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Lately, it's been fast times

Patriots, Sox rating highly

World Series analyst Tim McCarver noted last week that his boss, Fox sports chairman David Hill, had made the point that baseball isn't a slow game, it's a fast game in terms of constant strategy and decision-making.

Never has baseball (and football) seemed so fast as over the past weekend, when Saturday's Boston College-Notre Dame football game melded into Game 1 of the World Series which morphed into Patriots-New York Jets football Sunday afternoon and then into Game 2 of the Series.

We can identify with Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck, who said it's hard to step back from calling postseason baseball action "inning to inning" and put the games into historical perspective. "That comes later," he said.

It's a wise Boston fan who already is putting these games into the all-time memory bank as the Red Sox and Patriots travel parallel record-setting tracks -- not only with victories on the field but also with TV ratings.

Sunday's Patriots-Jets telecast set a season-high 35.5 Patriots rating (62 share), their third-highest regular-season rating ever. That segued into Game 2 of the Sox-Cardinals World Series, which delivered a 47.8 rating (68 share), higher than all but Games 6 and 7 of the Sox-Yankees ALCS. Boston was the highest-rated market in the country. The St. Louis TV audience was No. 2, returning a 46.9 rating (60 share) for Game 2. Providence was No. 3 at 39.4/52, followed by Hartford at 28.1/39.

Nationally, Game 2 did a 15.9 rating, (24 share), the highest-rated Game 2 since the 1995 Series between the Braves and Indians did a 19.4/31 on NBC. Through two games, Fox's telecasts have averaged a 17.7 rating, 26 percent higher than last year's Yankees-Marlins Series and 37 percent higher than the 2002 Series between the Angels and Giants.

The Patriots' rating trailed only last year's 43 rating (61 share) for the Miami snow game Dec. 7 and the 1998 game in which Doug Flutie led the Bills against the Patriots and Drew Bledsoe, who played with a broken finger. That game, which the Patriots won on a late Bledsoe drive, did a 36.3 rating and 57 share.

That being said, let's say this:

* CBS spent creative time, energy, and money to have boxing announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. do the intro for Sunday's "The NFL Today." "In this corner, with 20 consecutive victories, all coming by way of knockout, the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. And the challenger, the unbeaten, 5-0, New York Jets. Somebody's `O' has got to go."

* Three hours later, as it went to Foxborough, CBS had prepared a movie trailer for the game, calling it "The Undefeated." Also clever and well done.

* Fox's in-game interviews with Tony La Russa and Terry Francona (taped between innings) have been informative while not overly intrusive into the telecast.

* When Fox pulled out the film of the Willie Mays catch on Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series, you realized that the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds's catch on Jason Varitek fared comparably. Although Edmonds had less turf to cover, he had the Fenway wall to contend with.

* Miking a player paid off for Fox when the Cardinals' Reggie Sanders delivered what only could be called a polite warning to Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera: "I know you wasn't trying to throw elbows, but it looked like it" in the top of the fourth Saturday night after Cabrera had taken out St. Louis second baseman Tony Womack in the three-run Sox third inning.

* Baseball weather? Folks at Fenway Saturday and Sunday night looked like they were dressed more for a Patriots' Super Bowl victory parade than a baseball game. The historic video that should have aired during the telecast was commissioner Bowie Kuhn in shirtsleeves during Game 2 of the 1976 series in Cincinnati (in weather not unlike this weekend's in Boston). Blame it all on TV. The World Series was played in daylight in early October until 1971 (first night Series game), '72 (two night games), '73 (three night games) and '75 (five night games). Fans still thawing out (the huddled masses?) can note that the Series games start at 8:15 p.m. when regular-season games, in warmer weather, start at 7 p.m.

* Did you mark your calendars? Fox has been showing promos for February programming: The Daytona 500 and Super Bowl. Darn. Haven't picked up the 2005 desk calendar yet.

* Dunno if this "House" show Fox has been promoting so heavily is going to be a hit or not, but I'm wondering if that Doc is accepting new patients.

* You had to love Chris Myers ignoring Tom Hanks in his Sox cap (he's an Indians fan who has graciously transferred his allegiance to the Sox in the Series) to interview Jimmy Fallon in the Monster seats Sunday. But it was a 3-year-old named Ethan who stole an interview from Myers Saturday night. Asked how big a Red Sox fan he was, the youngster spread his arms wide and said, "This big."

* Did you see the "#38 Bloody Brilliant" T-shirts on www.theRemyReport.com? Remy, the Sox analyst/concessionaire/entrepreneur has been represented in the Fenway stands by two fans (found by the Fox cameras) with Wally, his beanbag buddy, (upside down, of course) in an Adirondack chair.

* Fox gave us some nice "fans-eye" views of Fenway from the center field camera and the left-field rooftop camera, including one through the mesh on the left-field foul pole.

* Why does a viewer fear that we'll see more blue lines (line of scrimmage graphic) on NFL telecasts than on NHL telecasts this season?

* Dueling weekend chants: "Who's your daddy?" at Gillette Stadium and "Who's your Papi?" at Fenway Park.

* CBS had a great anecdote during the Patriots-Jets telecast. Jim Nantz told the story of the 7-year-old Bill Belichick congratulating George "Papa Bear" Halas after a victory and getting a signed $1 bill from the notoriously thrifty Bears coach-owner, a memento he still has.

* New software has given TV graphics people great creative freedom on all fronts. CBS used it to do bring a nice old-time handwritten style to numerical graphics in the Patriots-Jets game.

Meet me in St. Louis
Any outlet that does local news in Boston has people in St. Louis this week. We don't know if Ch. 25 knows something we don't, but its website yesterday didn't list any Sox telecasts beyond Game 4 . . . WEEI is originating its shows from St. Louis starting today. WWZN (1510) has Kevin Winter at the Series. NESN's Jayme Parker will join morning host Dakota in studio today from 7-10 a.m. . . . The Celtics have changed the starting time of tomorrow night's game with the Pistons to 6 p.m. on FSN, moving the nightly "New England Sports Tonight" early edition to 5:30 p.m. . . . Ch. 25's late news, combined with postgame shows, returned 14.2 and 15.0 ratings after Games 1 and 2 . . . Fox brings in Giants-Vikings as an early Sunday game (Ch. 25, 1 p.m.); CBS has the doubleheader, starting with Ravens-Eagles (Ch. 4, 1 p.m.), followed by Patriots-Steelers (Ch. 4, 4:15 p.m.) . . . BC, off its big win over Notre Dame, has a bye week, good if the Sox are playing a Game 6 Saturday, not so good if baseball is finished . . . Ch. 5's Saturday college football pairings are West Virginia-Rutgers at noon and Michigan State-Michigan at 3:30 p.m. . . . Ch. 4 has Georgia-Florida at 3:30 p.m.

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

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