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Published: Saturday, 1/4/2003

Channel 36 plans to talk smack

Talking about sports can generally conjure up a variety of opinions quicker than any conversation about politics.

Is Barry Bonds the best baseball player of all time? Is Jim Brown the best football player of all time? Is LeBron James the next coming of Michael Jordan? Are golf and bowling really sports?

Sports have always been and will continue to be subject for debates.

The sports department for local Fox affiliate, WUPW-Fox 36, enters the new year intent on getting that point across with Smack Talk.

With Smack Talk, Channel 36 sports director Brad Fanning, weekend sports anchor Scott Van Almen and sports reporter Ryan Ermanni will loosen up the collars and share personal opinions about hot sports topics. Objectivity will be put aside, if for only a few moments, at the end of each 30-Minute Drill half-hour high school sports highlights show that airs on Fridays at 11.

“When people watch us I don't want them to be indifferent,” Fanning said. “I want them to have an opinion.”

Smack Talk actually debuted on 30-Minute Drill last month. Urban Meyer's abrupt departure from Bowling Green State University to take a job at Utah was among the topics already brought to discussion. More often than not the topics for debate will have a local slant.

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The relationship between Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's LeBron James and the ESPN network continues to grow.

James, regarded the best prep prospect in the nation, and his teammates will play on ESPN2 for the second time within a month when they face Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) tonight (9:30) at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

The St. Vincent-St. Mary senior has impressed many basketball experts with the kind of all-around skills that put him in comparison with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan early in their careers.

There's speculation that prep's latest basketball phenom is expected to bypass college after graduating from high school this spring and will go straight to the professional ranks. Some have James being selected No. 1 in the NBA draft this summer if he should turn pro. ESPN is in its first season, along with ABC, broadcasting NBA games.

Mater Dei, traditionally one of the top teams in California, also has a talented standout in D.J. Strawberry. His father is former major league baseball star Darryl Strawberry. The younger Strawberry has already committed to play basketball at Maryland next fall.

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The schedule for the NFL wild card playoff weekend is a deviation from the past as the league and networks attempt today to cater to an evening audience. Instead of opening the playoffs with a game kicking off at 1 p.m., the first game of the post-season (Indianapolis at New York Jets) is scheduled for a 4:30 start on ABC (WTVG-Channel 13).

The second game of the day, Atlanta at Green Bay, follows with a prime-time kickoff at 8 on Channel 13.

The schedule for the other wild card games tomorrow is traditional with Cleveland at Pittsburgh starting at 1 (WTOL-Channel 11) followed by the New York Giants at San Francisco (Channel 36, 4:30).

A similar scheduling format is set up for the second round of the playoffs with Saturday's games scheduled for evening.

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Channel changing:

  • Pittsburgh's wide receiver trio of Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El and Cleveland's new “Cardiac Kids” will be featured on The NFL Today show tomorrow on Channel 11 at noon.

  • ABC's first weekend NBA telecast of the season takes place today when Philadelphia meets Dallas at 1:30 on Channel 13.

  • The 2003 U.S. Army All-American prep football game airs tomorrow at 7 on ESPN2. Nearly 80 of the nation's top prep players will participate in the game being held in San Antonio. St. Vincent-St. Mary's Sian Cotton and Warren Harding's Prescott Burgess are among the select players.

    Cotton will play with the rest of the Fighting Irish basketball team in Los Angeles against Mater Dei today before flying to Texas to compete in the football game.



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