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NBC bids farewell to Hull

This is what I'm thinking:

*It isn't on par with the ouster of Joe Theismann from ESPN's Monday Night Football, but local fans will be happy to hear that hockey analyst Brett Hull is leaving the NBC intermission studio to take a more significant role in the front office of the Dallas Stars.

Hull seemed to say things in NBC's pregame show and during intermissions that were intended more to get viewers upset than enlighten them.

NBC should consider giving Ottawa's recently fired general manager, John Muckler, a shot at Hull's job. He might not fit the younger demographic that networks seek, but Muckler never has been one to carefully weigh his words and he actually has some credibility.

*Tennis anyone? ESPN and NBC, which are extensively covering Wimbledon, have to hope that American players do better than they did at the French Open. NBC's coverage of the French on three days never averaged more than a 2 rating here. Rafael Nadal's victory over Roger Federer in the men's finals didn't even average a 2 rating here.

*Add golf to the sports that rate much better here than they do nationally. Sunday's coverage of Angel Cabrera's one-shot victory over Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in the U.S. Open had about 9.2 rating here, well above the 7.0 it averaged in the top markets nationally.

*A reader very cleverly called a loose ball foul on me for a mistake in a column last week discussing low ratings of the NBA Finals. In it, I mentioned one of my pet peeves is announcers who don't know the rules of the sport they cover. The reader said one of his pet peeves is columnists who get facts wrong.

Then he noted that Phoenix star Amare Stoudemire and reserve Boris Diaw were suspended after Game Four of the series with San Antonio when it was tied, 2-2. He added the Suns were never ahead, 3-2, as I wrote, and that the Suns only won two games in the series.

My bad. The Suns had just tied the series, 2-2, and had the home-court advantage heading back to Phoenix for Game Five when the suspensions took effect. They lost Game Five, 88-85, in the final minute without Stoudemire and Diaw after playing their starters for so long they tired at game's end.

My main point stands. The chance that the best offensive team in the NBA had of ousting the Spurs was severely reduced by the unpopular suspensions. And a final series involving the Suns against LeBron James and the Cavs would have had a better chance of getting better ratings than the one with the Spurs.

One of the NBA's additional problems is its decision to carry the conference finals on cable rather than promote a few of the games on ABC. The 4.0 rating here for the final game in the Cavs-Spurs series on ABC was at least considerably higher than the 2.4 rating the Cavs' seventh-game victory over Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals had here on TNT.

*WGR is increasingly replaying morning and afternoon highlights in the evening and reducing the time live hosts are needed. Smart move. It enables listeners who aren't near a radio in the morning or afternoon to hear what Howard Simon, Jeremy White, Chris Parker and Mike Schopp were saying or who they were interviewing. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a cost benefit, too.

*The issue of pension and health benefits for older retired NFL players has been a hot topic on radio and television talk shows ever since former Bill Joe DeLamielleure blasted NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw and the union head responded with a violent-sounding cheap shot. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" were smart recently to tone down the rhetoric. They said there should be enough money in the multibillion-dollar sport to provide for the old-timers in their time of need.

Time Warner says it will begin carrying ESPNU on its digital service on Aug. 31, just in time for much of its college football coverage.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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