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White's pitch for Sabres is off base

It sure is surprising to hear WGR Radio's Jeremy White as the voice of Buffalo Sabres advertisements for ticket sales.

Sure, WGR is the team's radio home, but you would think the ads would feature one of the team's own employees -- say MSG TV host and (former WGR host) Kevin Sylvester, who does Buffalo Bandits ads.

It is hard to take the objectivity of any broadcaster seriously when he moonlights as a ticket salesman for the team. Of course, it is often hard to take White seriously anyway.

White is a graduate of my alma mater, Syracuse University. Surely he was taught about avoiding embarrassing conflicts of interest. Those ads also don't help the perception that WGR is pro-Sabres and anti-Bills.

Program Director Andy Roth defended using White as a ticket salesman. "It's a strategy the Sabres want to do," Roth said. "If it helps the Sabres, it's great."

I understand why the Sabres would want to co-opt a potential morning show critic. It is harder to understand why the station or the host would want to jeopardize credibility even in these times of coziness between rights holders and teams.

"You can do ads for a company and still say they're doing a bad job, absolutely," Roth said.

"I guarantee that Jeremy will not soften his opinions on the Sabres."

And I guarantee you if White blasts the Sabres he won't be doing the ads for very long. I'm not sure what is more ridiculous -- White doing those ads or his boss defending the idea.

* Here's another WGR shocker. Roth said the station will carry some NBA playoff games in April off of ESPN radio's main channel. For years, you wondered if WGR even recognized the NBA as a professional sport.

* The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports a 13-episode reality series, "Minor League," will feature the hometown 2009 Red Wings and air a year from now on PBS stations (presumably including WNED-TV). There should be a good deal of Buffalo, too, since the newspaper reports that camera crews documenting the off-field activities of the Wings "will be restricted to one-hour bus trips to Buffalo and Rochester."

* WGR's Paul Hamilton is an excellent hockey reporter. However, it was hard to believe his suggestion that the referee in the Sabres game with the New York Rangers warned coach Lindy Ruff against having his team retaliate after goaltender Ryan Miller was injured after being bumped by Scott Gomez. Hamilton suggested the referee may have told Ruff that the Sabres would be playing a man short for the rest of the game if they retaliated. Come on. If any referee made a threat like that, he should be disciplined.

* Buffalo viewers got to see how the Miller-Gomez incident was viewed on MSG on separate Sabres and Rangers broadcasts. The Rangers broadcast aired in a shortened hour replay after the Sabres broadcast was over. While Ruff said in a postgame interview that he thought Gomez intentionally hit Miller, the goaltender said he doubted that Gomez would do that because they have a friendly relationship and he isn't that type of player. Rangers announcers Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti didn't see anything out of the ordinary about the play to comment on.

* Time Warner has quietly added the Big Ten Network to its system. It is carried on Channel 172 on the digital package and on Channel 768 on the HD package. That is good news for college basketball and college football fans and those people who want to follow the career of Michigan coach John Beilein.

College basketball never has been a big ratings draw here. Syracuse's 89-86 Sunday loss to Villanova on CBS didn't even hit a 2 rating on Channel 4 despite the participation of Niagara Falls products Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris. Maryland's Saturday overtime upset of North Carolina didn't hit a 1 rating until overtime.

Niagara's Friday night win over Illinois State on ESPN2 had a 0.2 national rating, representing 275,000 homes, while the University at Buffalo's loss to Vermont the next afternoon on ESPN2 had a 0.1 rating, representing 178,000 homes.

* Golf ratings are strong here and are bound to increase with Tiger Woods' return. Phil Mickelson's victory in California had a 5.1 Sunday rating on Channel 4 and a 2.9 on Saturday.


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