By JOHN COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2003
The magic number for the Bucs this weekend is 50/75.
Will 50 percent of all homes with televisions be tuned in to Sunday's NFC title game with Philadelphia? Will 75 percent of all televisions turned on be showing the Bucs?
The Bucs audience came close Sunday, with the second highest-rated game in team history. In the Tampa/St. Petersburg market, the win over San Francisco had a 48.1 rating/74 share, meaning 48.1 percent of homes with televisions were watching, but 74 percent of those with their televisions on were watching.
The 74 share ties the 2000 NFC Championship Game broadcast, when the Bucs played St. Louis, as the high-water mark in local sports broadcast history. The 2000 rating -- 50.8 -- was higher than Sunday, however.
All those numbers should be rendered moot by Sunday night, provided the game remains close and entertaining. All the hype and trash-talking makes the NFC Championship Game the most anticipated in Bucs history and a stone-cold ratings winner.
"I think it could (better the 74 share), if it's a close game," Channel 8 ratings analyst Brad Nimmons said. "I think you could see as high or higher a share this weekend. But a 74 share, that means that three-quarters of televisions in use were watching that game. That's incredible."
To put the 74 share in perspective, Nimmons said the 1993 Cheers finale had a 58 share, and the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa between Baltimore and New York had a 67 share in this market.
DEFLATION: Think a Bucs loss won't dampen Super Bowl parties across Tampa Bay? The last time the Bucs played in the NFC Championship Game and lost, the Super Bowl rating was down 26 percent as the Rams beat Tennessee.
PREGAME: Channel 13's coverage on Sunday kicks off during Good Day Tampa Bay from 7-9 a.m., and a special one-hour Bucs Sunday pregame airs at noon.
PRIME TIME: Fox takes its Sunday pregame crew to prime time for the first time at 9 Saturday night.
The one-hour special will be hosted by James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson. The show also includes appearances by weather forecaster Jillian Barberie (of course), comedic prognosticator Jimmy Kimmel and Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth, the lead broadcast team.
Cedric The Entertainer will perform, along with R&B singer Ashanti and rapper Ja Rule.
MORE FOOTBALL: The inaugural season of the Arena Football League on NBC kicks off the week after the Super Bowl, and play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond, analyst Pat Haden and studio analyst Michael Irvin will lead the charge.
Hammond and Haden will make up NBC's top announcing team, and Irvin will be one of the studio hosts, along with Al Trautwig and former NFL player Glenn Parker.
The voice of Arena football, Eli Gold, also will head an announcing team, and familiar names like Dan Hicks and John Riggins will do games as well.
NBC will televise up to four games on Sunday afternoons and as many as 70 games, including all playoff games and the league's championship game, ArenaBowl XVII on June 22.
RUNNING AWAY: Oscar De La Hoya appeared on the Best Damn Sports Show Period Tuesday night to talk about his upcoming fight against has-been Yory Boy Campos.
Just as De La Hoya was ready to talk about a potential match with St. Petersburg's Winky Wright, Tom Arnold cut him off and the subject of Wright disappeared from the show.