Share this article

print logo


On Sunday night, Paul Maguire expects ESPN will carry some footage of him and network teammate Jim Kelly cutting the ribbon at the renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium prior to the Bills' game with the New York Jets (8 p.m., ESPN and Channel 49).

There probably will be shots of the club seats in "Jim Kelly's Club 12" and "Paul Maguire's Press Box Club," named in honor of the former Bills. Who knows, we may even see the football card of a young, crewcut Maguire in a Bills uniform.

But after the kickoff, don't expect to hear Maguire rooting on his team or his community.

"I'll talk about it if they (ESPN's Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann) bring it up," said Maguire this week. "But this is my 29th year in broadcasting. I don't refer to Buffalo as 'we.' Of course I'd like to see the Bills win. But I'm not going to sit in the booth rooting for them. I can't do that. It's like I don't live here. I don't live in Buffalo. I live in Eden."

While it is just another game to Maguire, the host of "The John Butler Show" realizes that it is more than that to the Bills after their 31-14 loss in Indianapolis. Maguire knows that overreaction to Bills losses is as common as a chicken wing at the Anchor Bar. How big is this game for the Bills?

"It is huge," said Maguire, noting that neither team wants to get two games into the hole against AFC East favorite Miami.

While the Bills and Jets lost their openers, Maguire notes that at least the Jets played well in a loss to New England after quarterback Vinny Testaverde went down.

"New York is hurting at quarterback, but not anywhere else," said Maguire, who sees the Bills' mission as simple. "They have to find a way to run the football."

The mission isn't made any easier by the loss of Thurman Thomas.

"Everyone got carried away with Thurman," said Maguire. "He is a third-down back. Antowain Smith is the runner. But it starts up front. You've got to block somebody. And you don't run the ball 11 times and expect to win it."

After Pittsburgh's highly rated blowout victory over Cleveland in ESPN's opener (ratings were up 38 percent from a year ago), Maguire expects a close game Sunday. Viewers can also expect that he and Theismann will disagree, as they did last week when Maguire confronted the former quarterback after he said he didn't let interceptions bother him.

"I'm not always going to agree with him, he's not always going to agree with me," Maguire said.

Entertaining exchanges will be missing from Monday Night Football this season, since ABC is going with just Al Michaels and Boomer Esiason rather than add a humorist like Maguire. Maguire says he wasn't approached about switching to Disney's "MNF." But he doesn't expect the two-man MNF crew to be permanent.

"I would think if Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells or Mike Ditka leave coaching, they'd be approached," Maguire said.

Former Bills coach Marv Levy is a poet and we didn't know it. Levy had a solid debut on the Fox Sports Net's new pregame show Sunday, delivering strong comments on several subjects. His strongest came at the expense of Ditka, the New Orleans coach who traded all of his other draft picks to acquire running back Ricky Williams.

"I'm glad he's got guts," said Levy. "I also think he's nuts."

And of the San Francisco 49ers' prospects before a lopsided loss to Jacksonville, Levy said: "If (Steve Young) goes old, the 49ers are going to fold."

As a guest analyst, former Bill Chris Spielman displayed a good sense of humor and comfort level in front of the camera. He was hired full-time on Wednesday.

The CBS announcers on the Bills-Colts, game, Ian Eagle and Mark May, were just passable. Eagle is par for the course on play-by-play. But May talks and talks and talks but rarely says anything of substance. May's lone interesting comment came early, when he suggested that Bills quarterback Doug Flutie hung Thomas out to dry by lobbing a pass to him on the play that led to his injury.

It looks like instant replay is at least going to educate fans -- and announcers -- about little-known football rules. Ditka challenged a fumble ruling in the New Orleans-Carolina game that cost him a few yards but not possession. He thought his quarterback, Billy Joe Hobert, had his arm in motion and was throwing an incomplete pass. Fox announcers Ray Bentley and Ron Pitts said the replay showed that Ditka was wrong and it was a fumble. Wrong.

The officials ruled that once a quarterback puts his arm in motion he has to tuck it completely back into his body or else it will be ruled an incomplete pass. To the amazement of Pitts and Bentley, Ditka's challenge was upheld.

After further review, CBS need not have worried about not having Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf in the U.S. Open field. The ratings for the five-set men's final between Americans Andre Agassi and Todd Martin and the three-set women's final between Serena Williams and Martina Hingis were up 137 percent and 100 percent, respectively, from a year ago. And the ratings were up 114 percent for the semifinal match between Hingis and Serena's sister, Venus, that Channel 4 dropped in favor of Bills programming Friday night.

The national tennis numbers illustrate that the Hingis-Venus Williams match and the entire tournament interested more than just the casual tennis fan.

The USA Network's coverage of the women's doubles final victory Sunday afternoon by the Williams sisters was up 113 percent from 1998. For some reason, doubles isn't given much respect from TV networks even though it is extremely popular with tennis players.

Unfortunately, the Williams victory played opposite the Bills-Colts game. That was one instance where I will agree with Channel 4 General Manager Lou Verruto that Buffalo viewers would prefer to watch Bills programming on CBS to tennis. But taped Bills coverage over live championship tennis? Never.

There are no comments - be the first to comment