Let's hope the antiquated notion that a sports broadcaster—even one as high-profile as John Madden—can influence ratings dies with the 2002 numbers for Monday Night Football. Last February, ABC Sports president Howard Katz predicted that the dream-team coupling of Al Michaels and Madden would stem the seven-year decline of MNF ratings. "I don't want to put too much pressure on John," Katz said, "but, yeah, I expect ratings to go up." Instead they went south. Again. MNF finished with an average rating of 11.4, down 1% from the Michaels- Dennis Miller- Dan Fouts trio of '01. (A rating point equals about 1.05 million homes.) The nadir came in the Dec. 30 finale between the 49ers and Rams, which drew an 8.7, the lowest rating in the 33-year history of MNF. No matter how strong an announcing team—and the current duo is top-notch—all that matters in an ever-expanding 500-channel universe is the quality of the games. A string of blowouts hurt MNF's ratings this year (13 games were decided by 10 points or more) as did NFL parity. (A-list teams such as Montana's Niners were always a great draw.) If MNF is to reverse its slide in 2003, ABC execs need to start praying to the scheduling gods immediately.
Houston Comets forward Rebecca Lobo continues to build on the promise she showed as an ESPN women's basketball analyst. Working alongside Tim Brando on CBS's coverage of LSU's 80-63 win over Penn State, Lobo picked her spots well, providing salient details on LSU's tendency to overpass. Said Lobo, "In practice yesterday [LSU] Coach [Sue] Gunter kicked the sideline and yelled at Doneeka Hodges for overpassing, telling her, 'Doneeka, you should have taken that shot!' " When Lobo retires, she'll make an easy transition to the booth.