Airwaves: Fireworks get Olympics off to bang-up start 

Spectacular, just plain spectacular. That is the only way to describe the colorful, historic Olympic opening ceremony we all witnessed Friday. NBC (again) was right on in combining the talents of Bob Costas with that of “Today” host Matt Lauer as the hosts of this long, but very meaningful and historic presentation.

No sense rambling on and on about the event because it could not have been better, and it made for wonderful TV viewing. Noted Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou was the director for the ceremony and he did not disappoint. Next time the games are in the United States, we need to get Oliver Stone or Steven Spielberg to call the shots.

NBC also did an extraordinary job all week with “Today” being broadcast from China, with Lauer live from the Great Wall, The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. This is the first time the entire cast of the popular “Today” — 50 times better than the stupid “The View” show — has reported live from an international Olympics. NBC sees this broadcast as much of a news broadcast as a sporting event. Thus the heavy-duty emphasis on non-sports broadcasting. After all, the Peacock paid a record $894 million for the broadcast rights. It can see it any way it wants.

Big Ten

Back to the homeland, the Big Ten Conference is on to something big! In its second year of operation, the Big Ten Network will reach some 55 million homes this year.

It is on 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. It broadcasts more than 400 Big Ten events live and is a destination for fans across the nation to follow their favorite school from this fabled conference. This year, it will broadcast 40 live football games and some 200 men’s and women’s hoops games.

I visited the network’s studios this spring and it has certainly done it right from the production and broadcasting standpoint to cable and satellite providers (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish) that are on board with it.

In fact, while I was wandering around the facility, the Southeastern Conference bigwigs were also in town getting a lowdown on the inner working of the entire network. The SEC is starting its own version next year.

Which brings me to the point of this: The Pac-10 Conference had better get off its rear end and think about getting into this type of venture. It is great for the conference in terms of the exposure and revenue that is generated. It is simple: Add Utah and BYU to make the conference 12 schools, develop a Pac-12 Network (here in San Francisco) and get up to par with the other conferences.

NFL Network the place to be for preseason

For the compulsive gambler or the die-hard fan, the NFL Network is the place to go.

In the next 26 days, the network will bring to the air 54 NFL preseason games. If you receive it through your cable provider, it is a great way to get a feel for the league and see how teams are progressing. The only downside is the fact that you must listen to the teams’ homer preseason announcers. This can be very irritating at times.

If you listened to the Raiders’ broadcast team Friday night or any games last year, you will have an appreciation of what I just stated.

Condolences to the Caray family

Skip Caray, the Atlanta Braves’ broadcaster for 33 years, left us this past week. He died in his sleep at home. Skip carved his own identity as a broadcaster in the shadow of his famous father, Harry. His sarcasm and wit made him the Braves’ lead voice and a very popular figure in Atlanta. He did national TV for TBS and the Braves for the last 30 years.

Baseball broadcasting has lost two good guys in the last month. Skip will join Bobby Mercer, the ex-New York Yankees great-turned-broadcaster who passed away this summer, at that great sports bar in the sky.

Raiders-49ers practice

The Raiders-49ers combined practice Monday was interesting. What a shame it was not telecast live somewhere on local TV. In New York, if the Jets and Giants were to practice against each other, it would be bigger than the A-Rod and Madonna love affair. If the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans were to work together, forget the oil issues in the world. This would be top billing.
Instead, the Raiders-49ers are a sad afterthought in the big scheme of things. Friday’s TV ratings will reflect that sentiment as the game on both KPIX (Ch. 5) and KICU (Ch. 36) was tape-delayed.

Just asking, but how do the advertisers feel about that?

In addition, did anyone think about playing and airing the game Thursday so it was not in conflict with the Olympics’ opening ceremony and the Giants-Dodgers game? Duh!

Hard knocks

You got to love Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. As mentioned last week, the Cowgirls, excuse me, the Cowboys are the featured team on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Wednesday was the premiere and it was great. HBO will film some 700 hours of footage for the five-week segment. Now Jones is in negotiations with HBO to allow behind-the-scenes access during the actual season. If Double J can pull this one off, it would be fantastic. As a person in the media, I love the concept; if I were still coaching, I would hate it.

On Target

Sirius Radio has hired ex-coach Marty Schottenheimer to host “Monday Sirius Blitz” and Thursday’s “The Red Zone Show.” Schottenheimer is not as stiff as some media members and fans make him out to be. He is obviously experienced and will, in all likelihood, come across better on radio than on TV. He did a great job in his last coaching gig with the San Diego Chargers and was unceremoniously fired after going 14-2.

By the numbers

18: Hours TNT will broadcast of the PGA Championship this weekend

118: Hours of TNT’s online coverage of the event

82: Hours of live golf online by TNT.tv

Artie Gigantino spent 25 years as a coach at the major-college and NFL levels, was lead college-football analyst for Fox Sports Net for seven years, was with CBS for one year and was an executive with the Raiders for three years. E-mail him at agigantino@sfexaminer.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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