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Fox’s New Baseball Deal Is Hardly a Hit for Fans

Signing off from Pittsburgh after the American League’s 3-2 victory in Tuesday’s All-Star game, Fox’s Joe Buck wrapped an arm around Tim McCarver and uttered the words that sent shudders throughout America.

“You’re stuck!” a grinning Buck told millions of television viewers still reeling from the big-news signing of the day. “You’re stuck with us for the next seven years!”

Earlier Tuesday, Fox announced a new agreement to televise Major League Baseball through 2013 -- the Dodgers will have changed managers five more times by then -- with exclusive rights to the World Series and the gimmick that determines home-field advantage in the World Series, the one-time showcase that used to be able to stand on its own, the All-Star game.

This means seven more years of shameless mid-game shilling of Fox programming -- Coming in 2013! “The Simpsons Move In With The Family Guy”! -- along with soft postgame interviews, annoying graphics and annoying analysts.

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We shouldn’t encourage Fox, which promoted the All-Star game as the “biggest” sporting event of the summer, somehow forgetting about the World Cup, which was televised in America by other networks. Yet Tuesday’s game drew a fast national rating of 9.3 with a 16 share, representing nearly a 15% increase over the previous year’s final rating of 8.1 with a 14 share. (Worth noting: The 2005 All-Star game drew all-time low ratings.)

The new deal, which goes into effect next season, also sends all first-round playoff games to TBS, which beginning in 2008 will televise 26 regular-season games on Sundays.

There has been some media hand-wringing over the fact that first-round playoff games will be televised only on cable, which ignores two other truths:

1. Next year will be 2007, not 1987.

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2. Fans will find TBS more accessible than, say, the ABC Family Channel or, ahem, OLN.

It took a while, but NBA fans became accustomed to the cable format. The best thing about televised pro basketball in this country today is TNT’s studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.

Maybe they’d be interested in moonlighting for TBS during the summer?

World Cup vs. Wimbledon

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the new Borg and McEnroe, right? They played an engaging match in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, no? Federer is aggressively chasing history, playing some of the best tennis ever seen, and that is a concept that would interest any sports fan, correct?

Not quite. The Federer-Nadal final on NBC drew an overnight rating of 2.9 with an 8 share, which was an improvement over the 2005 Wimbledon final between Federer and Andy Roddick (2.5 and 8) but no match for the World Cup final that followed several hours later.

Italy’s penalty-kicks victory over France earned ABC an overnight rating of 8.6 with a 19 share, more than doubling the rating for the 2002 final between Brazil and Germany, a 4.1 with a 16 share.

This proves a couple of things:

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1. Unlike Bruce Arena, ABC/ESPN succeeded despite playing personnel out of position. JP Dellacamera and John Harkes were clearly the superior broadcast tandem, but they were relegated to the third-place game with Dave O’Brien and Marcelo Balboa pulling in Sunday’s plum assignment.

2. Americans are fascinated by head butts. Not really surprising. Pro wrestling is huge in this country.


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