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Skating controversy boosts TV ratings

Controversy never hurts, especially in figure skating.

Remember the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer and the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan fiasco? The women's short program did not occur until Day No. 11 of those Games and generated a 48.5 rating, which remains as the third-highest rated sports show ever. And it was on tape.

Up until then the ratings were not near as spectacular. The opening ceremony drew a 20.9 rating and the best day prior to Harding-Kerrigan was a 29.3.

The women's long program, where Kerrigan won a silver medal, had a 44.1 rating with 64 percent of the country with TV sets watching.

The furor over the pairs medals is not nearly as furious but people are talking and people are watching. And NBC is giddy over the results.

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Around the tube

Auto racing fans? Totally NASCAR airs Monday-Friday at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.

In preparation for the Daytona 500, NASCAR This Morning, airs at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on FSN. It's hosted by John Roberts.

Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper was on the Feb. 11 edition of the Best Damn Sports Show Period on FSN. When asked whether or not the sideline antics of some of his teammates gets to him he said, "not really. It seems to (the media) and everybody who watches the game on TV that I have guys bickering in my ear all the time. It's not like that. I'm in full control when I'm out there.

"In the huddle when I'm calling the plays, it's silent. On the sidelines we discuss things. In the heat of the moment people might say something they really don't mean.''

Deion Sanders? He will host Miss USA 2002, to be televised on March 1 from Gary, Ind.

Sanders is a member of the NFL Today cast on CBS and will be joined next year by newcomer Boomer Esiason. Now the show will feature host Jim Nantz, Mike Ditka, Sanders and Esiason. Gone are Randy Cross, who will be a game analyst and Jerry Glanville, who will be looking for a new job.

Fox Sports Net will televise the WCHA Final Five March 14-16 from the X-cel Energy Center. Frank Mazzocco will handle the play-by-play with ex-Gopher coach Doug Woog as analyst.

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CBS is televising this week's PGA stop in Los Angeles, the Nissan Open. It's next televised event? The Masters, starting April 11.

By the way, CBS' golf coverage was voted the fans' favorite in the March issue of Golf Digest's TV poll.

From TV host Joe Garagiola, who was covering the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the USA Network after a pooch named Surrey Spice Girl won the "Best in Show" award to beat out more than 2,500 others, including a favored Kerry blue terrier: "And so the upsets continue -- Diamondbacks, New England Patriots and miniature poodles."

NBC says during its first chance to cover the Daytona 500 on Sunday morning it finally will allow Dale Earnhardt to rest in peace. We all know what happened a year ago at the Daytona International Speedway. "We've all moved forward," pit reporter Bill Weber said. "I think that's the feeling you'll get from our salute to him on Sunday."

The Minnesota wrestling dual meet with Illinois at 2 p.m. Sunday will be televised on FSN.

The Minnesota women's basketball game against Michigan State will be carried at noon on Feb. 24 on FSN, which will also carry the Big Ten tournament starting Feb. 28 from Indianapolis. The championship game, however, is scheduled for ESPN on March 4.

Paul Christian is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He writes a Friday column devoted to TV and radio sports and can be reached at pchristian@postbulletin.com

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