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SPORTVIEW

Night time is the right time for them

If the Patriots have their way, they'll be playing a week from Saturday night. All indications are that's just what will happen. "Saturday night is our preference," said Patriots vice chairman Jonathan Kraft last night. "We feel playing at home and at night gives us a further competitive advantage. History shows that playing in prime time is extra special no matter what time of season. To play at night in the playoffs is just that much more of a memorable occasion for our fans."

 

CBS has two windows the weekend of Jan. 10-11 -- Saturday night at 8:15 and Sunday afternoon at 1. One of those games will be in Foxborough, the other in Kansas City. An announcement of who plays when could come as soon as today.

"The ultimate decision rests with the commissioner," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello yesterday. "His staff prepares all the pertinent information and makes recommendations, but he makes the final call and informs the networks."

Assembling the pertinent information, said Aiello, includes huddling with the networks, noting any stadium issues, and recognizing competitive factors such as having a team that played the late game on the road having to travel again for an early game the following week.

The feeling locally is that the Patriots are high on the CBS wish list. So is the feeling that it's a done deal that the Patriots will get the Saturday night date, given the lingering visual memories of the "Snow Bowl" against the Raiders two seasons ago, the fact that Boston is the bigger TV market, CBS's tendency to make the Patriots more and more of a national team, and Patriot management's red-carpet treatment for prime-time games in Gillette Stadium.

Given that the team indeed is the "New England" Patriots, adding the Boston, Hartford, and Providence areas together gives them, in essence, the nation's No. 3 television market. And ratings count, as evidenced by the number of times CBS has sent its top announcing team to Patriots games this season.

Even more attractive for network bosses is that Foxborough is within driving distance of New York, meaning key network people can attend the game and be back home for Sunday's games.

In addition, don't discount those "Snow Bowl" memories.

"I hope it's a Saturday night game and that it's snowing," said Ken Aagaard, CBS senior vice president of operations and engineering. "Seeing snowfall in high definition -- and the fans throwing snow in unison again -- will just blow people away."

"I don't know about another snow game, even though our team plays well in snow," said Kraft. "We've kind of had our fill." That was a reference to the Dec. 7 game against Miami, when there was no time to clear the stands or parking lots in advance of the game, which was played with the storm adding to the TV ambience.

You can take it all to mean there aren't any storm clouds on the horizon for a Saturday night game. Not even in Kansas City.

"I'm not aware of any requests made by our organization," said Chiefs spokesman Pete Moris. "Not having had a home playoff game since 1997, our fans wouldn't care if they scheduled the game for 2 in the morning."

If Sunday afternoon is OK with the Chiefs, it's more than OK with the folks in Foxborough.

Game faces The Bills-Patriots game did a strong 27.4 rating (48 share) on Channel 4, an impressive number considering it was in the early Saturday window, which hardly is a traditional slot for NFL viewers. "5th Quarter" recorded a 17.5 rating, benefiting from an audience that stayed with the game until the end and didn't have to change channels to 38 . . . Two takes on the scary-looking hit to the knee Tom Brady took from former teammate Lawyer Milloy. Game analyst Dan Dierdorf: "If he's not seriously hurt, he's fortunate." Studio panelist Deion Sanders at halftime: "It could be an MCL tear. It'll hurt overnight, even though it doesn't hurt so much now." . . . ABC starts "Wild Card Weekend" with its traditional Saturday doubleheader, one that will incorporate ESPN talent. The ESPN Sunday night crew of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire, and Suzy Kolber calls the Titans-Ravens opener (Channel 5, 4:30 p.m.) with Al Michaels, John Madden, and Lisa Guerrero working Cowboys-Panthers (Channel 5, 8 p.m.). Chris Berman and Steve Young host the pregame and between-games shows . . . On Sunday, Fox leads off with Seahawks-Packers (Channel 25, 1 p.m.) and its A Team of Joe Buck, Cris Collinsworth, and Troy Aikman. CBS follows with Broncos-Colts (Channel 4, 4:30 p.m.) and its A Team of Greg Gumbel, Phil Simms, and Armen Keteyian. All the NFL playoff games will be broadcast in HD or, in Fox's case, widescreen format . . . Boston College's Diamond Walnut Bowl date with Colorado State tomorrow night (ESPN2, 10:30) will be the centerpiece of a lot of local New Year's Eve parties. It caps a seven-games-in-two-days bowl festival on the ESPN networks . . . If you missed NECN's "Year in Review" show over Christmas, it will re-air New Year's Eve at 11. Chris Collins and Mark Ockerbloom host, with reporting from Mike Giardi . . . FSNE will ring in the new year with Gary Tanguay and Greg Dickerson doing a two-minute countdown to 2004, complete with best wishes from Celtics broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn.

Terrier territory Boston University hockey coach Jack Parker is the subject of a "Coach" documentary on College Sports TV (Channel 610 on DirecTV, Channel 402 on DISH) Friday night at 7. There's no shortage of material on Parker, who is nearing the 700-win mark. The show covers high points (Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig starring on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic team), challenges (Travis Roy's devastating injury and the way the BU community rallied around him), and tragedy (the death of Mark Bavis on Sept. 11, 2001). The show was scheduled to lead in to coverage of the BU-Minnesota game at 8; however, it's being picked up live in the Midwest and will be available in Boston only via radio, on WCRN (830-AM) in Worcester and WRCA (1330-AM) in Waltham . . . High-definition telecasts of Bruins games on Comcast move to Channel 881 (from 882) for games tonight, Thursday, and Saturday. It's an issue of bandwith availability with Channel 4 joining the high-definition tier . . . Red Sox fans can look both back and ahead on NESN in the coming weeks. Saturday at 4 p.m., "Fan Attic" returns with the first two-hour replay of 16 key Sox games from the 2003 season. Next Tuesday, a new show, "Red Sox Inside Out," makes its debut in a regular 10 p.m. time slot. NESN's Bob Rodgers hosts the show, which will feature discussions with management (including Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, and Terry Francona), NESN analysts (including Jerry Remy, Dennis Eckersley, and Bob Tewksbury), and media members (such as the Globe's Gordon Edes and ESPN's Peter Gammons) . . . A motorcycle segment, "The Ride" joins NESN's three-hour Sunday night Outdoors block this week.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

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