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KELLY WILL WORK BILLS-PATRIOTS GAME BEFORE CHANGING PARTNERS IN BOOTH

Nobody asked me, but:

Buffalo Bills fans will get an opportunity to hear NBC analyst Jim Kelly call a game involving their team a week from Sunday.

On Oct. 12, play-by-play man Tom Hammond, Kelly and Randy Cross will work the Bills' road game with the New England Patriots. It will be the second Bills game for Kelly, who also worked the blacked-out Indianapolis Colts home game two weeks ago.

NBC only has three games on the 12th, and all of them will have three men in a booth.

Cross was briefly a man without a partner after the firing of Marv Albert. Starting Oct. 19, he'll be paired with Hammond. Dan Hicks, who had been working with Beasley Reece, will be Kelly's new partner.

NBC may have been reluctant to move Kelly away from Hammond so quickly in his rookie season. But Hammond certainly was the logical choice to move up on NBC's play-by-play roster and work with Cross.

Kelly seemed to enjoy his appearance on last Sunday's studio show, "NFL Live," in which he took some gentle shots at NBC colleague Cris Collinsworth.

When Collinsworth noted that NBC's Sam Wyche wasn't liked by anyone in Tampa, Kelly cracked: "You're not liked by anyone in the league."

Later in the show, Collinsworth tried to respond by poking fun at Kelly's "purple" suit.

"Oh, you're color blind, too," snapped Kelly.

It was all in good fun. However, there might have been some underlying seriousness to it. Kelly wasn't too pleased with what Collinsworth said about his performance as the Bills' quarterback last season.

Collinsworth told me last year he thought a tough NBC interview with Kelly may have hurt their relationship. He asked the same questions that the local media were asking about Kelly's slump and he noticed that Kelly was upset.

Collinsworth conceded that he was tough on Kelly in the interview, but added his post-interview opinion was that Kelly should still be the Bills quarterback.

Had to laugh Saturday, Sept. 20, when I caught a few minutes of a paid program on Channel 2 that dealt with betting on NFL games. The "experts" on the show were predicting the winners of games that had been played the week before. Some of the so-called experts predicted the New England Patriots would rout the New York Jets. The Pats had won in overtime.

In a way, it makes sense to run such programs a week after the games are played. That way, more viewers will realize what a joke their alleged expertise is.

A Channel 2 spokesman said human error resulted in the wrong tape being aired.

The Buffalo Sabres' shift of their games to FM radio has helped expand their presence on the stations owned by Mercury Broadcasting. Play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret will do a weekly show on WHTT at 8:10 a.m., starting next Wednesday. Television host Danny Gare is doing a show on 97 Rock at 8:30 a.m. Friday and a player to be named will be doing a show on 103.3 The Edge.

Realizing that WHTT isn't doing an extensive Sabres' pregame show, WBEN-AM has moved to fill the void with a one-hour show featuring the Bulldog before weekday games. It also will do an hour postgame show, with the Bulldog taking telephone calls. WHTT is carrying an extensive postgame show.

Empire has borrowed a page from ESPN and is showing reruns of the previous evening's Empire Sports Report with host Mike DeGeorge from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. The practice makes the most sense on busy news days, like the morning after the Pat LaFontaine trade. ESPN, of course, runs SportsCenter over and over every 60 minutes in the morning. Empire's replay replaces the repeats from the Fox Sports Network that it used to run in the mornings.

The Empire replays of a 10:30 p.m. program don't have highlights of late baseball playoff games, as ESPN's do in the morning.

Kennedy Montgomery, MTV's house conservative, has been hired by CBS to report on snowboarding and freestyle skiing at the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. She has covered snowboarding for five years for MTV. The sport is making its Olympic debut, perhaps proving the worldwide power of MTV.

Tiger Woods' embrace of his father, Earl, after winning the Masters was honored as "Sports TV Image of the Year." The actual award is the Sportel Golden Podium Image.

Embarrassing error of the week: ESPN2 ran a graphic last Saturday comparing the statistics of North Carolina quarterbacks Chris Keldorf and Oscar Davenport. Unfortunately, they transposed the pictures of the quarterbacks. Keldorf is white, Davenport is black.

Channel 29 lost its last chance to carry a Bills game when Sunday's meeting with the Detroit Lions wasn't sold out in time to be telecast here. Jerry Glanville is the Fox analyst alongside play-by-play man Paul Kennedy working the game.

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