Christensen Wants to Help His Team Reach No. 1 at NBC

The Raiders are out of the playoffs, but their former tight end, Todd Christensen, isn't.

Christensen, in only his second year as a football analyst for NBC, and veteran play-by-play announcer Charlie Jones have drawn one of NBC's two playoff assignments this weekend.

Three days after working NBC's No. 2 bowl game, the Fiesta, Jones and Christensen will be in Denver Saturday for the Broncos' playoff game against the Houston Oilers.

NBC's No. 1 football announcing team, Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh, will work Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

NBC doesn't say Jones and Christensen is its No. 2 team, but it's clear that they are.

They didn't start the season ranked that high, and they were probably even lower around midseason when they hit some rough spots.

"The problem was, Todd was taking everything so seriously," Jones said. "I told him if we weren't having any fun, then the viewers weren't either."

Said Christensen: "Charlie is amazing. He's been doing this for, what, 31 years? (Actually, Jones in his 32nd year as a network pro football announcer). The guy absolutely never loses his enthusiasm.

"I'd get miffed about our assignment or I'd find something to complain about. But Charlie stays fired up and positive no matter where he is. He told me that I was being counterproductive.

"I think the result was, our whole crew had a great second half of the season."

Christensen is bright, sometimes too bright. His flowery words and strong opinions are construed by some as a form of showing off.

And there are those who complain that he tends to be long-winded.

"I'm well aware not everyone out there is going to love everything I do," Christensen said.

Christensen has a theory on that. He has theories on a lot of things. This one he calls his "25% theory."

"The way I figure it, 25% of the people are going to like you for the right reasons, 25% are going to like you for the wrong reasons, 25% are going to dislike you for the wrong reasons and 25% are going to dislike you for the right reasons.

"The 25% that dislike me for the right reasons are the ones I'm concerned about."

Jones has worked with 58 football commentators during his career.

Of his latest, Jones said: "Todd has the ability to become the next really outstanding analyst.

"He has great command of the English language, and he works very hard. He doesn't like people to think he works that hard, but he does.

"During a game, he sees so many things.

"He's also a great idea guy. In production meetings, he really contributes a lot of good ideas."

Regarding a perception that Christensen is arrogant, Jones said: "He does have a lot of self-confidence, and he's very goal-oriented. Sometimes, he pushes too hard, and the problem with that is, you can alienate the audience. There's a fine line there. But Todd is aware of it and has worked hard on improving in this area."

Now that Christensen is on national television, is there a danger of his going Hollywood?

Hardly. He has actually gone the other way. Christensen, who is from Oregon but attended Brigham Young, moved in 1990 from Los Angeles to a rural area near Alpine, Utah, a town of 3,000.

"Once I figured out it didn't matter where I lived as long as I was close to an airport (his home is 35 miles from the Salt Lake City airport), we decided to move to Utah," he said.

There are the obvious reasons--no traffic, clean air, virtually no crime--but Christensen said the main reason was to assure his four sons a good education.

The No. 2 team at CBS is Verne Lundquist and Dan Fouts. They drew Saturday's Atlanta Falcon-Washington Redskin game, with Pat Summerall and John Madden assigned to Sunday's Dallas Cowboy-Detroit Lion game.

The Redskins are 11 1/2-point favorites, but CBS commentator Randy Cross, who worked several Falcon games during the season, is picking the Falcons. "They have the best combination of talent and emotion of any team in the playoffs," Cross said.

John Robinson's next job might be at CBS. The former Ram coach has been invited to be the network's guest analyst on both the Saturday and Sunday telecasts of "NFL Today" this weekend.

Indications are that Robinson is interested in something on a more permanent basis, and so is CBS.

Former Channel 2 sportscaster Keith Olbermann will take a couple months off before he begins his new role as an anchorman on the 8:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter."

Olbermann will replace Bob Ley, who is moving to the 4 p.m. "SportsCenter," where he will continue as an anchorman and also spearhead what ESPN is calling "more aggressive coverage of breaking news stories and issues."

Channel 2, in its search to replace Olbermann, made an offer to CBS' Greg Gumbel that would have allowed him to continue his network work as well, a source said. But the station couldn't come up with enough money to make it worthwhile for Gumbel to move from New York.

For the record: It was reported in this space recently that Joe Fowler, formerly of Channel 9, wasn't allowed to go back on the air after he was fired. Fowler said he wasn't fired.

"Because of some internal problems in the sports department, I had been seeking to get out of my contract for about eight months," he said. "The day we finally agreed that I'd be released from my contract, I did ask to go on one more time and was turned down."

Fowler said he's doing free-lance work now. He also plays the role of a sportscaster on "Coach," an ABC sitcom.

TV-Radio Notes

The ESPN Radio Network makes its debut this weekend, but KMPC, the Los Angeles affiliate, won't begin the weekend service until Jan. 11. The problem is that much of ESPN's programming, which runs from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., would have been preempted because of Saturday night's UCLA-Georgia basketball game. . . . The ESPN Radio Network will provide its 140 affiliates with previews and reviews, news and information, features and commentaries. KSDO in San Diego and KMEN in San Bernardino are among the affiliates. . . . KMPC also will be launching a talk show with Joe McDonnell on Jan. 11. The program will be on Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m., preempting ESPN during those hours.

Ratings game: One way to guarantee a good bowl-game rating is to invite Notre Dame. The Sugar Bowl between Notre Dame and Florida got an 11.3 overnight Nielsen rating, which is a 176% increase over the 4.1 for last year's game between Tennessee and Virginia. The Orange Bowl, meanwhile, got a 10.6 rating, down 42% from the 18.6 of a year ago. Other overnight ratings: Rose Bowl, 15.8; Cotton, 9.6; Citrus, 6.5; Hall of Fame, 6.3; Fiesta, 5.9. An ESPN rating for the Peach Bowl, the most exciting game of the day, was not available Thursday. . . . Here's an oddity: Tuesday's John Hancock Bowl, with UCLA, got a 5.2 overnight rating nationally, but only a 4.6 in Los Angeles.

No, those weren't UCLA announcers John Rebenstorf and David Norrie calling the John Hancock Bowl broadcast on KMPC. A national radio packager, PIA, bought the radio rights to the game and supplied the announcers. . . . Joel Meyers was heard on KMPC, his former station, on Wednesday, calling the Rose Bowl for Mutual Radio.

It was one thing for ABC to bombard viewers with World League of American Football promotional spots during its two wild-card telecasts last Saturday. It was another to have Brent Musburger devote most of a halftime interview with Carl Peterson, the Chiefs' president, to the World League. Come on, nobody cares about the World League.

Prime Ticket came up with a different idea last week when it announced that it would use a split screen to show the end of last Saturday's King-Oiler game at Edmonton and the start of the Laker home game against the Portland Trail Blazers. But the plan didn't materialize because the King game ended before the Laker game started.

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