Smizik: Lange might have TV job option
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Mike Lange is tentatively scheduled to meet with the Penguins this week to discuss a multiyear contract to remain as the team's radio voice. But events across the country could have an effect on those negotiations.
Late last week the Phoenix Coyotes fired their longtime television play-by-play announcer Curt Keilback, thus creating an opening that could deeply interest Lange.
Lange had been doing television work with the Penguins until his contract was not renewed by rights holder FSN Pittsburgh in June of last year. About five weeks later, Lange signed a one-year deal to be the Penguins' radio voice.
He since has made it clear he was interested in getting back into television work, where the compensation is considerably higher. There is no chance of that in Pittsburgh, where FSN is happy with Paul Steigerwald, who came over from radio to replace Lange.
"I won't lie to you," Lange said in February. "There is more money in TV. I took a gigantic hit.
"I do love Pittsburgh, but the scene has changed for me. There isn't any doubt about that. I've been turned aside from TV. I'm not their No. 1 guy anymore. I have to do what's best for me. I have to consider my career."
Television play-by-play jobs, in any major sport, don't regularly open, which left Lange with few options. But the surprising news that Keilback, who had been with the Phoenix-Winnipeg franchise for 27 years, would not be brought back changed that.
What makes the job with the Coyotes so intriguing is that Lange got his start in hockey in Phoenix. He was the color commentator alongside Al McCoy with the Phoenix Roadrunners in the Western Hockey League in 1970.
Lange, in fact, borrowed his first goal call, "Great balls of fire," from McCoy.
Lange did not return phone calls requesting comment for this story.
The dismissal of Keilback, who had called 2,395 NHL games, was not unlike Lange's in Pittsburgh. "I was shocked and disappointed," Keilback told the Arizona Republic. "I believed I was just going into a meeting to discuss next year."
Phoenix has not set a timetable for replacing Keilback.
NFL draft a ratings success
With the great ratings it already receives, there's talk of making the NFL draft a three-day event, with the first round being shown in prime time Friday night on ESPN. The remaining six rounds would be shown Saturday and Sunday. Not only would the prime-time slot enhance viewership, it would give teams a chance to regroup after the momentous first round.
The draft drew 37,980,000 viewers for two days on ESPN, ESPN2 and the NFL Network. In 2001, it was watched by 23,547,000 and has grown every year.
ESPN had a 5.0 rating for the first 41/2 hours of the draft, which almost doubled the average rating -- 2.8 -- the network gets for its Sunday night baseball game.
The NFL Network, which is not carried by many cable providers, averaged 367,000 viewers. That's minuscule compared to ESPN's audience, but it was larger than 26 of the 30 NHL playoff games carried on the Versus Network before the draft.
With so much success, how long will it be before the NFL takes away part or all of the draft from ESPN and presents it on its own network?
'Extra Innings' worthwhile
"The Extra Innings Show," which follows the Pirates postgame show on WPGB (104.7), is gaining momentum after a slow start and offers baseball talks as good as can be heard on the radio. Too bad it can't immediately follow the games. Instead, listeners have to put up with the bland and lifeless postgame show on the Pirates Radio Network.
Host Rocco DeMaro brings a passion to the "The Extra Innings Show." He comes well prepared and isn't afraid to offer criticisms. He's not always right with his opinions, but he stirs up good talk. DeMaro pointing out the shortcomings of Xavier Nady against right-handed pitching was good stuff.
He tends to be a bit too stats oriented, especially when he tries to give significant meaning to small samplings. But he's not afraid to talk about important statistics, such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage that too often are overlooked in favor of the outdated batting average and runs batted it.
No room for Bettis?
NBC has announced that Keith Olbermann will be a co-host of "Football Night in America," its studio show surrounding Sunday night football. Olbermann will join host Bob Costas and co-host Cris Collinsworth. That's three people who love and need the microphone.
Which leaves this question: How will Jerome Bettis, who was an under-used analyst in his first season last year, ever get to say a word surrounded by these talkers?
First Published May 7, 2007 11:42 pm