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WUTV Gets Christmas Bonus from Bills Game

This blog is an early Christmas present for those readers who miss the old Saturday feature Sports on the Air in the Buffalo News.

WUTV owes local restaurateur Russell Salvatore a bigger thank you than Buffalo Bills fans do.

By stepping up to the plate and buying enough tickets to Sunday’s Bills-game with St. Louis to prevent it from being blacked out, Salvatore has assured the local Fox affiliate a big payday that it shouldn’t have expected to get. WUTV carries Bills home games played against NFC opponents if they are sold out 72 hours in advance.

By conservative estimates, Channel 4 and Channel 29 make between $100,000 and $150,000 a game in advertising for every Bills game they televise because they always are the highest rated TV programs of the week and get more than 30 percent of area households tuned in.

I wasn’t sure if WUTV could get that amount of money because its sales team might be scrambling to get ad buyers since the game wasn’t expected to be sold out. In fact, as late as Friday Time Warner Cable’s guide has Channel 29 carrying a variety of what appear to be paid programs in the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. time slot Sunday.

But since this is the Christmas season, I wouldn’t think that Channel 29 would have too much of a problem finding buyers even on such a short notice.

Reached late Friday, Channel 29 General Manager Nick Magnini conceded that the station had to scramble to sell a few spots and it would have had to give some make goods (free ads) to earlier ad buyers if the Bills game hadn’t been televised.

Asked if he thought he owed Salvatore some free advertising for his gesture, Magnini said: “You might see an ad for his restaurant during the game. Let’s just say we worked something out with Russ and the Bills. He’s a wonderful man and he’s got great food.”

BTW, before Salvatore bought the tickets, TWC was offering subscribers tickets for the game at $20 apiece.

Channel 29 also gets next week’s game with Seattle (another NFC opponent) in Toronto, which is expected to be called a sellout even if there are empty seats in the Rogers Center.

Don’t expect Fox analyst Mike Martz to be overly critical of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick if he has a poor game against the Rams. The former St. Louis coach drafted Fitzpatrick in the seventh round of the 2005 draft and spoke glowingly of the quarterback while being interviewed by John Murphy on his nightly WGR radio show. Martz also disputed the contention among many Bills fans that Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a strong arm.

Ed Kilgore

Bills fans wondering what is up with Vince Young should tune in at 10 a.m. Sunday to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” It is preparing a feature on Young, who was cut by the Bills in preseason and is out of the league at age 29. The release of Young especially looks strange now that the QB the Bills signed after they cut Young, Tarvaris Jackson, hasn’t even dressed for a game.

I thoroughly enjoyed Buffalo News sportswriter Tim Graham’s piece last Sunday about the unwritten NFL rules against airing a team’s dirty laundry outside the locker room. However, sportswriters should thank heaven that there are guys like Stevie Johnson, Terrell Owens and other characters who don’t abide by those rules. After all, if every player played it as safely as Steve Tasker, the NFL would be the No Fun League for sportswriters.

You might have missed this, but ex Bill Marcellus Wiley has been named to co-host of ESPN’s “SportsNation” with Charissa Thompson starting in January when the show shifts to Los Angeles. Wiley replaces Colin Cowherd, who will concentrate on his nationally-syndicated radio show. Of course, Cowherd is no longer heard on WGR because the station has a year-round weekday hockey show even though the NHL may not play a game this season.

There are a lot of silly things concerning the college football bowl schedule, but I’m not sure if the inclusion of a team that didn’t even win half of its games isn’t the silliest. The Dec. 31 Sun Bowl features Georgia Tech, which has a 6-7 record, against 7-5 USC. There also are a bunch of 6-6 teams in bowls, which means they can end up with losing records, too.

Here’s why I laughed when Channel 2’s Ed Kilgore identified former Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy as an ESPN analyst Tuesday: During the Canisius Cage Club luncheon and a later press conference with the media, Van Gundy talked about NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoing his hiring by ESPN. And Channel 2 was at the press conference. Thankfully by the 11 p.m. sports Tuesday, Stu Boyar dropped the ESPN identification.

The NBC Sports Network, which used to be Versus, is riding Notre Dame’s football success big time. It plans to re-air Notre Dame’s wins over Michigan, Stanford, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest in two-hour blocks on New Year’s Day and conclude the 10 hours of coverage with an hour show reviewing the season. The undefeated Irish don’t play Alabama for the national title until Jan.7.

I had to laugh Thursday night when ESPN ran a graphic comparing some of Syracuse University’s basketball stars of the past with SU players of today. At one point, it tried to make a comparison of Carmelo Anthony with a current player who is a slasher to the basket. I think they were comparing C.J. Fair to Anthony. Poor Fair. No SU player can compare to Melo, who led SU to a national title in 2003. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve seen a Syracuse team with more talent and more depth than this one. That isn’t good news for Canisius, which plays SU in a week.

Finally, I’m really looking forward to the “30 for 30” ESPN documentary “You Don’t Know Bo,” which premieres at 9 tonight. The title has double meaning. It plays off a celebrated Nike ad campaign featuring Bo Jackson. It also symbolizes the fact that many younger pro football and major league baseball fans probably don’t know about what a tremendous two-sport athlete Jackson was before his career was cut short by a severe hip injury.

I covered the 1991 NFL playoff game between the Los Angeles Raiders and Cincinnati in which Jackson injured his hip. I had no idea how devastating it would turn out to be. I was in L.A. at the time for the semi-annual meetings in which television critics previewed new shows and volunteered to do double duty as a football writer. The Raiders won, 20-10. A week later, the Bills embarrassed L.A., 51-3, to make their first Super Bowl against the New York Giants. You know what happened after that.

pergament@msn.com

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Ch.2 Making Daytime Moves to Improve Health

Some notes left on the cutting room floor, along with some new material.

A few days ago, I recommended that Channel 2 kill “The Healthy Zone.”

Instead, the station has decided to try and save “Healthy” and improve its meager ratings by changing its time slot.

The day before Christmas the program sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield – which also is partially responsible for its content of health tips– will move from 2 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. after Channel 2’s 11 a.m. local news.

In the station’s lineup shuffling, “2 Sides,” the political debate show co-hosted by Kristy Mazurek and Joel Giambra, moves back 30 minutes to noon, followed by repeats of “The Office” at 12:30 p.m.

“The Doctors,” which had been running at noon, moves to 2 p.m.

Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said the “Healthy Zone” is a better fit with the news as a lead-in than it was with the NBC soap “Days of Our Lives” as the lead-in.

“We want to expose it to different people,” said Toellner.

By that, he means more people. “Healthy” didn’t even average a 1 rating during the November sweeps. “2 Sides,” which had the benefit of a lead-in from Channel 2’s 11 a.m. news, more than doubled the rating of “Healthy” and may suffer because of the switch.

Melissa Holmes: Still “Daybreak” Favorite

In other Channel 2 news, Toellner said that 11 a.m. anchor Mary Friona isn’t interested in the “Daybreak” co-anchor slot vacated by Jodi Johnston. She had gotten some supportive emails from viewers who saw her subbing in the spot.

Channel 2 is expected to name Johnston’s replacement in a few weeks. Melissa Holmes, who also has subbed for Johnston, still looks like the favorite to get the job.

In his appearance with Bill O’Reilly Wednesday night to defend his Sunday night commentary on the murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and Belcher’s girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, NBC’s Bob Costas was pressed by the Fox News host on whether he would like to have a gun or be without a gun in a movie theater if someone with an automatic weapon came in and fired away.

Costas said he would rather not have a gun because random shots in the dark could lead to more people getting hurt. O’Reilly said he would rather have a gun with him.

O’Reilly’s hypothetical – which was designed to have some sort of gun control debate that Costas was trying to avoid– was a severe stretch. I don’t know about you, but I’d stop going to the movies if I thought people attending films with me were packing heat.

After Stan Van Gundy’s appearance at the Canisius College Cage Club Luncheon, I asked the former Orlando Magic coach several questions about NBA teams and players.

Are the New York Knicks for real? “They are but it will be interesting when (Amare) Stoudemire comes back. They could go the other way and not be as good.  They weren’t as good last year when they tried to play (Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony) together. I’m not sure they can be as good when he comes back. If they stay with this lineup, they are for real.”

What about the Brooklyn Nets? Are they for real? “They are for real because they are going to be a good team and a playoff team. But they’re not going to be able to push Miami or anybody like that. Their starting lineup is pretty good but they don’t have a ton of depth.”

How about the Los Angeles Lakers, who now feature his former Magic star Dwight Howard? “I picked them to win the West. That is going to take some doing now. They have had three head coaches in 17 days. They are totally out of synch. Steve Nash is still out. It is going to take a lot now. They are running out of time and I know it is crazy to say but they have to start getting it together, they have to get Nash back, they have to get key people healthy and get comfortable with what they are doing.”

Will Howard fit in well there? “Dwight is going to play great. The great players can fit in anywhere. It is how the other people fit that becomes important.”

Was the amazing play of guard Jeremy Lin with the Knicks an aberration last year during Linsanity or is he for real now that he signed as a free agent with Houston after New York failed to match a contract offer? “Maybe it was a combination of both. We’ll have to see. But he is not gonna consistently play the way he played in that one stretch. He struggled a little bit to start the year. But he’s starting to play better and I think there is a good chance what he’ll end up is being a good NBA player. I don’t think he is going to do what he did in New York. He got on a fabulous run. Actually (Raymond) Felton has played very, very well (for New York). It has sort of borne out that (the Knicks) made a good decision (to let Lin go).”

pergament@msn.com

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Costas Learns Presidential Lesson

 

NBC’s Bob Costas this week discovered why President Obama and Mitt Romney avoided discussing gun control as much as possible during the election campaign.

Talking about guns is a lose-lose proposition.

As soon as Costas finished his brief Sunday commentary about the murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher at halftime of the Dallas Cowboy-Philadelphia Eagle game, I got a tweet from a follower saying that Costas is about to experience the wrath of the NRA and other opponents of gun control.

Bob Costas: Supports 2nd Amendment

It was the best prediction of the NFL season.

Costas has been on what Romney might label an Apology Tour ever since trying to explain what he really meant when he quoted a Kansas City-based sports columnist who suggested that Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkin, would be alive today if the linebacker didn’t have a gun.

The commentary led to some legitimate criticism and some absurd calls to fire Costas for doing his job.

The chief criticisms of Costas are a) he used the wrong forum at the wrong time to address the topic b) his commentary relied too much on the opinion of controversial sports columnist Jason Whitlock c) he ignored the idea that Belcher could have killed his girlfriend in other ways if he didn’t have a gun and d) the topic of gun control should be off-limits to a sportscaster.

Even some of Costas’ attempts to clarify his remarks on his tour have been misconstrued. I’ve read headlines that say he admits he made a mistake to do the commentary.

That’s not exactly how I read his clarification. If I read his confusing remarks carefully, he said he made a mistake in his wording and in thinking he could address the topic in such a brief time. He repeatedly has added that he supports the Second Amendment and noted he never used the term gun control in his commentary.

“My mistake is I left it open for too much miscommunication,” Costas told Dan Patrick on his radio show. He added he didn’t have enough time to discuss “the football culture, the gun culture, domestic violence.”

His clarification also noted that he wasn’t advocating gun control, but merely stating that having a gun makes it easier to kill someone. The last remark was designed to address the critics who noted that big strong athletes can kill people without needing any weapon.

The one criticism of Costas that I disagree strongly with is the idea he spoke at the wrong time. Sunday night at halftime was the right time to address the topic because that’s when people were paying attention and NBC gets its largest audience.

Costas just needed more time to do a better job and address all the things that he has since addressed on his apology tour on NBC’s cable channel and in a Wednesday night appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program.

O’Reilly was relatively gentle on Costas, who defended himself well.  He continues to say he isn’t backing off his comments and adding his “mistake” was not having enough time to say what he needed to say. Even after watching Costas’ Sunday commentary a few times, I wasn’t sure exactly what he was saying.

Clearly, Costas he has learned a lesson that he should have learned by watching the presidential campaign.

The Costas commentary isn’t the only media controversy this week. New York Post freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi was on the hot seat Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show for taking photos of a man about to be killed by a subway train rather than try and save him.

A day or so before, “Today” weatherman Al Roker couldn’t fathom why the photographer didn’t try to help rather than take the photo. The photographer was told that a poll revealed that 80 percent of people felt he should have done more to save the guy.

Abbasi calmly stated to Matt Lauer that he was too far away to save the man and that there were others nearby who might have been able to save him even though the tracks are four feet or so deep. He added he tried to warn the train conductor that a man was on the track but was unsuccessful.

I feel for the guy. We all want to believe that we would be heroes under those circumstances. However, I imagine it wouldn’t be easy to instantly react like one.

The Post’s front page use of the photo showing the victim trying to get up to avoid the train also has led to controversy. Many journalists felt it was an unnecessary depiction of horror and shouldn’t have been used. It’s a tough call. But we’re talking about the New York Post. Why would anyone be surprised that the picture was used?

On a lighter note, there is the controversy surrounding an Australian radio show’s prank phone call to the hospital that Prince William’s pregnant wife Kate was in. The call featured a personality pretending to be the Queen and asking when she could visit. Apparently, the prankster – who might have done the worse Queen Elizabeth impersonation in history — might have broken the law.

I hope nobody suggests she be fired. In fact, she should get some kind of medal for putting all the inevitable months of coverage of Kate’s pregnancy in laughable perspective. We are about to learn that Kate is the only pregnant woman in the world — or at least the most important one in the world.

Finally, there is the controversy surrounding Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant. After he scored his 30,000 point Wednesday in a game against New Orleans, a play-by-play man called Bryant the greatest Laker ever.

Sports fans always feel that the players they are watching were greater than the players who played in generations before them. Bryant is a great, great player. But I saw Elgin Baylor and Jerry West play in their heyday and would still call either one of them the greatest Laker ever.

pergament@msn.com

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Honestly, ESPN Should Have Hired Humorous Van Gundy

Maybe it is the time of year. But I felt nostalgic Tuesday afternoon.

I headed over to the Hyatt to hear former Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy talk to the Canisius College Cage Club at lunch time. It felt like old times.

Many of you might not know that once upon a time I used to cover local college basketball. A lot of people have told me over the years I was a much better sportswriter than I was a TV critic. Shockingly, they included some of the general managers of the local TV stations who don’t exactly love my criticism of their stations.

I also wasn’t the most beloved basketball writer in Western New York. I tended to be a little, well, critical.

When Canisius played in Memorial Auditorium, a banner was once in view on the third level where the orange seats were. It proclaimed “Alan Pergament’s Fan Club.” Needless to say, no was sitting in the oranges.

How long ago was that, you ask?

Stan Van Gundy: Not a Stern Fan

It was so long ago that the present Canisius basketball coach – Jim Baron – was the starting point guard at St. Bonaventure. I wasn’t that popular at Bona, either. However, one of my favorite memories was watching Baron (who is now 58) return home to his native New York City and lead Bona led to a NIT title in 1977 when the tournament at the Garden meant something.

The guy inside the Golden Griffin mascot suit back then was Erik Brady, who is now in his 50s and remains a gifted sportswriter at USA Today.

We still keep in touch. I ran into Erik recently at a restaurant and he told me that he called Canisius President John Hurley the day that Baron was fired from his job at Rhode Island and told Hurley that Baron was a good fit for the vacant Canisius job.

I know Hurley, too. The last time I ran into him was at a Canisius-UB basketball game right after he got his new job running the Main Street college. Hurley reminded me that he owes me a can of paint. It seems he painted one of my houses decades ago with his brother Dan and dropped a can of paint while riding his bike. Like Honest Abe, the president of Canisius could not tell a lie. It just took him about three decades to tell me.

I wasn’t unpopular with every Canisius coach. About the time Hurley was painting my house, I was friendly with Coach Nick Macarchuk, who took over the program when it was in worse shape than it was when Baron was hired. I respected Nick for his candor. I was so nice to him that I allowed him to beat me in tennis a few times every postseason. OK, “allowed” isn’t exactly the right word. He was a lot better than me. I still beat him up pretty good in print when the Griffs lost because I’m nothing but honest.

In that way, I have something in common with Van Gundy, a former Canisius assistant under Macarchuk whose mouth has gotten him in trouble at times.

How much trouble you ask? I was watching Channel 2’s Ed Kilgore Tuesday night introduce a story about Van Gundy’s visit here by saying the former Magic coach works for ESPN. Channel 2’s graphic referred to him as an ESPN “analyist.”

It was a Kilgore turnover. Van Gundy doesn’t work for ESPN. In a much-publicized story in late October,  it was reported that ESPN may have backed away from hiring Van Gundy after NBA Commissioner David Stern apparently suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to hire his nemesis. ESPN issued a non-denial denial. ESPN should have hired him, but passed. Van Gundy then was hired by NBC Radio and also does some college games for the NBC Sports Network.

In any event, Stern’s interference freed Van Gundy to speak his mind about the commish at Tuesday’s luncheon and anywhere there is a microphone or a reporter’s pad. He called Stern “a bully” and discussed all the times he was fined $35,000 by the commish for speaking honestly. He got fined for agreeing with Stern that the NBA referees were very good (he said it when they weren’t working because of a labor dispute) or lousy (when they got back to work). Stern would have preferred it the other way around.

This led Van Gundy to tell Cage Club members that he made a request of the league office: “Will you guys decide (if the refs are good or bad) to save me some money.”

The guy obviously has a great sense of humor and is a great storyteller, which are assets for any TV analyst. Or analyist.

One of his best Macarchuk stories concerned the time when my tennis nemesis was the Fordham coach. He made his team practice the three-man weave for more than an hour of torture after an embarrassing loss to Princeton. His players didn’t see the point. (Good thing, they didn’t play for former Canisius Coach John McCarthy, who actually used the weave as his offense at times).

Finally, Van Gundy said Macarchuk told his players the reason for practicing the weave. “You guys made my life miserable yesterday, I’m making yours miserable today.”

Van Gundy also has a great self-deprecating sense of humor. When a Cage Club member asked Baron about the challenges of coaching his sons (son Jimmy played for him at Rhode Island, son Billy is playing for him now at Canisius after transferring from URI), Van Gundy didn’t have any sympathy. He said his father had a bigger problem coaching himself and his brother Jeff (who is the lead NBA analyst for ABC and ESPN after coaching in the NBA) that Baron doesn’t have.

“We stunk,” said Van Gundy. “Jimmy’s sons can play.”

On the other hand, Van Gundy said he had a problem coaching the Miami Heat that Baron doesn’t have. Baron can be involved in his team’s scheduling, something a pro coach can’t do.

“I started 0-7 at Miami and I was looking (to play) Savannah State or someone,” cracked Van Gundy.

He always had a crack ready after Baron spoke about something or someone. Baron mentioned that former St. Joseph’s guard Jameer Nelson – who played for Van Gundy with Orlando — was one of the toughest players his college teams have faced.

“I’ll have to tell Jameer that after telling him for five years how much he stunk,” joked Van Gundy.

You’ve got to love the guy. Except if you’re David Stern. I wish he were on ESPN. After one nostalgic afternoon, I’ve become a proud member of the Stan Van Gundy Fan Club.

pergament@msn.com

 

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Top 10 Suggestions for Local GMs

After looking at the results of the November ratings period, I have some advice for the local network affiliates.

The general managers of the stations should feel free to ignore it, as I expect they will.

But here is my Top 10 list of things to consider as I play general manager for the day.

  1. Channel 2 Should Move Its Midday News to Noon:  It is time. Noon is one of the few places that Channel 4 News dominates because it is only in a two-way battle with Channel 7. Channel 2 runs its midday news at 11 a.m., where it gets half the viewership of Channel 4’s news at noon. Channel 2 runs it there because for decades it didn’t feel it could compete at noon. With Channel 7 weakened and Channel 4 vulnerable, now is the time for Channel 2 to take a risk and move the news to noon. It might not take too long for Channel 2 to be competitive there if it can find something to run at 11 a.m. as  a plausible lead-in.
  2. Channel 2 Should Abandon 10 at 10 ASAP:I know I’ve been beating a dead horse and writing about how spectacularly stupid the format is that presents news in reverse order of its importance. But November provided more concrete evidence of the stupidity. “10 at 10” on WNYO is the only Channel 2 newscast that had an audience decline from a year ago. It would even be better if Channel 2 convinced Sinclair, which owns WNYO and Fox affiliate WUTV, that now is the time to allow it to air the news on the Fox affiliate at 10 p.m. The stronger station would help make Channel 2  more competitive with Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News, which is on a stronger sister station WNLO-TV.
  3. Channel 2 Should Start a 10 P.M. News on Weekends: Channel 4 owns 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday as the only game in town. It might take some convincing and a big check written to Sinclair. However, a weekend version of the 10 p.m. news now makes sense for Channel 2 even if it has to air on WNYO because of Fox’s college and pro football schedule on WUTV. Channel 2 could have especially used a 10 p.m. weekend newscast during the NFL season since its Sunday newscast on Channel 2 often doesn’t air until midnight because of NBC’s Sunday Night Football.  
  4. Channel 2 Should Name Jodi Johnston’s Replacement Soon: The “Daybreak” franchise will need to heavily promote the new female co-anchor because Channel 4 is likely to heavily promote its new morning co-anchor Jordan Williams. The hiring of Williams will enable Channel 4 to get some sampling in the morning, which Channel 2 would want to minimize.
  5. Channel 2 Should Give Up on the Healthy Zone: Shockingly, the land of beef on weck, the chicken wing and Ted’s hot dogs isn’t buying “The Healthy Zone.” It didn’t even average a 1 rating at 2 p.m. I love the idea of the well-meaning show, but people don’t need a 30-minute daily diet of guilt when all they want is to experience a guilty pleasure once in a while.
  6. Channel 4 Should Hire a Third Sports Person:I feel sorry for Lauren Brill, the new sportscaster that Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth hired to face a tough audience of viewers who think they know everything about sports. Schlaerth isn’t about to admit he made a mistake and Brill is a hard worker who deserves time to grow. But she needs to do so in the background as a third sports staffer rather than subject viewers to her on-the-job training. Channel 4 needs a third on-air sports staffer anyway — Channel 2 has four — so why not hire one and reduce the pressure on Brill.

    Lauren Brill: Give Her Some Help

  7. 7. Channel 4 Should Bring Mike Cejka Back to “Wake Up!” Whatever the reason was that made Schlaerth replace Cejka with young attractive meteorologist Amelia Segal, it hasn’t worked. Bring Cejka back and then morning viewers will be reminded that Channel 4 has some veterans on its staff.
  8. 8. Channel 4 Should Hire Some Fashion Consultants: My friends probably will laugh at this one because I’m not exactly Don Draper in the wardrobe department. But even I can see how much help some of the younger station staffers need dressing themselves for TV success. I’m not naming names, though my readers probably will in the comment section.
  9. 9. Channel 7 Should Move “General Hospital” to 3 p.m.: It might need ABC’s approval. But the veteran soap is the one afternoon program on Channel 7 that gets a decent-sized audience. The move might even get Katie Couric’s popular national talk show a local audience at 4 p.m. This is a no-brainer as is dropping Ricki Lake’s talk show, which gets anemic “Healthy Zone”-type ratings at 3 p.m.
  10. Channel 7 News Should Hire Some People: I had to laugh at a statement made by a Buffalo News reporter in a story last week about Channel 7’s new news director Polly Van Duren wanting “to restore the legacy of Channel 7 – one person at a time.” The only way she has a chance of doing that is if the hedge fund managing company that owns the station allows her to hire about five new on-air staffers at a time. Channel 7 News is so short-staffed that Van Duren’s predecessor used to have to shoot stories on weekends because he didn’t have staffers to do it. Of all my suggestions, I’m betting this one has the least chance of being accepted. pergament@msn.com
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Murphy Scores in Bills Booth on Rainy Sunday

 

John Murphy HAS ARRIVED!!!

There was a Murphy SIGHTING on Sunday.

OK, I exaggerate just a little.

Because Western New Yorkers couldn’t see the Buffalo Bills defeat Jacksonville, 34-18, Sunday afternoon at the Ralph the voice of the Bills got his largest listening audience of the season on WGR radio.

And as UNBELIEVABLE as it sounds, the play-by-play man actually made the Bills blacked-out win against the 2-10 Jaguars seem exciting.

John Murphy: Better With Age

It was the first time this season that I listened to Murphy, analyst Mark Kelso and sideline reporter Joe Buscaglia work a game and hear the play-by-play guy use words like ARRIVED, SIGHTING and UNBELIEVABLE.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one passing the time on a rainy Sunday.

Maybe Murphy was more excited than usual because he knew more people were listening to him, but it seems like he is improving with age. His excitement level is high and doesn’t seem as forced as it did when he first took over for the legendary Van Miller.

He is no threat to Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret in inventing colorful nicknames or expressions, but Murphy also is top shelf when it comes to enthusiasm and he has one of the best voices in WNY broadcasting history.

When defensive end Mario Williams had a sack that forced a fumble that he recovered late in the first half, Murphy shouted: “Super Mario has ARRIVED in Buffalo.”

When perpetually-injured receiver Marcus Easley had a big kickoff return that led to a touchdown, Murphy proclaimed “We have a Marcus Easley SIGHTING.”

When Easley followed with a special teams tackle, Murphy added: There’s Marcus Easley again. Marcus Easley has ARRIVED.”

When safety Jarius Byrd closed the game out with his fifth interception, Murphy didn’t say he arrived. He said Byrd should be sent somewhere. “SEND him to Hawaii. PUT him in the Pro Bowl.”

When Bills Coach Chan Gailey allowed field goal kicker Rian Lindell to try — and make — a 50-yard field goal, Murphy sounded like a little boy when he shouted “HE CAN DO IT! HE CAN DO IT!

Like Jeanneret, Murphy can get so excited occasionally that it gets a little confusing. I had trouble following his call of C.J. Spiller’s touchdown run before realizing C.J. had ARRIVED in the end zone.

Murphy isn’t a homer but he can get a little agitated about officiating. He was so upset over a pass interference call against Bills cornerback Ron Brooks that he asked Kelso what defensive backs are allowed to do. In fairness, Murphy and Kelso also were balanced enough to concede that a roughing the passer call against Jacksonville was iffy on a touchdown drive.

Like any good play-by-play man, Murphy does a good job getting Kelso involved. He also lightens up the technically-minded analyst. Kelso is amazing at knowing where every player is on the field during every play, which would be more exciting if we actually needed to know.

Seriously, Kelso gets just a little too technical at times. At one time, the analyst noted the Bills ran a pass pattern called “a clear and cut.” Whatever that means.

I’m guessing Buscaglia probably knows what that means. His role is primarily to deal with injuries, which kept him pretty busy Sunday as Leodis McKelvin, Eric Wood, Chris Hairston and Stevie Johnson had to go to the sidelines.

Murphy is the fun guy of the trio, at one point noting that a Bills back made a “a little Three Stooges move” before adding a sound effect.

He also tries to have the very serious Kelso join the fun. Before a touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler, Murphy asked what the Bills should do. Kelso gave four options, which led to the two men agreeing afterward that they had covered all the angles — including the one that led to the touchdown.

The exchange that was most fun was when Kelso disagreed with a call against a Bills defensive back.

“NO, that is not true,” said Kelso, seeking justice.

“Maybe not correct but I believe it is true,” replied Murphy.

At another key moment, Murphy called a delay of game against the Bills inside Jacksonville’s 10-yard line “terrible.” Kelso countered that it gave them more room to develop pass plays and added “I don’t think that hurt them badly.” On the next play, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson for a touchdown.

They also addressed some coaching decisions by Gailey, who justifiably has come under fire for some conservative play-calling in the past few weeks.

When the Bills had a fourth down with five yards to go on the Jaguars’ 37-yard line, both men agreed they should go for it. There was no discussion of the times this season that Gailey punted in a similar situation and why this time it was different.

Of course, there was no discussion of Gailey turning down 50-yard field goals, either, before Lindell made his kick. Murphy’s HE CAN DO IT was as close as he would get to criticizing the coach.

He also spared quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick from criticism. The sharpest criticism of Fitzpatrick came after he took a hard hit. “Someday Fitz will learn how to slide,” said Murphy.

If you want non-stop criticism, Twitter is the go-to-place. Members of The Buffalo News sports staff, the WGR sports staff and just about everybody outside the media throw out their two cents during the game and spare no one. The unspoken rule of Twitter is the snarkier the comment, the better.

Everyone also thinks they are as funny as The Three Stooges. I’m no Pollyanna but if you read the Twitter comments Sunday of the media members I follow you might have thought the Bills had lost 34-18. I eventually left the Twitter universe rather than a take a pill for depression.

Gailey and Fitzpatrick can’t win on Twitter even when they do win. If you’re to believe Twitter comments, Fitzpatrick may be the worst starting quarterback in the league.

It is enough to make you want to shout “NO, that’s not true.”  

I’m not a huge fan of Fitzpatrick but the weekly bashing he gets every week on Twitter reminds me of my days as a New York Giants fan growing up on Long Island and reading legends like Y.A. Tittle and Charley Connerly get bashed in the newspapers. (I was very, very young then).

I learned at about age 6 that no one in a NFL city loves their starting quarterback because they all throw lousy passes and make poor decisions at times. That remains true today with the possible exception now of fans in New England, Denver, Green Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta and in some cities where some younger quarterbacks are in their honeymoon period with fans.

I’m sure Joey Flacco is getting flack in Baltimore this week as is Mark Sanchez in New York, Jake Locker in Tennessee, Phillip Rivers in San Diego, Christian Ponder in Minnesota, Chad Henne in Jacksonville, even Drew Brees in New Orleans (he threw five picks Thursday) and the list goes on and on.

With the Bills home games being blacked out down the stretch, you’ll have a chance to see more of the league’s QBs every Sunday.

I’m guessing the more games you watch involving other teams, the more you’re likely to realize there aren’t too many SIGHTINGS of relatively new franchise quarterbacks.

You may even conclude as I have that Fitzpatrick is no worse than an average NFL starting quarterback these days working with a mediocre group of receivers.

pergament@msn.com

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Ch.4 Names New “Wake Up!” Anchor

Channel 4 has named Joe Arena’s replacement on “Wake Up!”

A few days ago, I mentioned the station had interviewed an anchor from Texas for the job.

Now word comes that Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth has told the station’s staff that the anchor, Jordan Williams, will join the CBS affiliate in January as a morning anchor and an investigative reporter.

It is hard to see how a morning anchor can have enough time to be an investigative reporter but that’s TV news these days.

In an email to the staff, Schlaerth wrote that Williams has worked in Oklahoma City and Texas and he was part of a morning team that has won three Emmys in three years at a smaller Texas station competing against stations in Dallas.

For the last four years, Williams has been at KRGV, the ABC affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. He has been a co-anchor in the morning for the past two years. He came to the station after working in Oklahoma, City, Midland, Texas and San Antonio, Texas.

Jordan Williams: New Ch.4 Anchor

According to the KRGV website, Williams has won 10 first-place awards from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters. Wrote Schlaerth: “He is described as a newsroom leader with a drive to win.”

It won’t be easy to win here since “Wake Up” is now well behind Channel 2’s “Daybreak” in the morning news wars.

Williams will be replacing Ed Drantch, who co-anchored “Wake Up” during the November sweeps after Arena left for Pittsburgh. Drantch, who was teamed with Nalina Shapiro, will remain a reporter. There is no word on whether Shapiro will be Williams’ co-anchor or if the station is looking to replace her as well. It would be a good idea.

On Friday, I noted that while Channel 2 “Daybreak” co-anchor Jodi Johnston got a three-day send-off, Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford quietly celebrated his 25th anniversary at the station. On Friday, the station celebrated Radford’s milestone at the end of the 6 p.m. newscast by delivering a cake on set. I think Radford wanted a pie.

Asked by co-anchor Joanna Pasceri if he had anything to say to viewers, Radford said: “Thank you and I apologize if I have offended anyone. And I’m sure I have from time to time. I’ll try not to in the future.”

No apologies necessary Keith.

As I wrote Friday, you can pick up a copy of the December issue of Buffalo Spree to read my profile on Radford.

Channel 2′s owner, Gannett, and DirecTV reached a national agreement that means that the local subscribers to the satellite carrier will continue to get NBC programming and the station’s local newscasts without a rabbit ears antenna or an outside antenna.  In other words, it was just another case of crying wolf.

pergament@msn.com

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Talkin “Men,” “Homeland” and Radford

This is what I’m thinking:

Angus T. Jones – the Half in “Two and a Half Men” — may have overstated it slightly this week by setting off a media storm by calling the CBS series “filth.”

I’d say sophomoric and crude is more like it. The 19-year-old Jones, who apparently has found religion, should realize his peers flock to movie theaters to see comedies that are far worse in content.

“Two and a Half” has been one of the more popular comedies locally and nationally for years, which I suppose says a lot about America’s tolerance for double entendres and belies the idea that the country has conservative values.

The popularity of “Two and a Half” freed comedies that followed it in the past decade to further move the line of what is acceptable in prime time. Now just about anything goes.

I’ve never been a fan of “Two and a Half,” but I’ve never been offended because CBS carried it after 9 p.m. Eastern time until this season, when it moved it to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. I also did some local research at one point and learned the program doesn’t have much of a viewership among children.

However, I do find it unfortunate that reruns of the show air at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays on FX, Fox’s cable entertainment channel. The afternoon episodes air when young kids are home from school and can watch it. Of course, basic cable isn’t regulated by the FCC so FX can carry it whenever it wants to.

Claire Danes: The Crying Game

Searching for an alternative to all the Christmas music playing on radio? I accidentally found that 1230 AM “The Breeze’’ isn’t celebrating Christmas early. “The Breeze” — which also is carried on 102.9 FM – surely is a better alternative than listening to WBEN’s talk shows. I’ve also spent more time listening to 92.9 FM, which isn’t part of the Christmas rush.

I get ideas from strange places. On Thursday, I had my annual checkup with my doctor and we proceeded to talk about TV after my blood pressure was taken. My doc and I both are fans of Showtime’s “Homeland.” But we agreed that we haven’t been able to watch it the same way after “Saturday Night Live” did a dead-on parody a few weeks ago. The parody illustrated all the different ways that Claire Danes cries or gets emotional while playing Carrie, the heroine who knew Brody (Damian Lewis) was a terrorist before everyone else in the CIA. Every time Carrie cries now, it is hard to suppress laughter.

What’s wrong with this picture? While Jodi Johnston got three days to say goodbye on Channel 2’s “Daybreak,” Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford quietly celebrated his 25th anniversary on the station during the November sweeps. If you want to learn more about Radford and his career, pick up a copy of the current edition of Buffalo Spree. My monthly feature is about him and has the headline: “After twenty-five years, WKBW’s Radford remains the king of calm.”

Finally, my blood pressure is really good. Thought you may like to know. However, it does go up a little bit when I read the spin of local TV executives and it isn’t put in perspective by other media outlets.

pergament@msn.com

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Ch.2, DirecTV Problem Easily Solved

Ed Drantch: Back to Reporting Soon

Here we go again.

I awoke this morning in time to see a crawl running during NBC’s “Today” show warning Channel 2 viewers they could lose Sunday Night Football and other network programming if they have DirecTV and a deal isn’t reached to keep the station on by midnight Friday.

So I Googled Gannett – which owns Channel 2 – and DirecTV – and discovered that the dispute is a national issue between the media giant and the satellite provider.

Of course, Western New Yorkers have been down this road before and should be prepared for it.

I still have the rabbit ears antenna that Time Warner Cable gave me years ago when it had a dispute with Channel 4. That antenna has become handy a few times when other carriers had disputes with other station owners that threatened to take the local channels off the air.  

Channel 2 viewers are more likely to use rabbit ear antennas, too, since it is the one station that carries programming on an extra digital channel. Channel 2 is on digital channel 2-1. Antenna TV, which carries old programs, is on digital channel 2-2.

All you have to do with an HD set is plug in the rabbit ears, change your source on your remote and you’ll get Channel 2 and Antenna TV crystal clear.

In fact, I still use my rabbit ears on Bills football Sundays because Channel 4 comes in much clearer via rabbit ears than it does on cable, which splits its signal with many other homes.

This may not work in certain remote areas with homes that were initially most likely to get satellite TV. But most people should be able to get Channel 2 even if the two sides don’t immediately come to terms.

I had to laugh Wednesday when I received a release from Channel 4 with the headline “NEWS 4 Completes a Strong November Sweeps!”

According to the station spin, News 4 “was the No. 1 rated news organization from noon until late night.”

In other words, Channel 4 decided to eliminate the early morning newscasts that are dominated by Channel 2 to proclaim some sort of victory. It wins, 49.4-44.4, by doing so. It margin of “victory” comes from its wins at noon when Channel 2 doesn’t compete, at 10 p.m. when its newscast is on a stronger channel than Channel 2’s and at 11 p.m. when Channel 4’s victory margin has significantly decreased.

I half-expected Channel 2 to respond by sending a release noting that it is No. 1 from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and eliminate the later evening newscasts when Channel 4 wins big. Channel 2’s margin of victory from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. is 57.0-50.9.

Spin aside, Channel 2 is now the news leader when all newscasts are counted and it has the momentum practically everywhere.

Channel 4’s spin also notes that it had year-to-year household ratings growth in three times periods and ratings increases over May for several newscasts.

All true. But that was inevitable considering how much news there was during the November sweeps, which featured a presidential race and several key local political races and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. In addition, people generally are more interested in news in November than they are in May, when the weather is expected to improve.

I’m hearing that Channel 4 plans to move soon to shore up its weakest news block in the early morning and hire at least one and possibly two new anchors for “Wake Up!” My spies tell me that a male anchor from Texas was recently brought in as a serious candidate to replace Joe Arena. The station went with Nalina Shapiro and Ed Drantch as morning co-anchors in November. Drantch is expected to go back to reporting, where he is much better suited.

Suggestion to Channel 7: If ABC will allow it, I’d move “General Hospital” back to 3 p.m. to give Katie Couric’s new talk show a strong lead-in and a chance to succeed in this market. Ricki Lake’s talk show is killing Katie. “GH” does very well here at 2 p.m. It gets four times the audience of Lake’s show.

pergament@msn.com

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Couric’s Show a Loser Here and Other Sweeps Takeaways

Katie Couric: Ch.7 Gives Her No Help

 

Katie Couric isn’t getting much love from Western New York.

However, the low local rating for her syndicated national talk show was predictable. In fact, stilltalkintv predicted “Katie” wouldn’t be a hit here based on one simple fact: It is on Channel 7, which is the weakest network affiliate in the market.

That’s a little sad because for decades Channel 7 was one of the best ABC affiliates in in the nation.

The importance of the strength of the network affiliates that talk shows and new shows are on couldn’t be more apparent than in the WNY market.  

How bad are the local ratings for “Katie”? I promise I won’t bore you with too many numbers, but some are necessary. “Katie” averages a 1.6 rating here at 4 p.m. weekdays, which means that 1.6 percent of area households are watching. The show gets less than a third of the audience that time slot winner “Ellen” gets on Channel 2 and less than half of what “Dr. Oz” gets on Channel 4. “Katie” also averages more than a rating point lower than Anderson Cooper’s 3 p.m. syndicated talk show on Channel 4, and Cooper’s show already has been canceled because of poor national numbers.

One major problem for “Katie” is the lead-in she gets from Ricki Lake’s new show, which Channel 7 carries right before her show. Lake’s show doesn’t even average a 1 rating. “Katie” actually doubles her lead-in.

If misery loves company, Couric should talk with Diane Sawyer, the anchor of ABC’s national newscast at 6:30 p.m. weekdays. Nationally, it is in second place and has reduced the lead of first-place NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams to a half of a point. Locally, Williams’ newscast dominates over second-place CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on Channel 4. Williams’ newscast doubles the local rating for Sawyer’s third-place newscast, which has the misfortune of following the third place 6 p.m. newscast of Channel 7.

While ABC’s “Good Morning America” has overtaken NBC’s “Today” nationally, it remains no contest locally. “Today” remains a strong No. 1 on Channel 2 with the help of the lead-in it gets from Channel 2’s “Daybreak.” “Today“ almost doubles the rating for second-place “GMA” here, with CBS’ morning show on Channel 4 within a half point of “GMA.”

Meanwhile, the two syndicated game shows that moved away from Channel 7 after lengthy runs there to Channel 4 – “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” — are flourishing in their new home. Both game shows average double-digit ratings that networks would die for in prime time.  “Wheel” and “Jeopardy” have more viewers combined than the light entertainment news programs featuring the latest Kardashian and Lohan news that Channel 2 and Channel 7 carry in the same hour.

The weakness of Channel 7 is less apparent when it concerns prime time entertainment television. CBS programming, which is carried on affiliate Channel 4, still is no.1 locally among the Big Three  with an 8.4 average. NBC programming, which has been third for years, is now No.2 on Channel 2 with a 6.3 average thanks largely to Sunday Night Football, “The Voice” and the new hit “Revolution.” ABC programming, which is carried by Channel 7, is a close third with a 6.1 average. I don’t yet have figures for Fox, which is carried on Channel 29. But it doesn’t do well generally until “American Idol” returns in January. The CW, which is carried on WNLO-TV, isn’t much of a factor here.

Of course, the local stations are much more concerned with how their network programs fare at 10:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. as a news lead-in. Channel 4 (CBS) remains first with a 7.7, with Channel 2 (NBC) second with a 6.0 and Channel 7 (ABC) third with a 5.1.

That is also the order of the finish for the 11 p.m. news, illustrating the importance of the news lead-in even when the clicker is in the hand of viewers ready to change the channel.

One more thing of note: The long goodbye that Channel 2 gave Jodi Johnston on “Daybreak” didn’t have much of a ratings impact. The Monday program, which had a minimal amount of Johnston celebration, had an 8.4 rating. Tuesday’s program had a 6.2. Wednesday’s program, which celebrated Johnston the most, had a 6.6 rating on the morning before Thanksgiving. The three-day average of 7.1 was slightly below the program’s average for the November sweeps.

pergament@msn.com   

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