?From Showtime's the Hoop Life to NBC's Inside Schwartz and HBO's Arli$$, the roster of sports-related comedies and dramas on TV is mostly undistinguished. One show that could be an exception is ESPN's Playmakers, a weekly one-hour series about a pro football franchise called the Cougars, that is the 23-year-old network's first foray info fictional drama. (Its 10-episode run begins on Aug. 26 at 9 p.m.) The show eschews game action and focuses on the off-the-field lives of the team's personnel. Playmakers really picks up steam when Omar Gooding (who plays the Cougars' star running back) is on screen. Where older brother Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Rod Tidwell had a sweetness buried beneath his chesty exterior in Jerry Maguire, Omar's Demetrius Harris is all thug. He smokes crack before kickoff and crawls the clubs deep into the night in search of women. "When you're a playmaker," Harris says in the first episode, "rules don't apply." That's true for this program, too. A show featuring nudity, salty language and graphic drug use is a bold move for ESPN. But its realistic depiction of the seamy side of the game makes it look like a smart idea.
? Elliott Sadler became the latest Winston Cup driver to take a spin in the broadcast booth when he joined TNT for a Busch Series race Two weeks ago. Turner Sports coordinating producer Jeff Behnke was pleased wife Sadler's outspoken style as an analyst and may ask Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon to sit in on coverage later this year.... ESPN will use Sportsvision's virtual 1st & ten line—the computer-generated yellow line that marks first downs—on all its NFL and NCAA college football telecasts this season.