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SPORTVIEW

It's fair: Fox made right calls in Game 3

National announcers are in a no-win situation with the fans of the teams they're covering. These days, with Fox airing both the Cubs-Marlins and Red Sox-Yankees series, that means there are four cities where the fans think the broadcasters are partial to "the other team." It's too bad, because those games are the big sports story in each of those towns, but nowhere more so than in Boston and Chicago. In Boston, the Sox-Yankees series is averaging a 36 rating (58 share) through three games; in Chicago, the Cubs-Marlins series is doing a 35 rating (53 share) through five games. A rating point is equal to one percent of the market's total number of TV households; the share is the percentage of sets in use that are tuned to a station.

"We know Sox fans are going to think we're pro-Yankee," Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck told Channel 25's Butch Stearns on "Sports Sunday." "We have to get excited when the Yankees do well. But the fans who think we're rooting for the Yankees forget that we got excited when the Sox did well, too."

Buck knows that Sox fans miss the voices of Jerry Remy, Don Orsillo, and Sean McDonough, guys he acknowledged "do so well during the season."

But the truth is that Fox has paid handsomely for the rights to the postseason, and Boston viewers' choice is to turn down the sound on their TVs and listen to Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano on WEEI (850 AM) or get accustomed to the voices of Buck and Tim McCarver, who will take the country through the ALCS and then the World Series. Judging from e-mail and phone messages, Red Sox Nation isn't happy with that arrangement.

The Fox guys seem to have gotten the pulse of the Sox and Yankees, something that certainly helped them as Saturday's Fenway Follies developed in Game 3. Buck, McCarver, and newcomer Bret Boone called the events as they unfolded in three separate outbursts.

For the most part, they got it right, and McCarver delivered opinion. It's only a guess here, but this national trio may have let the Sox' participants off more lightly than the NESN crew would have.

"We're trying to be as fair as we can here, but [Pedro] Martinez has incited so much," said Buck at one point as the crew had a moment to recap the events of the fourth inning.

McCarver, long considered a New York guy in these parts, had been talking about Martinez's difficulties in throwing his curve and reluctance to use his fastball during the early innings. After Martinez buzzed Karim Garcia, McCarver said, "That was perilously close [to Garcia's head]" though none of the announcers seemed to think he'd been hit by the pitch. Then, when Garcia was awarded first, Buck speculated that the ball must have hit Garcia's helmet. "I thought it hit his back," said Boone. "It was off his shoulder," said McCarver. Indeed, the replay we've all seen for three days now remains inconclusive.

As the cameras showed Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer yelling at Martinez, McCarver noted that "pitchers have a safety zone with the designated hitter. Prior to the DH, pitchers had to hit and players policed the game themselves."

The crew correctly noted that Garcia had no choice but to go after the wrong guy in retaliation [Sox second baseman Todd Walker on a takeout slide that Fox also never caught in a good replay], and that Manny Ramirez overreacted to a high inside Roger Clemens pitch in the fourth. "That ball wasn't even close," said McCarver. "He was looking for a reason to start it up again." McCarver translated Martinez's hand gestures [pointing at his temple] as "He's not saying `Use your head;' he's saying `I'll hit you in the head,' " something Martinez tried to downplay Sunday night when he said he was indicating "he'd remember" what the Yankees were yelling at him.

But none of the three Fox announcers was prepared for the sight of the 72-year-old Zimmer rushing Martinez. The reactions from the booth ranged from: "That's absolutely awful," to "You've got to be kidding me," and "I mean, Don Zimmer?"

Later, Buck said, "I can't put all the blame on Pedro, but I feel for Don Zimmer."

Fox was in a commercial break when the ninth-inning fracas broke out in the Yankees bullpen. The network came back to the game as order was being restored and the general thinking was that a fan had jumped into the bullpen. Within minutes, Fox had updated the report with the information that the Yankees were involved with a Sox groundskeeper.

Fox identified Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson and right fielder Garcia as combatants from the start, and provided shots of Garcia [later called `Sergio' by manager Joe Torre in a postgame on-field interview with Fox's Chris Myers] leaving with an injured hand.

When play resumed, Buck noted, "The entire level of intensity has been raised a level . . . as if this game needed any more tension." Fox signed off from Fenway by calling it "an intense and memorable day in the long and serious history of the Sox and Yankees . . . the game didn't disappoint, even if some of the actions in the fourth inning did."

Replay it again

Some thoughts on Sunday's Patriots-Giants telecast, the only time Fox will have the Patriots this season. Without counting, Fox seemed to incorporate far fewer replays into the broadcast than we see with CBS -- including hardly any of the many Patriots penalties in the game. Also, the "1st & 10" line appeared to be slightly off a couple of times. Once, during a measurement, it snapped to a different (and, it turns out, more accurate) position. A drenched sideline reporter Tony Siragusa set a record of some sort for informal discussions with the booth (Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston) and also may have retired the trophy for wettest T-shirt ever worn by a sideline reporter . . . Speaking of sideline reporters, Turner calls Erin Andrews of its Saturday night football team, an "atmosphere reporter." . . . The summer Arbitron radio ratings show, overall among all listeners, WBZ (1030 AM) is No. 1 with a 6.9 share, followed by 2. WMJX (106.7 FM), 5.9; 3. WJMN (94.5 FM), 5.4; 4. WXKS (107.9) 5.1; and WEEI, 5.0. In the males over 18 demo, WEEI ranks first with an 8.8 share, followed by WBZ (6.5) and WZLX (100.7 FM) with a 6.2 . . . One more Fox thought: Could the cameras zoom in a little closer on those extreme closeups? We need a few more seconds to count the pores on Nomar Garciaparra's nose . . . Patriots-Dolphins will be the lone CBS game coming in Sunday (Channel 4, 1 p.m.). Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf will handle the broadcast. Fox has the Sunday doubleheader, opening with Eagles-Giants (Ch. 25, 1 p.m.) with Dick Stockton, Troy Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth and a Redskins-Bills nightcap (4:15 p.m.) with the Albert-Johnston team. That leads into Game 2 of the World Series at 7:30, from either Boston or New York . . . Tomorrow night, the Bruins are in Dallas (NESN, 8:30) and the Celtics in Detroit for an exhibition game (FSNE, 7:30) . . . Sorry, but this is irresistible: What do Turfinator, Sodzilla, Mr. Mowjangles, Weedy Gonzales, and Sir Lawns-A lot have in common? They're competing in National Lawn Mower Racing Series tomorrow (ESPN2, 3 p.m.). You have to think Sox grass-growing (and mowing) ace Dave Mellor, the team's head groundskeeper, is working on an offseason entry . . . AOL Sports personnel were touched by the following posting on a Red Sox message board: "My father has been a Sox fan since he was a little boy. He is 78 now and his health is very bad. I'm not sure if he will be around next season. We have gone back and forth over the years 'cause I'm a Yankee fan, and most of the time I won. Now I know time is short and the time I have left with him is almost gone. I'm not part of an evil nation, I'm a baseball fan just like you guys. I know that I love my dad more than I'll ever love the Yanks, so I hope the Boston Red Sox win it all. And if there is anyone who thinks I'm a traitor then they don't know what love is all about. For my dad, Bill. Love Kevin." AOL's Billy Kenny says the story was checked out and the company sent father Bill Rabbett and son Kevin, both of West Suffield, Conn., to Saturday's game. By yesterday, the message had brought 1,630 responses -- an off-the-charts count.

Bill Griffith's email address is griffith@globe.com.

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