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SPORTVIEW

They might still be the talk of the town

The last time John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were on the air together, the Red Sox and A's were just getting their Division Series cranked up, and New England sports fans were wondering whether the banged-up Patriots could still be competitive. By the time you read this, the duo will have returned to host the "Dennis & Callahan" 6-10 morning drive show on WEEI, having served two-week suspensions for their well-documented wisecrack about an escaped gorilla and a Metco bus stop.

Much has happened in their absence. For starters, the Sox have been eliminated from the playoffs and manager Grady Little has assumed the hot seat formerly occupied by the WEEI pair. The Patriots have kept winning, seemingly against all odds. And the Celtics have traded Antoine Walker.

Normally, that would be enough to keep a sports talk station going for weeks, but will listeners want to talk about those topics this morning? It will be interesting to follow the chatter.

WEEI takes pride in having its shows caller-driven. When Dennis was suspended, the afternoon "Big Show" was deluged with calls about his situation.

Dennis and Callahan have apologized individually on the air already and likely will do so again at the top of this morning's show. Where and how the show goes from there will be interesting. The two are paid to be provocative and edgy. You'd have to anticipate that it will take them a while to recover that edge, with everything they say running through a more sensitive mental filter.

Dennis in the past has acknowledged, "We dish it out pretty hard."

If you're going to do that, you have to be able to take it, too, something that's happened in abundance over the past two weeks.

Whether by station mandate or common sense, the pair have refrained from answering publicly.

That silence ends today.

Watching paint dry

The life of a Sox broadcaster can change quickly. WEEI's Jerry Trupiano got to watch a bit of the weekend World Series games while switching to the home chores season, embarking on painting projects. "I got a call from Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes," said Trupiano. "He thought we'd be getting together for a Sox-Cubs World Series. Then, after they were eliminated, he said he was rooting for us to make it." Trupiano just finished his 11th season with the Sox, and agent Brad Blank will be talking with the team about continuing that relationship . . . The Red Sox' success during the summer was reflected in the TV ratings. For the season, NESN averaged a 7.9 in Boston for its 121 telecasts, a 6 percent increase over 2002. The highest regular-season rating was a 16.1 on Channel 4 for a game against the Yankees Friday, Aug. 29. The top NESN rating was a 13.4, again for a game against the Yankees, on Memorial Day. The top rating for a non-Yankee game was 12.2 for NESN Aug. 6 vs. Anaheim at Fenway Park. "From a TV perspective, we had a tremendously successful season, with ratings increases across the board at NESN as well as in the Hartford and Providence markets," said Chuck Steedman, Red Sox senior director for business affairs. "In addition, the success of our Friday package on the Viacom stations [Channels 4 and 38], proved appointment viewing can be successful." The 21 prime time telecasts on Channel 38 averaged a 9.0 rating . . . ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" made its debut yesterday morning from 7-9. It was long on pop culture and sports personalities as celebrities. Darryl Dawkins was the day's celebrity weatherman, appropriate for a guy who dubbed himself "Chocolate Thunder." Today, Tampa Bay Buccaneer Simeon Rice is a guest. He'll discuss the art of dressmaking, fashion designing, and marketing (really) . . . WEEI program director Jason Wolfe on reports that Dunkin' Donuts pulled advertising from the station: "Not so. They never canceled any advertising, they chose to air recorded spots." The recorded commercials replaced ones that called for live or recorded voiceovers by Dennis and Callahan.

Football lineup

CBS has Sunday's Browns-Patriots game from Foxborough (Channel 4, 1 p.m.) with the same group -- Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Bonnie Bernstein -- that worked the game in Miami. A second week with the Patriots should sharpen the telecast. That will be followed by Jets-Eagles with Greg Gumbel, Phil Simms, and Armen Keteyian. Fox sends in 49ers-Cardinals to Channel 25 at 4 . . . Channel 5 has Saturday's Boston College-Notre Dame game at noon, followed by Michigan-Purdue at 3:30 p.m. . . . NESN has its first high-definition hockey telecast Thursday when the Bruins come off the road to play Carolina at the FleetCenter. NESN starts with "Sportsplus" live from "The Place" at 6:30 with host Bob Lobel and the Globe's Bob Ryan and Nick Cafardo, followed by the pregame show at 7, and a 7:30 faceoff against the Hurricanes . . . Derek Sanderson will host NESN's taped broadcast of Denis Leary's Celebrity Hat Trick following the postgame show. That charity event was held Sept. 28 at the FleetCenter . . . Cubs fan Steve Bartman achieved a distinction of infamy, being No. 17 on the Lycos 50 (most-searched personalities) last week, the first time a fan has made the list . . . The results of Sunday night's "Sports Final" poll, asking respondents about Little's future, seemed to reflect a softening of hearts in Red Sox Nation. Lobel seemed stunned that 53 percent said Grady must go and 47 percent said he should stay. Certainly a switch from local sentiment Friday . . . The NFL's (not-so-)instant replay challenges take forever, but the Dolphins' Derrius Thompson's seeming out-of-bounds caper yesterday and Tom Brady's quick spike-the-ball play to thwart a possible challenge a week earlier against the Giants exposed flaws in the system . . . Greg Dickerson tapped into his Fox Sports Net connections as the WEEI substitute morning host broke the Walker trade story in Boston just after 9 yesterday.

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

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