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Published: Saturday, 8/31/2002

Fan outrage moved talks along

Talk about major league baseball flooded radio and television stations this week.

Most dealt with what was taking place behind closed doors between the players' union representatives and team owners. The names of Donald Fehr and Bud Selig were frequently mentioned. Not Sosa. Not Bonds. Not Schilling.

Such has been the state of the major leagues for much of this season.

Talk about a possible work stoppage remained the hot topic right up until noon yesterday, when news broke that a tentative agreement between the players and owners had been reached. Media outlets, nationally and locally, went live to the press conference in which Fehr, representing the players, and Selig, representing the owners, spoke about finding a happy medium to keep this season and future ones from work stoppages.

Avoiding what would have been the ninth work stoppage since 1972 seemed critical. Some were labeling this dispute as a potential death sentence to the game fondly regarded as America's pastime. Considering the kind of images and observations made by fans on television and radio for most of this season and, in particular, the past week, such predictions may have not been too far off.

The media's coverage of fan frustration and disgust could have had as much to do with the two sides reaching an agreement as finding common ground over issues such as luxury taxes and revenue sharing.

Television networks captured the fans' displeasure at ballparks across the country. They held up signs stating their unhappiness with the slow negotiations. They booed their home teams even after wins. Some even threw trash onto the field to get their point across that they might no longer support the sport if a strike occurred.

Fans by the thousands expressed their anger on radio talk shows - and the talk-show hosts often joined in. Some former major leaguers even sounded off about irreparable damage to the game if a strike came.

Regardless of how far apart the two sides seemed before finally coming to agreement, neither could have ignored what the fans were saying.

Fehr and Selig eventually found a way to keep this season on schedule. Around-the-clock talks finally prevailed. What was said during that time wasn't revealed. At this point, it really doesn't matter.

Nevertheless, seeing the two hard-line negotiators standing side-by-side addressing the media yesterday may turn out to be the most significant highlight shown for the 2002 season.

No matter what Sosa, Bonds or Schilling do for the rest of the way.

IN FULL GEAR: As part of the first full slate of Saturday afternoon college football games, Michigan kicks off against the Washington today at noon on ABC (Channel 13).

Channel 13 will also televise a historic moment. Notre Dame, under new coach Ty Willingham, will take on 20th-ranked Maryland in the Kickoff Classic tonight at 8. Willingham, who previously coached at Stanford, is the first African-American to be head coach of any sport at Notre Dame.

Also, Central Florida, the newest member of the Mid-American Conference that has plans to come in and dominate immediately, will be put to the test when it opens its season today against Penn State at noon on ESPN.

PREP SPORTS TALK: Local broadcaster Bill Clark will host The Football Forum, a weekly sports talk show on WCWA (1230 AM) that is centered around high school athletics. Area coaches will befeatured guests on the hour-long program broadcast live Monday nights (7-8) from Tango's at The Docks.

Toledo's lone all-sports radio station, WLQR (1470 AM), also will feature a talk show centered around high school athletics from 6-7 p.m. on Mondays. Norm Wamer, program director, will talk with area coaches.

CHANNEL CHANGING:

  • Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen, speaking on Jim Rome's TV show this week, said winning a Super Bowl ring as a member of management would be more fulfilling than any of the Super Bowl rings he won as a player.

  • Speaking of the NFL, the season will kick off Thursday night when the San Francisco 49ers take on the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. The first-ever Thursday night season-opener for the NFL is on ESPN at 8:30.



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