be Utah at BCS championship hopeful Texas Christian on the CBS College Network. You can see whether USC's renewed Pacific 10 Conference title hopes are truly renewed at 12:30 p.m. on Fox Prime against Stanford.

Good to watch Sunday

UC Irvine's basketball team gets some (kind of) national television coverage with its game at Texas on ESPNU at 11 a.m., and ESPN2 is kicking off its women's college season with Baylor against Tennessee. Baylor features Brittney Griner, a 6-foot-8 freshman who can dunk.

But most of you will be watching the NFL and there is the infrequent opportunity to watch former USC star quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer's Bengals are actually good this year and are on Channel 2 at 10 a.m.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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