On The Air
by Laura Nachman
Bucks County Courier Times
January 20, 2006

For the first time in four years, the NFC championship game won't include the Eagles.

Instead, the Carolina Panthers will battle the Seattle Seahawks at 6 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

Though some would say that Fox is probably disappointed that the contest features teams from smaller markets, Fox Sports president Ed Goren did his best to hype the game in a conference call on Wednesday.

"Carolina's Jake Delhomme is a next generation Brett Favre in his natural enjoyment and love of the game," he said. "For those who say it isn't a marquee matchup, Seattle has a Pro Bowl quarterback."

Guess he's referring to Matt Hasselbeck.

Goren later downplayed the chance that ratings may suffer because Washington and Chicago didn't make it to the championship game.

"If it's a good game, it will get high ratings," he said. "The NFL is such a strong product, even if the ratings are bad, they are good."

Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson, who was also part of the call, singled out Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith (and star of my fantasy team) as the MVP of the league.

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the game. Regular No. 1 sideline reporter Pam Oliver will work the game along with Chris Myers of Fox's No. 3 announcing team, who gets the nod over Tony Siragusa of the No. 2 team.

Goren described Siragusa, the hybrid sideline reporter and game analyst for the team of Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston, as "a work in progress."

"We'll take a look at things in the offseason," Goren said.

Could the "Goose" be cooked?

Ratings game

Despite the Eagles not playing in the postseason, last week's AFC game between the Colts and the Steelers was the No. 1 show in Philadelphia with a 23.4 rating/43 share of the audience. Each rating point equals about 29,000 households.

Reality show rap

Fox NFL pregame show personality Jillian Barberie and Bruce ("Dude, Where's My Face") Jenner are part of "Skating with Celebrities" on Fox. How about "Celebrity Cheerleading" next?

Jerry Rice continues to impress on "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC. Rice has the perfect combination of cool, determination and style. Are you listening, Master P?

Channel flipping

The Villanova-South Florida game will be broadcast on www.espn360.com through Verizon broadband Tuesday at 7 p.m.  Nolan Reese, 23, the son of Eagles' announcer Merrill Reese is a special effects production assistant on the upcoming "Superman Returns" movie with Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and newcomer Brandon Routh. "Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith" moves to 11 p.m. on ESPN2 as of Jan 30. The reason? Quite frankly, the ratings stink.

January 20, 2006 8:11 AM