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Sports on the air

If it includes Bucs, it must be a winner

By JOHN COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 7, 2003

Red and pewter? Try solid gold.

Bucs fans, you have done it again. You have taken a talk show appearance by your coach and a meaningless football all-star game and turned them into television events.

Even considering the phenomenal ratings for 2002 Bucs games, this comes as a great surprise. Do you ever rest? Can you just say no?

Apparently not, if there's a Bucs player or coach on the tube.

On Sunday, you tuned in to the Pro Bowl on ABC in large numbers, producing a 15.6 rating and 22 share, meaning that 15.6 percent of all homes with televisions were watching, and 22 percent with televisions turned on were watching.

The rest of the NFL markets never had a chance: Pittsburgh was second with a 12.0 and Buffalo third with an 11.8.

On Tuesday, you stayed up to watch coach Jon Gruden on Late Night with David Letterman. According to CBS, the overnight rating was 9.8 and the share was 24 for WTSP-Ch. 10.

That was the show's highest since 8.4/25 on Sept. 21, 2000, the night Letterman returned after heart surgery, and WTSP's highest in the 11:35 p.m.-12:25 a.m. time slot since the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.

CBS also said the rating was 158 percent higher than Late Night's Tuesday night average and 180 percent higher than its Monday-Friday average this season.

Here's our weekly tip for the Bucs-obsessed: Gruden may be at Sunday's 3 p.m. Tampa Bay-Orlando Arena Football League game as a guest of his brother, Predators quarterback Jay.

That means he might be interviewed by NBC and get some television time. Heck, NBC should, for the sake of ratings, be guaranteeing a halftime interview.

It would turn the intermission, a rather meaningless few minutes, into a local event.

Set your VCRs.

TOUCHDOWN: Speaking of Arena football, its debut on NBC was a success.

The rating was 1.6 nationally (peaking at 1.9 as the games wound down), tying the ArenaBowl XII telecast on Aug. 23, 1998, for the highest in the AFL's 17-year history, according to Nielsen Media Research.

An estimated 7.9-million people watched all or part of the region coverage. The 1.6 rating doubled last year's league championship game and held its own with the NHL All-Star Game, which had a 1.7 rating.

Locally, the Orlando-Chicago game had a 1.3. But that was after viewers discovered it was Jay Gruden at quarterback, not Jon, and switched away.

STEEEE-RIKE!: HBO's always good Real Sports will take a look at the resurgent Professional Bowlers Association.

The sport was washed up when it came to viewer interest in the 1990s, but in 2000 three former Microsoft employees bought the PBA for $5-million and infused life into the product with a new logo, a new cable contract (thanks to improved ratings) and even a little flash in the form of loud, effusive stars like Pete Weber.

NEVER ENOUGH: NBC announced Wednesday that it will double the coverage it devoted to the 2000 Sydney Olympics and quadruple the coverage of the 1996 Games in Atlanta when it does the 2004 Athens Games next summer.

NBC will total 8061/2 hours of coverage over five networks: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo.

AROUND THE DIAL: LeBron James' first high school basketball game after his temporary reinstatement airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on Sunshine on tape delay, unless you subscribe to Time Warner, which no longer carries Sunshine. ... ABC has added Tom Tolbert to its NBA lead announcing team. Tolbert should give lead analyst Bill Walton a much-needed foil. ... Saturday's Connecticut-Duke women's college basketball game on ESPN2 was watched in 1.23-million homes, making it the most-viewed regular-season women's game on either ESPN or ESPN2.

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