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Lifting the Blackout Would Be Raiders’ Best Play of Season

Of course there are more important problems in the world these days, but it sure would be nice to have a few hours of enjoyment Sunday afternoon.

Please, Al Davis. Please, NFL. Do the right thing, and lift the blackout on the Raiders’ playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Coliseum, even if it does fall short of a sellout by the extended deadline of 6 p.m. today.

Playoff games simply should not be blacked out.

Sure, the Raiders are in business to make money. But they will make an average of $32 million a year off television during the current four-year television contract.

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That money doesn’t just magically appear. It indirectly comes from fans who buy the sponsors’ products.

If NBC were able to collect a rebate for losing the nation’s No. 2 market, you’d see how fast the blackout would be lifted.

And, anyway, isn’t it time the Raiders showed some goodwill toward the people of Los Angeles?

Sure, they would probably sell a few more tickets with a blackout, but they also would be depriving millions of seeing the game. These include shut-ins, the elderly and those who can’t afford $36 per ticket, or even $25 or $15.

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The Raiders haven’t played many playoff games at home. The last one was a 27-20 loss to New England in January, 1986, back when the Patriots were respectable. The game was blacked out and drew 89,289.

In January, 1984, when the Raiders won the Super Bowl, there were two home playoff games--one against Pittsburgh, the other against Seattle. The first was blacked out and drew 92,434. The second sold out in time to lift the blackout and drew 92,335.

In 1982, the Raiders’ first season in Los Angeles and also the year of a 57-day player strike, the league was in a benevolent mood and permitted two regular-season Raider games at the Coliseum to be televised locally even though they did not sell out. One was against the Rams on a Saturday and the other against San Diego on a Monday night.

But the Raiders’ two home playoff games that season against Cleveland and the New York Jets were blacked out. For Cleveland, the crowd was only 57,246. But for the Jets’ game, it was clear and sunny, and with a 30,000-plus walk-up sale the day of the game, there were 90,688 in attendance.

Blackouts have become a way of life in Southern California. The Rams sell out occasionally, the Raiders rarely.

And to make matters worse, whenever either team is at home, which is almost every Sunday, the NFL permits only two daytime telecasts instead of three.

Now we might have to face a blacked-out playoff game, the worst injustice of all.

When the Coliseum is renovated, 65,000 or so will be a sellout. But that doesn’t do us any good this weekend.

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The rest of the country gets four playoff games televised into their homes. Los Angeles may get only three.

Some good news is that Pat Summerall returns this weekend. He and John Madden will work Sunday’s game between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants on CBS at 9:30 a.m.

Summerall told Elizabeth Comte of the National that a combination of alcohol and painkillers almost caused him to bleed to death last month.

He said he has changed his routine since spending 10 days in a Florida hospital with upper gastro-intestinal bleeding.

“I certainly won’t be the last guy out of the bar anymore,” he said.

Summerall, 60, is troubled by arthritis in his back and one knee. He said that on Dec. 8, as he was preparing to work a game the next day between Chicago and Washington, he took two painkillers in the morning and two more at noon, all on an empty stomach.

He said he then had three drinks before an afternoon production meeting and took four more painkillers later in the day.

“That’s just like taking a shotgun and blowing a hole through your stomach,” he said. “The doctors told me that if I drank again or took any painkillers I’d be dead very shortly.”

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Summerall missed the last three weeks of the regular season and the first week of the playoffs.

Bill Walsh, who will work the Raider-Bengal game with Dick Enberg, said this week he expects to be back with NBC next season.

He made the comment while addressing a press gathering at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey.

Terry O’Neil, the executive producer of NBC sports who was sitting next to Walsh, quipped: “Where was that statement a month ago when we needed it?”

He was referring to all the speculation that had Walsh returning to coaching.

O’Neil said negotiations on a new contract with Walsh will begin soon.

“We’re pleased with what he’s done this season,” O’Neil said. “Bill’s grown. He’s improved week to week.

“You know, he didn’t win a Super Bowl till his third year as coach of the 49ers. And I think it’s unrealistic to think that he would have hit his potential as a broadcaster any sooner than three years at least. The improvement curve continues.”

Dick Ebersol, NBC sports president, said privately after the news conference that he thought NBC made a mistake when hiring Walsh in the summer of 1989.

“We made too big a deal out of it,” Ebersol said. “We put too much pressure on Bill.”

Walsh is well aware of his shortcomings as a broadcaster, and he seems driven to improve. He is a likable person, and that will help him endure. He is a Frank Gifford-type. But Walsh offers more substance.

Scheduling snafu: UCLA’s biggest game of the season is Saturday against Arizona at Tucson, and Channel 2 is carrying the Raycom telecast.

The problem is the game begins at 3 p.m., and Channel 2 is also televising the Washington-San Francisco playoff game, which begins at 1 p.m.

Channel 2 will join the UCLA game in progress, which means probably early in the second half.

TV-Radio Notes

Dick Stockton and Merlin Olsen will announce Saturday’s Redskin-49er game on CBS. NBC will have Marv Albert and Paul Maguire in Buffalo for the Dolphins and Bills. . . . The CBS “NFL Today” people will be scurrying this weekend. They will be in San Francisco Saturday afternoon and in New York Sunday morning. . . . Todd Christensen will join NBC’s “NFL Live” crew at the studio in New York, with O.J. Simpson reporting from game sites.

NFL regular-season ratings are in and, despite expanding the 16-game schedule to 17 weeks and adding a new carrier, TNT, the ratings held up pretty well. CBS averaged a 13.5, down 2% from last season, NBC averaged an 11.0, same as last year, and ABC a 17.2, off 5%.

Fred Roggin’s new syndicated show, “Roggin’s Heroes,” makes its debut Saturday on Channel 4 at 7:30 p.m. It is being distributed to 150 markets covering 90% of the country. If you like Roggin’s year-end specials, you will like this show. . . . The pay-per-view heavyweight card featuring Francesco Damiani against Ray Mercer will be televised tonight at 7 at a cost of $19.95 on most cable systems. . . . A boxing tribute, featuring Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield and others, will be part of the 12th annual Ace Awards ceremony, televised Sunday night at 6 from Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater by a number of cable networks.

Ram kicker Mike Lansford and co-host Janniene Keahl will take a look at athletes and charities on “Sports Confidential” on SportsChannel Monday at 9:30 p.m. The studio guest will be the Raiders’ Greg Bell, plus there will be on-location interviews with Orel Hershiser, Don Mattingly, Magic Johnson, Derrick Thomas and Sam Wyche. . . . Lansford will be KFWB’s playoff analyst, joining Randy Kerdoon Monday and Friday mornings at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. through Monday, Jan. 28.


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