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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Oct. 28) -- Rangers numbers down as championship hopes also diminish

Game 2 of the Rangers-Giants World Series still drew well over one million D-FW viewers, but fell close to 200,000 short of Wednesday's opener.

Both games ended with lopsided Giants' wins, seriously deflating ratings in the final half-hour rather than pumping them up.

Game 2, which ended at 10:14 p.m. with a 9-0 Giants victory, averaged 1,239,700 viewers in D-FW, down from the 1,419,769 for Game 1.

The numbers fell off a cliff in the final 15-minute segment. A total of 928,044 viewers remained to witness the carnage, compared to a high point of 1,405,917 just a half-hour earlier.

The Rangers still stomped all competing prime-time programming, with CBS' 9 p.m. episode of The Mentalist topping the non-baseball scoreboard with 318,582 viewers. In contrast, Donald Trump's The Apprentice on NBC drew just 55,406 viewers at that hour to rank as the least-watched attraction on the five principal broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW).

Thursday also marked Day One of the four-week November "sweeps" ratings, although the key 10 p.m. results will be skewed until after the World Series ends.

Nevertheless, CBS11 claimed a pair of opening night victories, topping a diminished three-way field in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 nipped Fox4 at 6 a.m. in total viewers, but those finishes were reversed in the 25-to-54 demographic. On CBS11, Lisa Pineiro's debut as the station's new early morning co-anchor failed to move the needle. The station ran a distant fourth in both ratings measurements.

WFAA8 took the 5 and 6 p.m. golds in total viewers and also won at the earlier hour among 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4 ran first at 6 p.m. among viewers of that age range.

Antlers down: Rangers instead have deer in the headlights look

Why is this man laughing? "Face of the franchise" Michael Young, who's done nothing so far, somehow found humor in the 9th inning of the Rangers' 9-0 loss to the Giants Thursday. Photo: Ed Bark

It's not over.

But that may be another way of saying that Texas Rangers' fans are living in a dream world if they think the San Francisco Giants are going to fall apart after treating the North Texas 9 like pinatas in the first two games of the World Series.

The Rangers saved their most embarrassing performance of the season for Game 2, losing 9-0 after yielding seven runs to the Giants in the eighth inning.

Relief pitchers couldn't find the plate in a cafeteria, walking four straight batters before the Giants again began spraying line drives all over AT&T Park.

Rangers hitters earlier failed time and again in the clutch, hitting a succession of pop flies and popups to waste what had been a very good start by pitcher C.J. Wilson.

The "resilient" Rangers are in disarray at the moment, with the bullpen a bad joke and their two best starters sustaining back-to-back losses. A blister on one of Wilson's pitching fingers only makes matters worse as the Rangers head to Arlington for three games that they realistically have to sweep to have any chance of making this a competitive World Series instead of the Giants' grown men playing against the Rangers' T-ballers.

The Rangers got away from "small ball" in Game 2, often swinging at bad pitches with home run cuts that ended up in outfielders' or infielders' gloves. They wound up being thoroughly disgraced on a national stage while the so-called "misfit" Giants took advantage of nearly every opportunity.

Imagine an eighth inning in which the first two Giants' hitters are retired before they score seven runs against four Rangers relievers. Derek Holland may be the most damaged. Envisioned as a possible replacement starter for the increasingly inept Tommy "Big Game" Hunter, Holland walked three straight batters on just 13 pitches before manager Ron Washington yanked him and brought in the ridiculous Mark Lowe. Further carnage ensued while Giants fans whooped it up.

It got so pathetic that you almost wished the Giants would keep scoring and scoring and scoring. Why not? The Rangers didn't seem to mind.

This may seem more than a little harsh. Still, it's one thing to lose close games in the enemy's ballpark. That's understandable. But the "loose" Rangers suddenly are playing like the punching bag teams of old. Maybe they've just hit the wall after upsetting both the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. But you've got to at least put up a fight in the World Freakin' Series.

One more thing. Maybe D-FW's news anchors and reporters -- whether at home or in San Francisco -- can take off their cheerleader skirts and play a little hardball with this team. So far only the sports anchors have been able to at least slightly curb their enthusiasm and bring a little perspective to the table.

Boosterism is understandable in measured doses. But the uniformly giddy and incessant coverage on all four major TV news providers has gotten way out of hand. No one ever seems to know when enough is enough. The bandwagon-jumping has been off the charts.

OK, OK, maybe the Rangers can do a complete U-turn in front of the home fans. That would be great. If not, let's at least lose without looking like chumps. This has been a magical season, and maybe by some miracle it can still end in a World Series championship for Texas. For now, though, every Rangers player on the plane flight home should forget about being loose. It's time to gird the loins, get pissed off and from now on breathe fire for Game 3 and however long this Series lasts.

No more messin' around. Another loss like Thursday night's will have those Claw and Antler T-shirts selling 3 for $10 at Big Lots.

Fun with Newy and Mary Jane

NBC5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs, among other North Texans swarming San Francisco, has noticed a pungent smell in the air around the Giants' AT&T Park.

"Right over there, there's some people smokin' weed. 'Because it's comin' this way," Scruggs said happily during one of his live reports this week.

Scruggs also noted, "They wanna see their team win, but they're all half-buzzed out . . . But unlike New York, they're not mean. They're nice people."

Stirring the pot has had at least one unintended consequence for Scruggs. Supporters of Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana in California, have posted his riffs on youtube and tagged them with a reggae-themed endorsement at the end.

Whether or not Scruggs would like to take you higher is not known at this time. Below is the very amusing video. Thanks to an unclebarky.com reader for calling attention to it.

CBS11 hopes to light up flickering early morning ratings with broad-smiling newcomer Lisa Pineiro

Scott Sams and newcomer Lisa Pineiro on her first day. Photos: Ed Bark

Eye-catching in a form-fitting bright orange top, Lisa Pineiro made her entrance Thursday on CBS11's ratings-challenged early morning newscast.

The single mother of four sons, who joined the D-FW station from Salt Lake City after five years as a stay-at-home mom, smiled broadly, giggled frequently and of course became an instant Texas Rangers fan.

"Oh, it's just painful watching those highlights, isn't it?" Pineiro said shortly after the show's 4:30 a.m. open. The Rangers and previously impregnable starting pitcher Cliff Lee were pounded 11-7 by San Francisco Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. Undeterred, Pineiro also let loose with a couple of "Go Rangers!" during the course of her first two-and-a-half-hour shift with incumbent Scott Sams.

Sams, who has co-anchored CBS11's waker-upper since spring 2007, repeatedly welcomed Pineiro while twice introducing a taped segment of them cavorting together. Viewers also were treated to photos of Pineiro's four sons, Spencer, Mason, Hunter and Jack. Their age range is 11 to 17.

"I talk about 'em non-stop. It's sort of annoying," Pineiro told Sams.

Regardless, "I know the folks at home are going to love you," he assured her. CBS11 needs a lot more folks at home to watch. The station is still running fourth from 6 to 7 a.m., the peak viewership hour for D-FW's dawn patrols. But it's not as far behind as it used to be, and on Wednesday slid into second place (behind only Fox4) in the key news target audience of 25-to-54-year-olds.

Pineiro made no major flubs on her opening morning, and even jabbed a bit at the oft-unpredictable Sams when he talked over her late in the 5 a.m. hour.

"I'm trying to get to . . . " she told him, referring to weathercaster Garry Seith's update on the cool morning temperatures.

"I'm sorry," Sams said good-naturedly.

"I love it," said Seith.

For her part, Pineiro professed "love" for former teen idol Shaun Cassidy, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and country singer/hanger-on Billy Ray Cyrus, who's getting a divorce after 17 years of marriage.

"I was all about that 'Achy Breaky Heart,' she said of Cyrus' mega-hit single. "I loved him."

"Maybe you're a little excited he's getting divorced," appealingly frisky traffic reporter Teresa Frosini rejoined.

"I didn't look at it that way -- but you're right," Pineiro said before giggling.

"We're going to have so much fun. It's scary," Frosini assured Pineiro. It's easy to envision the two of them tearin' up the town, which wouldn't be a bad thing. But if you sight them in late night hours on Industrial Blvd., shoot me an email.

CBS11 is continuing its live early morning cut-ins with KLUV radio personality and former CBS11 anchor Jody Dean, whose show also is simulcast from 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays on CBS11's sister station, TXA21.

During the 6 a.m. hour, Dean played around with clips of CBS11's Melissa Newton encountering a seemingly inebriated man at a North Texas sports bar and anchor Tracy Kornet being pinched on her behind while doing a standup in San Francisco. Dean couldn't resist following up with a slice of stereotypical San Fran "humor."

"The amazing thing is not that Tracy Kornet got pinched by a dude. It's that she got pinched by a dude in San Francisco," he riffed while CBS11's anchors groaned and quickly went on to something else.

Sams also let it be known that he had made a bet with the Bay City's CBS station. They'll have to wear Cowboy hats and sing "Deep In the Heart of Texas" if the Rangers prevail over the facial hair-centric Giants. But if they lose, Sams and the morning team have to pay up by donning fake beards and warbling "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," he told Pineiro. And he was serious.

That might be something of a youtube mega-event. So, um, go Rangers. But if the team falls short, there could be quite a post-game show the following morning.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Oct. 27) -- nearly 1.5 million watch Rangers get hammered

Still a hero in SF, Barry Bonds had fun Wednesday. Photo: Ed Bark

The Texas Rangers and pitcher Cliff Lee took a Giants step backwards Wednesday night on baseball's biggest stage and before a record crowd of D-FW viewers.

San Francisco's 11-7 pounding of Texas in Game 1 of the World Series averaged 1,419,769 viewers. And had it been closer -- the Rangers trailed 11-4 entering the ninth -- the crowd likely would have hit the 1.5 million mark for a game that ran from 7 to 10:35 p.m..

A peak audience of 1,613,688 watched between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m. But in the final 15-minute increment -- 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. -- the crowd had dwindled to 1,031,929.

Over on Fox Sports Southwest, the Dallas Mavericks were virtually Invisible Men while winning their regular season opener against the Charlotte Bobcats. The game averaged a sub-dinky 41,554 viewers, a little over twice as many as the announced 19,440 who watched in person at the American Airlines Center. That's under the radar with a vengeance.

Wednesday's most popular attraction opposite the Rangers -- CBS' 8 p.m. episode of Criminal Minds -- had 235,474 viewers locally.

In local news derby results, 10 p.m. newscast ratings again were diminished by the Rangers overrun. WFAA8 comfortably topped the three-way field with just 166,217 total viewers and also won among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 remained dominant at 6 a.m. with twin wins and also swept the 6 p.m. competitions. The station's much bigger than usual numbers at the later hour (228,548 total viewers) were evidence of a TV set "warm-up" for Fox's following 6:30 p.m. World Series pre-game show. At 5 p.m., WFAA8 led in total viewers and Fox4 ran first with 25-to-54-year-olds.

There remains very scant interest in TXA21's live 7 to 9 a.m. simulcast of Jody Dean's KLUV radio morning show. Wednesday's third go-around averaged 2,078 total viewers, 311 of them in the 25-to-54 age range. This is in a market of 6.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research estimates.

Dean and his team are ratings Goliaths, however, compared to the two syndicated programs following them. At 9 and 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dr. Phil and The Doctors logged "hashmarks" (no measurable audience).

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri., Oct. 22- Mon., Oct. 25 -- Rangers, Cowboys both top one mil

Final numbers for the Rangers' close-out of the Yankees on Friday night and the Cowboys' death rattle on Monday night show both teams pulling in more than one million viewers.

Dallas' loss to the New York Giants, in which QB Tony Romo also went down, nipped the North Texas 9 to again reign as D-FW's heavyweight sports ratings champ. But that almost assuredly will change on Sunday, when Fox's prime-time Game 4 of the World Series originates from Arlington while CBS has a limp noon Cowboys home game against Jacksonville.

Cowboys-Giants, which ran from 7:41 to 11:09 p.m., drew 671,793 viewers on ESPN and 554,056 for the TXA21 simulcast. That's a grand total of 1,225,849.

Rangers-Yankees (7:07 to 10:08 p.m.) had 1,170,443 viewers on TBS. It's a local ratings record for the Rangers, who have a fighting chance to hit the 1.5 million mark with Wednesday night's opening game of the World Series in San Francisco.

The Cowboys' audience dwindled as New York piled up the points while viewing levels soared as the Rangers put the finishing touches on the defending champs.

Rangers-Yankees had 1,579,060 viewers from 10 to 10:15 p.m. (Nielsen measures in 15-minute increments). The Cowboys last-gasped in front of 914,192 viewers from 11 to 11:15 p.m.

In Sunday's pro football returns, the glorious Green Bay Packers' monkey-off-the-back home win against Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings led all attractions with 637,164 viewers on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

The Patriots' narrow win over the Chargers ran second with 491,725 viewers on CBS, followed by Titans-Eagles on Fox (325,508 viewers) and Steelers-Dolphins on CBS (283,954 viewers).

On Saturday night, previously unbeaten Oklahoma's loss to still unbeaten Missouri drew 235,474 viewers in prime-time on ABC.

In Friday's local news derby results, CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers and tied WFAA8 for the top spot among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 again ran the table at 6 a.m., with WFAA8 moving into second place in both measurements ahead of a still slumping NBC5.

CBS11 swept the 6 p.m. competitions and WFAA8 did likewise at 5 p.m.

WFAA8 had a gainful day in Monday's local news results, controlling the 5 and 10 p.m. Nielsens and also topping the 6 p.m. field in total viewers.

Fox4 took the day's other three golds, with two firsts at 6 a.m. and a 6 p.m. win among total viewers.

Dale Hansen's opinions are his own -- and he's again taking some home run cuts in a pre-World Series interview

WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen goes live in New York during last Wednesday's Game 5 ALCS matchup between the Yankees and the Texas Rangers, who begin World Series play Wednesday. Photo: Ed Bark

WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, entrenched in D-FW for nearly three decades, has made his bones by letting his opinions fly in all directions.

So he's not about to bunt when chided about his "newfound love" of baseball during the Texas Rangers' unprecedented post-season exploits.

"I think my treatment of the Rangers since I've been here has been dead-on," he says in a telephone interview Monday before boarding an early morning Tuesday flight for San Francisco. "I follow the big stories. I follow the good stories. Not everybody, but too many viewers say they don't like it when they see me at the ballpark (after years of mostly staying away). As arrogant as this sounds -- and I mean it to be incredibly arrogant -- I feel sorry for fans and franchises that feel it's necessary for me to be there to validate their sport."

So there. Hansen pretty much sees himself as the emperor king of D-FW sports anchors after outlasting numerous rivals over the years. And furthermore, "It's not that I'm trying to jump on the bandwagon or fake my enthusiasm for the Rangers or whatever. It's a huge story . . . It offends me that some people have a hard time understanding that."

Hansen's Bay City excursion, tied to the first two games of the World Series between the Rangers and Giants, will include a Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. special titled Rangers Live: Hansen Style. He taped interviews with pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Josh Hamilton on Sunday, and remains both astonished and impressed that both star players were made available after he requested them on short notice.

"I asked for them while hoping like hell that I at least get Ian Kinsler and Colby Lewis," Hansen says. "There's not a day in hell I could get Tony Romo three days before the Cowboys were in a Super Bowl. Or Dirk Nowitzki three days before the Mavericks were in the NBA Finals. It's what I particularly love about this particular group of Rangers."

In short, Hansen doesn't like being crapped on. And he'll oftentimes respond accordingly.

"I'm the only one that's probably dumb enough to admit that if you treat me poorly, I'm going to take every opportunity to treat you poorly unless you're really good," he says. "I've just never denied it. I like media friendly people. Was my coverage of (former Cowboys coach) Barry Switzer colored by the fact that I think he was a complete ass? It probably was. And it's been vice-versa in the case of (current coach) Wade Phillips, who's a very decent man."

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban currently isn't talking to him, Hansen says. Ergo, " I love the hell out of" the Mavericks playing their regular season opener in relative obscurity Wednesday night opposite Game 1 of the World Series. "I just think it's laugh out loud funny. I really hope that the Rangers game gets over early enough for us to show highlights, because if it does, I probably won't even mention the Mavericks opener."

Hansen says that baseball was "probably far and away my favorite sport" as a kid. And during his early years in D-FW, "I used to go nuts over the Rangers," he says. "But they were some tough-ass guys to deal with, and I just got tired of the rudeness . . . Far and away baseball players are the most difficult guys to deal with. Most of them have never dealt with the media before. Hell, in Texas, high school football players are more media savvy" while baseball players at the high school and college level generally play in comparative obscurity.

The current Rangers are a major exception, Hansen says. They're a winning team willing to accommodate the media. And that's the way to Hansen's heart.

Team president Nolan Ryan, who was "fantastic" with the media as a player, has taught those same lessons to the new Rangers, Hansen says. There's also longtime face-of-the-franchise Michael Young, who in Hansen's words, "tells the players, 'You will be cooperative with the media. You will be fan-friendly. We're going to be the class organiation.' "

"I don't make any apologies for loving that," Hansen says.

Several seasons ago, he got to the point of pretty much loathing the Rangers, whose losing ways made them all that much easier to dump on or ignore all together during Hansen's sports segments.

He remembers former owner Tom Hicks enticing him to spring training with a vow that the players would be accommodating. Instead, Hansen says he was pretty much stiffed while trying to do a piece on baseball being the hardest sport to play at the highest level. The impetus was former NFL player Brian Jordan, who had made the transition to baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, and at the time was trying to make the 2004 Rangers roster.

Young as usual was cooperative, but pitcher Kenny Rogers said he "didn't have time," Hansen recalls.

"And then (former Rangers infielder) Hank Blaylock looked up at me and said, 'Aw bullshit, hockey's the hardest game to play.' "

Hansen wanted to hear more, but says Blaylock instead cursed him while ordering a WFAA8 cameraman to point his lens elsewhere. Former Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser wouldn't talk either. And after 15 minutes had passed, Rogers was still hanging around to say he didn't have time, Hansen says.

"I said, '(Bleep) this boys, we're outta here,' " Hansen recalls. "Of course stuff like that can carry over into the coverage. My personal feelings on a lot of things will have a bearing."

Hansen since has warmed to the Rangers and their success, but can't tolerate the restrictions placed on coverage during the playoffs and World Series. During the American League Championship Series, showing highlights or doing interviews in the Rangers club house or on the field were prohibited until TBS cable had ended both its game and post-game coverage. Fox will exercise the same exclusive rights this week and next.

In New York for the Yankees-Rangers series, Hansen and rival station anchors and reporters also weren't allowed to report live or on tape from inside Yankee Stadium while a game was still in progress. And Hansen says that his vantage point in the ballpark was less than ideal before he had to exit outside to do live reports while Games 3-5 were still in progress.

"Here I am, on one of the highest-rated stations in the country, sitting in the top row in right field where I can't see much of anything and I'm freezing my ass off," Hansen says. "And then you have to go outside the building to do your report. That is just so offensive to me. I can't get it out of my craw."

Hansen and his WFAA8 cameraman also were banned from shooting inside the stadium during pre-game hours, he says. Even an intendedly humorous story on the Yankee Stadium food, which has calorie counts affixed, was nixed by security, he says.

"I said, 'You can't show the bratwurst?' I think that was more Yankee Stadium than it was Major League Baseball restrictions. The place is run by fascists."

Hansen will be on site anyway for Games 1 and 2 of the World Series in San Francisco. And if he doesn't like something, then obviously he'll say it. So will his detractors.

"People say, 'Sure, now you're with the Rangers, now you're talkin' baseball,' " Hansen says. "And I say, 'What was I supposed to talk about before this season?' . . . It's not a newfound love of baseball. It's just that this is a very, very good baseball team. And now I'm just along for the ride."

"Backpack" reporter McGraw vacating CW33 news room

CW33 reporter Dan X. McGraw, hired as a "backpack journalist" in May 2009 after being laid off by The Dallas Morning News, has decided to resign from the station.

His last day will be November 24th.

"I've been told by several good friends just to lay low and not say anything more," McGraw said in an email Tuesday.

CW33 news director David Duitch confirmed the resignation but declined to comment further.

"Based on Dan X's response, I am going to pass," he said.

Holly Yan, who joined CW33 with McGraw after likewise being laid off by the Morning News, left the station in early July to take a position with CNN, where she primarily does website work. McGraw declined to say if he has another job lined up. Both Yan and McGraw were envisioned as cost-efficient additions who shot, edited and produced their reports.

The Tribune Company, whose holdings include CW33, has been in a state of chaos of late. Both its chief executive officer, Randy Michaels, and its chief innovation officer, Lee Abrams, resigned this month after a front page story in The New York Times rocked the media conglomerate's world with allegations that a "frat house" sexist culture was in full swing.

CW33's nightly 9 p.m. newscast also has undergone a marked transformation in recent months. The on-air production quality has been notably enhanced in tandem with a big spike in sex-alacious stories. The leader of that pack is veteran reporter Shana Franklin, who on the station's website touts "a beat you won't see at many TV stations."

Franklin recently has contributed stories ranging from "Sex Appeal of the Dirty Girl: Grunge Is Good" to "Sex Tapes: Would You Do One to Get Ahead." She also has found time to cover the Texas Rangers' unprecedented post-season run to the World Series.

The Tribune culture, which apparently will soon receive a makeover, also is reflected in a CW33 website blog titled "From the Director's Chair."

It hasn't been refreshed since Sept. 22nd. But a decidedly off-color joke remains in place from an earlier post titled "WTF . . . F**king prompter."

"Now I'll leave you with a joke," the blogger wrote. "Two nuns were sitting on a bench in a park when a man in a trench coat came by and flashed them. One nun had a stroke . . . The other one missed."

Death rattle: Down goes Romo, and with him Cowboys' season

Tony Romo takes a clavicle-breaking hit in 2nd quarter. Dallas led 10-7 at the time and upped it to 20-7 before the defense rested and the Giants scored 31 straight points. Photos: Ed Bark

Lack of a quality backup quarterback and a paper doll defense when it mattered left the Dallas Cowboys in probable fatal disrepair on ESPN's national Monday Night Football stage.

The 41-35 final score reflects the New York Giants' recurring attempts to hand Dallas the game with five turnovers. Otherwise they moved the ball virtually at will after quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken left clavicle early in the second quarter. Dallas led 10-7 at the time, and Romo's last play of the game, a completed pass to the Giants' 29, set up a field goal. The Cowboys' lead became 20-7 after an electrifying 93-yard punt return by rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant.

A stout defense and even marginal competence by shopworn 38-year-old Jon Kitna should have been enough to gut out a home win that would have taken Dallas from 1-4 to a redeemable 2-4 in an NFC with no breakout dominant team. But the Giants instead scored 31 straight points to take a 38-20 lead, prompting some in the Cowboys' Stadium crowd to chant "Let's go, Rangers."

"Where's the juice on this Cowboys' defense?" commentator Ron Jaworski wanted to know.

"The Cowboys are being embarrassed," said play-by-play guy Mike Tirico.

They left the game a bit less red-faced after scoring two late touchdowns. Bryant for one never gave up and Kitna managed to complete a few downfield passes after finally settling in a bit. No matter, really. Kitna is a statue on the order of Drew Bledsoe, who spent his last days as a Cowboys QB scraping himself off the turf before finally yielding to Romo under the Bill Parcells regime. There's no reason to think that defenses won't find Kitna to be another easy stationary target while the Cowboys' defense continues to unravel.

Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin won't be happy with the overall sloppy nature of his team's win. The victors had a smash-mouth running game and their receivers toyed with the poor-tackling Dallas secondary. But Coughlin will be like the drill sergeant therapist in the Geico commercial, telling his team that instead of taking some time off during bye week, "Maybe we should chug on over to namby pamby land where maybe we can find some self-confidence for you, ya jackwagons!"

Pliable Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips of course will be a polar opposite. "Shucks, we tried hard, and Dez made a real purdy run."

The overall explosiveness of Bryant makes one wonder whether 1-5 Dallas might consider a wildcat offense with him at the throttle on occasion. Bryant already has shown that he can be brittle and prone to injury. But the guy looks like the second coming of Deion Sanders in an open field.

Owner Jerry Jones, who sat grim-faced in his luxury box with his two sons, no doubt made America root even harder against "America's Team" with his manifesto a few minutes before kickoff. Below is how he appeared and what he said after an announcer intoned, "A message from Jerry Jones."

"As you know, we do things bigger down here in Texas. We can't help it. Pride runs deep in the heart of every Texan.

"But we also know that bigger isn't always better. And so far this season, we just haven't gotten it done. So it's time to focus on the little things, the details that can mean the difference between victory and defeat. And that's just what we're gonna do.

"In the biggest stadium, before the loudest crowd, the Cowboys carry on a legacy of players who were larger than life. Another battle between bitter rivals. All of this on Monday night. It doesn't get any bigger than that."

Ya jackwagon!

Biggest sports week ever in D-FW, with Rangers and Cowboys fighting for ratings bragging rights while the Mavs hope to avoid "hashmarks" (no measurable audience)

No, it's not a paste-on. But San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson is no Beach Boy with his dyed beard by the Bay. Photo: Ed Bark

Get ready for the bearded laddies, sharing a diamond with the Texas Rangers as part of the biggest Monday-Sunday sports week in D-FW history.

It climaxes on Halloween, when the Dallas Cowboys play the Jacksonville Jaguars by day at Jerry's Palace before the Rangers own the night in Game 4 of the World Series in Arlington's comparatively cozy brickyard.

The Cowboys have the noon game -- on CBS. So everyone should be cleared out by the time Texas faces the San Francisco Giants at 7 p.m. (central) on Fox. There's a third angle to who wins and who loses. Which team will command the biggest TV audience in D-FW?

The Rangers have never come close to outdrawing the Cowboys when the two teams play on the same day. But this is different, of course. And the ratings outcome may well depend on how both the Cowboys and Rangers stand heading into Sunday's costumed ball.

The 1-4 Cowboys begin the week with ESPN's Monday Night Football home game against the New York Giants (TXA21 has the local broadcast rights.) Another loss would pretty much doom their playoff hopes and perhaps signal the beginning of a big tune-out as the season plods on.

Meanwhile, the Rangers possibly could be on the brink of a Series sweep -- or elimination by the Giants. More likely, though, someone will have a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven Series. Only a 3-0 Giants lead could severely dampen interest. And if the Cowboys beat New York, the tune-in potential for their game against Jacksonville is greatly enhanced.

I'm going to go ahead and bet on the Rangers drawing a bigger crowd than the Cowboys Sunday. And really, it's about time.

Lost in the shuffle is Wednesday's Dallas Mavericks regular season opener at home against Charlotte. The game is on Fox Sports Southwest. But realistically, the audience for Mavs-Bobcats may be pretty much restricted to those on site at the American Airlines Center.

Does anyone out there in TV land plan to watch the Mavericks instead of Game 1 of that night's World Series? Maybe during commercials. It's a punch in the gut for Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who unsuccessfully tried to buy the Rangers. Now his team is fated to start the NBA season in near-obscurity against a non-marquee opponent.

Fox4 can't stop grinning ear-to-ear. It won't have the Cowboys at all this week, but it will have four World Series games. Local Fox stations get only a small window of advertising time per hour. But the promotional possibilities are endless, and Fox4 will milk every last one of them for a Rangers-spiked World Series that starts on the eve of the November "sweeps" ratings period and could continue all the way through Thursday, Nov. 4th.

This isn't the ideal matchup for the Fox network at large. It would have preferred a World Series re-do of last year's combatants, the Yankees and the Phillies. Two years ago, the rain-soaked Phils-Tampa Bay Rays Series was the least-watched ever. The presence of the Yankees punched those numbers up last fall.

Texas has a salable number of nationally known players, led by Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero. The Giants may be the biggest no-name team in World Series history, better known for the relief pitchers' beards and clean-shaven Game 1 starter Tim Lincecum's shoulder-length medieval times hair.

The Giants' best-known offensive player, catcher Buster Posey, is an appealing kid catcher with an easily grasped name. But try selling America on the likes of other San Francisco starters such as Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Cody Ross and Andres Torres. It might be easier to peddle peanut butter in the Mojave.

One of these teams will make history, though. This is the Rangers' first-ever appearance in a World Series. So obviously they've never won one. And the Giants haven't won a championship since relocating from New York to San Francisco after the 1957 season. This was much bemoaned by whining sportswriter/Giants fan Marcos Breton during the course of Ken Burns' recent The 10th Inning, sequel to his acclaimed 1994 Baseball. But as any Rangers, Cubs, Indians or Brewers fan knows, Breton hasn't even begun to suffer.

The Giants' last World Series championship was in 1954, when centerfielder Willie Mays made his famed over-the-shoulder, cap-flying-off-his-head catch against the Cleveland Indians' Vic Wertz. Prepare for constant replays.

Absent any World Series history for the Rangers, Fox is likely to resort to owner Nolan Ryan's only appearance as a player. He was just a 22-year-old kid when he entered Game 3 of the 1969 World Series as a New York Mets relief pitcher. That year's "Miracle Mets" won it all against the Baltimore Orioles.

Rival local stations will basically go unwatched during Fox4's prime-time World Series games. But their sports anchors and reporters will be dispatched to San Francisco and then to Arlington in hopes that the games will end early enough for them to show highlights and player interviews during 10 p.m. newscasts.

Things didn't work out too well in New York, with anchors standing live outside Yankee Stadium while Games 3 and 4 played on and most D-FW viewers watched the TBS coverage. If anyone's left back home, though, they could capture all of the excitement of the Mavericks' well-hidden Wednesday season-opener. That should end in plenty of time.

The Rangers' biggest win ever in pictures. Enjoy

"Almost poetically," in the words of TBS announcer Ernie Johnson, former Texas Ranger Alex Rodriguez came to bat for the New York Yankees with two outs in the 9th inning and his team trailing 6-1.

He struck out without a doubt, giving the North Texas Nine their first World Series appearance ever, starting Wednesday. Here's how some of it looked during the TBS presentation Friday night. Whether the Rangers face the Giants or the Phillies, Fox4 is delirious. Their network has the Series, and all other competing programming is pretty much beside the point.

Vladimir Guerrero prepares to hit a game-turning, two out, two-run double in the bottom of the fifth. It gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead they never relinquished en route to a 6-1 win. Photos: Ed Bark

Colby Lewis ends his stellar start by striking out Derek Jeter.

A-Rod over and out. Catcher Bengie Molina gets happy.

We've got a winner from on high as the piling on kicks in.

Happy together: But let's be careful out there.

Rangers manager Ron Washington has waited a lifetime for this.

"Wash" awash in Gatorade as two Ranger pups chase him down.

Face of the franchise Michael Young flashes best high-beam smile.

Did anyone seriously think this would ever happen?

This is pretty damned unbelievable, too.

Fun in the clubhouse with TBS reporter Craig Sager and Nelson Cruz.

A disconsolate Yankees fan plays with himself.

A closing shout-out to my former employer. Great product placement during TBS' nationally televised post-game coverage.

CBS11/TXA21 add a Ray (of sunshine?) to meteorologist team

Lubbock native and University of Texas at Austin grad Jeffrey Ray will make it a quartet of weathercasters again at CBS11/TXA21.

Replacing the retired Mike Burger, Ray is scheduled to join the stations on Dec. 1st. He arrives from WKRN-TV in Nashville after an 11-year stint at the ABC station. He last served as WKRN's morning meteorologist.

"Being both born in Texas and a graduate of Texas, I can't tell you how much it means to me to now be able to raise my boys in Texas," Ray said in a publicity statement. "I've been smiling so much my face is starting to hurt."

President and general manager Gary Schneider said viewers will "appreciate both his knowledge and his relaxed demeanor."

Ray also has worked at TV stations in Kansas City, Jefferson City, Miss., Knoxville, Tenn. and Fort Pierce, Fla. After his University of Texas days, he switched majors and received a bachelor's degree in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University. He also has a master's in science education from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

CBS11/TXA21's incumbent meteorologists are Larry Mowry, Jeff Jamison and Garry Seith.

Ray's weathercasts used to be "On Fire" at WKRN. Take a look.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Oct. 20) -- Rangers still dominate, but numbers cool with daytime start and frigid performance

Wednesday's Game 5 of the ALCS, a 7-2 Rangers loss to the Yankees, fell well short of the previous day's million mark with an average of 671,723 D-FW viewers.

Not surprisingly, attendance built in after-work hours, with a peak TBS audience of 934,970 between 5:45 and 6 p.m. It was another marathon, running from 3:07 to 6:55 p.m. And the numbers do not fully measure workplace and barroom viewing.

Game 6 is Friday night back in Arlington, with a scheduled 7:07 p.m. start. Locally, Fox4 is blanketing its newscasts with Rangers coverage while prepping for a World Series on Fox that still has a great chance of including Texas.

Rival station managers, if you strapped lie detectors to them, wouldn't mind seeing the Rangers bow out. Otherwise their network prime-time programming and 10 p.m. newscasts will be obliterated by the North Texas Nine's first ever World Series appearance. And most of the WS, set to begin on Wednesday, Oct. 27th, will bleed into the November "sweeps" ratings period, which starts on Thursday of that week.

On other ratings fronts, Fox's prime-time NLCS game between the Giants and Phillies averaged just 131,588 viewers while CBS rolled with its competing lineup of Survivor: Nicaragua (207,771), Criminal Minds (387,839) and The Defenders (256,251). But ABC's Modern Family had Wednesday's biggest prime-time haul of advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

At the other end of the network teeter totter, NBC's first-year Undercovers series had the smallest number of 18-to-49-year-olds, trailing The CW's America's Next Top Model and Hellcats as well as all programming on ABC, CBS and Fox.

The local news derby proceedings went like this: CBS11 commanded the 10 p.m. field with wins in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 remained strong in the early mornings with twin wins at 6 a.m. And WFAA8 continued to run stronger of late in the early evening newscast competitions, running the table at both 5 and 6 p.m.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: TXA21's early morning simulcasts of KLUV radio's (98.7 FM) Jody Dean and the Morning Team start on Monday, Oct. 25th. Replacing the syndicated Daily Buzz, they'll air from 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays.

Also, CBS11's new weekday early morning anchor, Lisa Pineiro, is scheduled to join Scott Sams on Thursday, Oct. 28th, opening day of the November sweeps.

Back to earth and to Arlington: C.J. no C.C. (who wasn't that great either) in 7-2 Rangers loss

Gotta love that Yankee 'tude. They're referring to the guy on the right, who will pitch Game 7 in Arlington if necessary. Photos: Ed Bark

Eleven hits in six innings against the opposing team's ace usually is enough to keep you in a ballgame.

But not when you don't string them together. And not when your own starting pitcher is wildly ineffective.

Texas Rangers starter C.J. Wilson had one of his worst outings of the season in Game 5 of the ALCS, giving up 6 runs in 5 innings Wednesday afternoon. He was fortunate it wasn't more.

The New York Yankees' C.C. Sabathia was hardly sharp. But he gutted it out for six innings and left with his team ahead 6-2. Sabathia ended his start by striking out a game Mitch Moreland on a wicked 2-2 curve ball with runners at second and third and two out. Moreland had fouled off several tough two-strike pitches but was frozen by this one. Anyone else at the plate would have been, too.

A seventh inning pickoff of Elvis Andrus at second base ended any realistic chance of the Rangers ending this series on the Yankees' home field. They still lead by a 3-2 margin, with Game 6 coming Friday night in Arlington.

Texas helped Sabathia out by swinging at too many low pitches out of the strike zone. But Wilson was no help at all to his team. Besides giving up back-to-back solo home runs in the 3rd inning, he threw wildly to the plate to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead an inning earlier. All in all, he made Tommy Hunter's ineffective Game 3 start look good. He gave up three runs in three and a third innings.

Game 5 was another marathon, running from 3:07 to 6:55 p.m. Announcers are bound to make a mistake or two in a game this long, and TBS play-by-play guy Ernie Johnson complied as the Yankees got ready to hit in the bottom of the 7th.

"Kerry Wood got the job done with the inning-ending double play," he told booth mates John Smoltz and Ron Darling, neither of whom corrected him.

Not exactly. Wood picked Andrus off second base and then struck out Josh Hamilton to end the Rangers' 7th.

Still, I don't think Johnson is nearly as bad as some unclebarky.com commenters do. Others are definitely better, and it'd be far preferable to have the Fox team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

But Johnson scored with at least a few one-liners Wednesday, including his introduction of Josh Hamilton's first at bat.

"The boos rain down as Roy Hobbs steps in," he said, a reference to the storied Robert Redford character in The Natural. Hamilton had homered twice in Game 4 but had no big hits Wednesday.

It was also Johnson who brought an end to the incessant first-inning Sabathia chatter by Smoltz and Darling. Both ex-pitchers otherwise are solid in explaining the nuances of situational pitching. So in short, I can live with these three. And there's no choice in the matter anyway.

Game 6 should be a ratings whopper in D-FW. Even more so than Tuesday's big prime-time Rangers win, which averaged more than one million viewers to put the North Texas Nine in roughly the same ballpark as the Cowboys.

And should there be a Game 7 on Saturday night, well, that would be a ratings blockbuster. Ain't baseball fun?

All miked up with nothing to show as the Rangers demolish the Yankees and the locals stand around

Clockwise from upper left: Fox4's Mike Doocy; NBC5's Matt Barrie (with fan); CBS11's Gina Miller; WFAA8's Dale Hansen. Photos: Ed Bark

D-FW's four major TV news providers continue to fly their flags outside Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for them, they're all at half-mast.

Elongated Rangers-Yankees games on both Monday and Tuesday nights have run past the 10 p.m. sports segments on the stations, with Game 4 of the ALCS extending all the way to 11:13 p.m. local time.

It kind of takes the starch out of those live-from-New York dispatches. Prevented from airing any game footage until the TBS telecasts are over, the stations' designated hitters have been left standing outside in the cool NYC air with little to say except that the Rangers are ahead. Meanwhile, anyone with even a passing interest in baseball or the Rangers is watching the live game coverage on TBS. Bang for their bucks? All concerned might as well be in a North Texas sports bar, where at least you can show patrons jumping up and down with excitement.

"I'm still hangin' in here. I have no idea why, but we are," WFAA8 sports anchor told sidekick weathercaster Pete Delkus Tuesday night. Hansen later discoursed on the "incredibly crazy" nature of the game's early innings. "A lot of wild plays -- and we can't show you any of 'em."

It's tempting to say that Hansen, more than any of his colleagues, is getting exactly what he deserves. He largely ignored or ridiculed the Rangers for years, saving them for the butt-end of his sportscasts far more often than not. Still, it's invariably entertaining to have Hansen on any scene, even if the game of baseball is as foreign and palatable to him as a vegan restaurant.

Meanwhile, CBS11 has sent a veritable task force to Manhattan, in no small part because sister station TXA21 has a Friday night Rangers baseball package. Gina Miller handled the live sports segment Tuesday night, urging viewers to tune in for Babe Laufenberg's eventual live post-game coverage and locker room interviews on TXA21.

CBS11/TXA21 news anchor Tracy Kornet also was live from New York earlier in the newscast. She introduced video of herself in a bar with Rangers supporters Jim Weiss and Tom Shirocky.

"So we've got the No. 1 Rangers fan and the No. 1 Nolan Ryan fan," she said, putting her hand on the shoulder of the Ryan fan. "That is pretty darn good. Right here in the middle of Manhattan." No further comment is necessary, save for an ick.

NBC5's co-sports anchor, get-up-and-go Matt Barrie, easily showed the most enterprise. Rather than stand live outside Yankee Stadium, he was inside for a freshly taped interview with Yankee bleacher-ite Jared Macchirole. Along with his brother, Jay, he was the guy who seemed to impede Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz's effort to snatch Robinson Cano's long drive out of the stands. Cano got a home run out of the deal.

"Now be honest with me, Jared. Could Nellie have caught the ball?" Barrie asked.

"I did not touch his glove," Jared insisted while laughing. "I'm certain I did not touch his glove." Holy Macchirole.

Back in NBC5's Fort Worth studios, co-sports anchor Newy Scruggs said, "Well, looks like it won't matter, because the Rangers are in control."

Scruggs later expressed his new-found disinterest in the team that plays across the street from the Rangers ballpark. Anchor Brian Curtis baited the hook by observing, "We need a little Rangers magic to like drift over to Cowboys Stadium."

Pause, one-two. "I'm not thinkin' about them right now," Scruggs finally mustered. "This is a baseball town now."

Over on Fox4, sports anchor Mike Doocy stood live outside Yankee Stadium to note that Rangers catcher Bengie Molina was looking like the ongoing game's "unlikely hero" after swatting a two-out, three-run homer in the 6th inning to give his team a 5-3 lead that ended up ballooning to a 10-3 final.

Doocy also talked about the "steady attitude" of Rangers manager Ron Washington before segueing to generic tape from an earlier press conference. "We're just doin' what we do -- play baseball," Washington said. Snore.

All four stations will get another crack at actually showing some game highlights or doing live interviews on Wednesday's 6 p.m. newscasts. The Rangers will advance to their first ever World Series if they win a day game scheduled to start at 3:07 p.m. local time. Still, the way things have been going, the game is likely to stretch past 6:30 p.m., once again leaving the locals in the lurch before they all fly back home either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Financially hard-pressed stations don't talk about their budgets under these circumstances. But I kind of like the idea of Hansen sleeping on a Central Park bench to save on expenses. Don't think it wasn't suggested.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Oct. 19) -- the Rangers will average 1 million viewers for a game when pigs fly (P.S. PIGS FLY!)

Bengie Molina thumps chest Tarz-style after 3-run HR. Photo: Ed Bark

The Texas Rangers at last poached on Dallas Cowboys territory Tuesday night by averaging a million-plus D-FW viewers on TBS cable for their 10-3 route of the Yankees.

Officially, the count is 1,038,855 viewers for a marathon game that stretched from 7:07 to 11:13 p.m. A previously unheard of peak audience of 1,205,072 viewers were on hand from 10:15 to 10:30 p.m. Toiling in relative obscurity: the D-FW sports anchors reporting live from New York during that time while the Rangers and Yankees kept playing.

The locals weren't even contractually allowed to use footage from the game. Or as latent baseball groupie Dale Hansen put it on WFAA8 while standing outside Yankee Stadium: "This one was incredibly crazy. A lot of wild plays -- and we can't show you any of 'em." He then segued to a canned TCU football team story while the Rangers pounded bumps on Yankee relief pitchers en route to a 3-1 lead in the ALCS.

Tuesday night's second most popular attraction, CBS' ever-resilient NCIS, managed to attract 387,839 viewers.

The Rangers again reigned supreme at the expense of 10 p.m. local newscasts, all of which had trouble getting noticed. WFAA8 led with 207,771 viewers, followed by CBS11 (117,737), NBC5 (110,811) and Fox4 (69,257).

Fox4 doesn't mind, though. It gets the World Series. And if the Rangers are in it, that's a guaranteed mega-ratings haul.

In other local news derby results, NBC5's 10 p.m. local edition led the pack among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

NBC5 and Fox4 split the golds at 6 a.m., with the Peacock winning in total viewers and Fox4 tops with 25-to-54-year-olds before the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day again slaughtered the three network morning shows in that demographic.

WFAA8 won at both 5 and 6 p.m. in total viewers but couldn't hold onto the gold with 25-to-54-year-olds. CBS11 won in that measurement at 5 p.m. while NBC5 took first at 6 p.m.

Let's play oddball -- and then longball. Rangers whack Yanks again in oft-wacky game

A smashed TBS camera lens nicely frames Elvis Andrus. Photos: Ed Bark

A wildly weird game broke out in the early innings. Then things settled nicely into a repeat of the "Yankee faithful" bailing out as the Texas Rangers piled up late inning runs in a 10-3 romp.

Man, how enjoyable is this? Two consecutive blowouts of baseball's proudest, haughtiest franchise on their home field. The Rangers now take an imposing 3-1 ALCS lead into Wednesday afternoon's possible close-out.

But as TBS play-by-play dude Ernie Johnson noted, the Yankees last trailed by that margin in the 1958 World Series against the Milwaukee Braves. His dad, Ernie Sr., was a pitcher on that Dairyland team, which then lost three straight to New York. Formative Barky remembers well. He was a Wisconsin grade schooler that year, sneaking a transistor radio plug into his ear to hear the unfolding horror story during fifth grade class. Believe it or not, the World Series games were played in daylight back then.

So let's not let the Yankees get off the canvas and stagger back to Arlington for Game 6. As TBS commentators also pointed out, the Yankees can't wait to face Rangers ace Cliff Lee again. Because that's the only way they can get to a Game 7.

Tuesday's Game 4 initially seemed as though it was being played on Halloween night. First came Robinson Cano's fan-aided home run, with Nelson Cruz's his glove arm engulfed by fans as he reached above the outfield wall. But that's what the home team fans are supposed to do. So credit them with a nice assist.

Then came Lance Berkman's homer that was -- and wasn't. After his home run trot, replays showed that the ball had barely hooked to the right of the foul pole by perhaps the width of an onion skin. So the umps rightly waived it off and kept the Yankees' lead at 1-0 instead of 2-0. Berkman then struck out.

Brett Gardner's flying broken bat also spooked things up. It headed down the right field field line for a direct hit on a TBS camera lens. What are the odds? A trillion to one?

The top of the fifth inning then brought a potential "Bartman moment" when the Rangers' Josh Hamilton hit a two-out foul ball down the left field line with runners at first and second and the Rangers trailing 3-2. A pudgy Yankees fan reached out and denied Gardner a chance to catch the ball. But Hamilton then flied weakly to centerfield to end the inning. "Steve Bartman's place in history is safe," Johnson deadpanned.

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez deflates as Bengie Molina begins his home run trot. The two-out, three-run shot stun-gunned the home team and gave Texas a 5-3 lead in the 6th inning.

Bengie Molina's place in history also will be cemented if the Rangers go on to bounce out the Yankees. His super-clutch three-run homer with two outs in the 6th ranks as the biggest hit in Rangers history. For the moment at least. And TBS perfectly captured the moment by later showing Yankee third baseman and former Ranger Alex Rodriguez almost revert to the fetal position as Molina watched the ball sail into the left field seats.

The only Ranger not ready for prime-time was starting pitcher Tommy Hunter. Flushed and clammy, he looked like a balloon ready to burst while the Yankees kept popping corks. Should the Rangers get to the World Series, it seems clear that Derek Holland should replace him as the fourth starter. On Tuesday night Holland again was superb in relief, keeping the Yankees at bay until the Ranger home run bats came into play. All told they had four, with Josh Hamilton hitting two more and Nelson Cruz then piling it on with a two-run homer in the ninth.

The eighth inning could well have been a disaster, though. Leading 7-3, Ranger relievers loaded the bases on walks with one out before Pantsgate came into play. Did reliever Darren Oliver barely nick Nick Swisher's pinstripes with a pitch? Replays seemed to show he did. But Swisher didn't try to "sell" anything and there were no arguments from the Yankees. Swisher then flew out to shallow centerfield before third baseman Michael Young made a terrific stab of a smokin' hot grounder hit by the star-crossed Berkman. Inning over, crowd filing out, Rangers relaxed and jubilant.

Has Rangers president Nolan Ryan ever smiled bigger? I think not.

Let's end by complimenting TBS' see-all camera work, even through a shattered lens at times. Tuesday's game had a number of game-turning plays, and the network caught them all from a wide variety of angles.

The TBS announcing team -- Johnson and former pitchers John Smoltz and Ron Darling -- also is starting to grow on me. The latter two obviously know a lot about what pitchers go through. And their insights mesh nicely with Johnson's occasionally glib play-by-play.

That said, let's say goodbye to the TBS telecasts after Wednesday's game. There's no time like the present for the Rangers to seal the deal. The Yankees have their ace at hand -- C.C. Sabathia. But C.J. Wilson is no Tommy Hunter. He threw a lights out Game 1 before being betrayed by the bullpen. And with the Yankees' Mark Teixeira likely out for the season with a hamstring injury, he'll be facing one less potent bat.

No one does this to the Yankees, of course. But the Rangers are doing it. One more time and the impossible dream is a reality. A World Series in Arlington would be a previously unimaginable magic carpet ride. Let's see if this team can take Nolan Ryan even higher.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Oct. 18) -- Rangers double audience for Dancing with the Stars

Two big-timers were left flat-footed by the Rangers Monday -- Dancing with the Stars and the Yankees.

Texas' 8-0 prime-time win at New York in Game 3 of the ALCS averaged 865,713 D-FW viewers, leaving the night's usual runaway top draw with athlete's foot. ABC's two-hour Dancing performance edition had a comparatively paltry 415,542 viewers, less than half the crowd for the Rangers and Yanks on cable's TBS.

The game also had a healthy share of advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, with 417,906 viewers in this age range. The ALCS is by no means over, but the drool is starting to form at Fox4, which will have the World Series after being stuck with the NLCS as an appetizer. A first-time Rangers appearance in the WS would be a mega-ratings bonanza for Fox4, which also has the Super Bowl in Jerry's Palace this February.

All four major local TV news providers had sports anchors in NYC Monday. But their 10 p.m. live reports from outside Yankee Stadium were largely blotted out by the game itself, which ran until 10:27 p.m. From 10 to 10:30 p.m., the combined newscasts on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 had 588,635 viewers. In that same half hour, Rangers-Yankees drew 1,115,038 viewers. In other words, a blowout.

Over on ESPN, the Monday Night Football game between Jacksonville and Tennessee punted with just 145,440 viewers.

NBC's latest episode of Chase, filmed entirely in North Texas, also had a tough go in D-FW Monday night. It drew 173,143 total viewers to finish third at 9 p.m. in the broadcast universe behind CBS' Hawaii Five-0 (290,879 viewers) and ABC's Castle (270,102 viewers). It was the same order of finish with 18-to-49-year-olds.

In local news derby results, WFAA8 edged CBS11 at 10 p.m. in total viewers and won by a comfier margin over NBC5 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 again swept the 6 a.m. proceedings while WFAA8 did likewise at 6 p.m. The 5 p.m. golds were split between WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 with 25-to-54-year-olds.

From super-tense to strikingly easy: 6-run Ranger 9th turns pulse-pounder into walk in the park

Hitting his stride again. Cliff Lee turns in a third majestic post-season performance on baseball's grandest stage. Photo: Ed Bark

Better games have been pitched in the post-season. But not all that many. And considering the longtime doormat team he represents -- and the mighty team he faced on their home turf-- this one might rank somewhere in the all-time top 20.

Cliff Lee's eight shutout innings, in which he yielded two cheap singles and struck out 13, kept the Texas Rangers clinging to a never-safe 2-0 lead built on Josh Hamilton's first-inning home run. In the face of a precariously high pitch count, Lee stood ready to pitch the ninth inning as well. But the Rangers instead sucked the suspense out of this pivotal ALCS Game 3 by plating six runs in the top of the inning against a cobra suddenly turned garden snake.

The New York Yankees bullpen caved the way the Rangers' had in Game 1. So no Lee was necessary. Instead, kid closer Neftali Feliz got some valued experience in the Big Apple while a once roaring crowd went quietly and rapidly into the night. Feliz whiffed another pair of Yankees, including former Ranger Mark Teixeira to end the game and bring the grand total to 15.

TBS' two ex-pitcher commentators, John Smoltz and Ron Darling, were suitably awed by Lee's command of pitches and ability to mix them up in the face of an at times exceptionally tight strike zone by umpire Jim Reynolds. Lee's mound opponent, Andy Pettitte, was impressive as well. He has more post-season wins -- 19 -- than any pitcher in history. And save for Hamilton's table-setting home run, he matched Lee for seven innings of scintillating baseball.

This was the kind of game that gave you the chills on a number of fronts. The Yankees always seemed poised to strike, and their history said they would. But Lee kept conquering the best team money can buy. And in the end, the Rangers romped to a lopsided win that in a way cheated fans out of what could have been a dramatic, knuckle-gnawing climax. But that's OK. The first eight innings were nerve-wracking enough.

The win assures the Rangers of a return to Arlington if they can't close the Yankees out in New York. It's improbable that they'll win the next two. But can you believe what this team is doing? Even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might want in on the action if a World Series actually comes to Arlington. Has he ever even been inside the little shack across the street from his gargantuan palace?

Not to be mean-spirited, but now's not the time to let him in :).

WFAA8's Hansen tinkles on Lone Star Emmys -- and other recent D-FW developments of note

Dale Hansen mouths off anew after being congratulated by Sunday night news anchors Casey Norton and Debbie Denmon. Photo: Ed Bark

Loquacious WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen invariably is good for a laugh or a cringe. He likely prompted both reactions Sunday night after news anchor Debbie Denmon congratulated him on winning a Lone Star Emmy Award for commentary at Saturday night's giveaway in Dallas.

"I was pretty excited about it when you told me about that," Hansen replied. "But then I heard that Pete Delkus was also voted the best weathercaster, so how special can it really be?"

Hansen won a statue for his periodic "Unplugged" commentaries. Among them were this year's nationally circulated ripping of WFAA8 management for airing a clandestinely recorded cell phone video of a seemingly inebriated Jerry Jones ragging on former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells at a bar. Delkus, who regularly spars and jokes with Hansen on the station's 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts, was honored along with CBS11 meteorologist Larry Mowry.

Regardless of Delkus' inclusion, Hansen does have a point about the overall value of the Lone Star Emmys. Just shy of a gazillion are handed out each year at a ceremony that threatens to never end and perhaps still hasn't. For the record, though, WFAA8 won for "News Excellence" and Houston's KHOU-TV was feted for "Station Excellence." Both are owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp. Here's a complete list of the winners.

*** During your friendly content provider's road trip, news came that the Texas Rangers have decided not to renew TV announcer Josh Lewin's contract after nine seasons in the booth with analyst Tom Grieve.

Rangers president Nolan Ryan said in a pro forma news release that the two parties "have agreed to end their relationship and move ahead in different directions . . . We wish Josh the very best for the future."

In a companion statement, Lewin thanked the Rangers "for nine wonderful years. I respect the team's leadership and vision and wish them nothing but the best as well."

Grieve, a former Rangers player and general manager, signed a new three-year deal that will take him through the 2013 season. Most of the team's games are carried on Fox Sports Southwest, which set and then broke ratings records this season.

The Rangers, Lewin and FSS are not commenting further at the moment. But the reasons behind Lewin's exit could be two-fold.

"I think it's safe to say his style was rubbing some in the organization the wrong way," said a local sports broadcaster who regularly covers the Rangers.

Lewin's style could be glib, depending on how good or bad the game was. And one wonders if old school Ryan got any of his Seinfeld or Caddyshack references.

There also was the matter of Lewin's commitments to both the San Diego Chargers and the Fox broadcast network's Saturday afternoon baseball package. Combined, they regularly took him away from Rangers games during the closing one-third of the season. From the Rangers standpoint, you want a guy who's always going to be there -- and Lewin wasn't that guy. With new ownership now firmly in place, the impetus to make a change likely grew stronger.

One of the Lewin-Grieve team's last interviews -- and it might well have been the very last -- was with unclebarky.com before a late August home game with the Minnesota Twins. You can read it here.

***Finally, here's something that's brilliant, dicey and incredibly daring.

Fox4's spoof of itself as "The Social Media Station" at Saturday's Lone Star Emmy Awards ceremony in Dallas may have gone a bit far with its straight-faced sendup of a hostage situation at City Hall. But man, props anyway. Clarice Tinsley anchors, with social networking reports from the field by Matt Grubs, Sophia Reza, James Rose and Natalie Solis, who is caught in the act of taking "a picture of myself with one of the shooting victims" after promising to immediately post it on Facebook.

Appropriately then, the three-minute video, which you really must see, is posted on my dumb little Facebook page. It makes Hansen's aforementioned "Unplugged" commentaries seem like passages from Winnie the Pooh.

If you can't access my Facebook page, you can see the video here as well.

And now that it's at last been posted on youtube, simply check it out below. Instant Classic.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Oct. 7 to Sun., Oct. 17) -- catching up with Rangers, Cowboys, local news derby numbers

Miles Austin leaps over Roy Williams in end zone to draw 15-yard "excessive celebration" penalty; Nelson Cruz leaps at wall to close out Rangers' 7-2 win over Yankees in Game 2 of ALCS. Photos: Ed Bark

Missed ya'll after taking a road trip through Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville in ongoing effort to become Southern fried.

Now it's time for a big, fat ol' ratings roundup starring the scintillating Texas Rangers and the destitute Dallas Cowboys.

Sunday's 24-21 loss at Minnesota on Fox's featured NFL game drew 1,426,694 D-FW viewers. The previous Sunday's home defeat, co-starring the Tennessee Titans, averaged a slightly smaller 1,378,214 viewers on CBS.

As WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen will be quick to tell you, the Rangers' post-season run can't touch those numbers. Not yet anyway. But the North Texas Nine continues to both make team history and build ratings momentum. Even though all seven games have been on a somewhat less accessible cable network (TBS), with more than half of them in afternoon hours.

Let's circle the Nielsen base paths after first noting that the Game 1 ALDS win against Tampa Bay averaged 180,068 viewers, as previously posted.

Game 2 ALDS, Oct. 7th at Tampa Bay -- 235,474 viewers see the Rangers coast to a 6-0 win.

Game 3 ALDS, Oct. 9th in Arlington -- 491,725 viewers cringe as the Rangers blow a late-inning lead to the Rays.

Game 4 ALDS, Oct. 10th in Arlington -- The Rays even the series at 2-2 while 380,914 viewers get that sinking feeling from noon to mid-afternoon.

Game 5 ALDS, Oct. 12th at Tampa Bay -- Prime-time at last, and good times, too. Cliff Lee pitches Texas to a 5-1 win before the biggest crowd to date -- 713,347 viewers. The Rangers near the one million mark with a peak audience of 990,375 for the closing 15 minutes of the game.

Game 1 ALCS, Oct. 15th in Arlington -- The Yankees deploy a stun gun with a 5-run eighth inning that wipes out a 5-1 Texas lead. But a record Rangers crowd of 928,044 absorbs the blow. A peak audience of 1,115,038 viewers from 10 to 10:15 p.m. puts the team in Cowboys territory for the first time in its history.

Game 2 ALCS, Oct. 16th in Arlington -- Texas quickly regroups with a mid-afternoon/early evening 7-2 win to even the series at 1-1. The TV audience falls off, but not off a cliff. Overall, the game averages a very nice-sized 616,387 viewers.

Monday night's pivotal Game 3, with Lee back in the saddle, has a fighting chance to average 1 million viewers locally. But a blowout win by the Yankees would negate any chance of that. Game time is 7 p.m. on TBS. Be there.


We're going to do a chronological weekday buzz round here to give you an overall view of which station might have some momentum heading into the November sweeps ratings period (Oct. 28 to Nov. 24th).

Thursday, Oct. 7th -- CBS11 ran the table at 10 p.m. with wins in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations. Fox4 swept the 6 a.m. competitions and also won at 5 and 6 p.m. with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 took the 5 and 6 p.m. golds in total viewers.

Friday, Oct. 8th -- WFAA8 ran first at 10 p.m. in both ratings measurements while also sweeping the 5 p.m. competitions and winning at 6 p.m. in the 25-to-54 demographic. CBS11 nipped WFAA8 at 6 p.m. in total viewers. NBC5 topped the 6 a.m. ratings in total viewers, with Fox4 taking the 25-to-54 gold.

Monday, Oct. 11th -- Fox4 had the only sweep, running the table at 6 a.m. WFAA8 again won at 10 p.m. in total viewers, but CBS11 took first with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 had the 5 and 6 p.m. golds in total viewers while CBS11 and Fox4 respectively ran first at those hours among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Tuesday, Oct. 12th -- WFAA8 and CBS11 split first-place finishes at 10 p.m., with respective wins in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4 remained strong in the early mornings with a doubleheader win at 6 a.m. WFAA8 flexed at 5 and 6 p.m. by running the table at both hours.

Wednesday, Oct. 13th -- It was the same story at 10 p.m., with WFAA8 winning in total viewers but CBS11 on top with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 claimed a rare 6 a.m. win in total viewers while Fox4 again ran first with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 topped the 5 and 6 p.m. competitions in total viewers and tied for first with CBS11 at the earlier hour in the 25-to-54 demographic. CBS11 won outright at 6 p.m. with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Thursday, Oct. 14th -- CBS11 ran a dominant first at 10 p.m. on both scorecards while Fox4 comfortably controlled the 6 a.m. competitions. Fox4 added twin wins at 5 p.m., with CBS11 doing likewise at 6 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 15th -- The 10 p.m. gold in total viewers went to CBS11 while NBC5 finally perked up to win at that hour with 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4 again swept the 6 a.m. races and WFAA8 closed out the week with doubleheader wins at both 5 and 6 p.m.

'Boys will be 'Boys: Dallas finds another way to lose, paving the way for (Jerry as coach?)

Romo faces music after latest song sung blue. Photo: Ed Bark

At this point why not?

After Sunday's latest snatching of defeat from victory -- a 24-21 loss at Minnesota -- maybe it's time for Jerry to be the ultimate Jerry.

The Cowboys' owner has always harbored a desire to coach his jocks with socks. So with little to lose at this point, let's see what he can do. And yes, I'm reasonably serious in proposing that Jerry Jones take the field and call the shots for the rest of this so far desultory season. Hell, he calls 'em anyway, so this would only underscore the obvious. The King of the Cowboys has talked big ever since sacking Tom Landry 22 years ago and putting his team in the hands of six different head coaches, including current incumbent Wade Phillips. What if Jones tried it himself? Could he do much worse?

I haven't been a Phillips basher. But the poor old galoot is snake-bitten and plumb wore out after five games of a season that was supposed to end with Jerry's 'Boys playing in Jerry's Palace in February's Super Bowl.

That's now become an extreme long shot, with the Cowboys' schedule only getting tougher. You can't bring in a coach worth a lick at this point. And none of the current assistant coaches looks man enough to handle the head job. That includes former heir apparent Jason Garrett, the onetime presumed play-calling genius who lately inspires less confidence than the return of Dave Campo.

Commentators around the country say the Cowboys are a talented bunch lacking discipline. Perhaps what they need is a whip being cracked by the guy who directly signs their checks. No one fears Wade Phillips. But Jerry as coach would leave no doubt who's in charge, even if it's only for the rest of this season while he tries to lure another authoritarian from an outside world populated by the likes of Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren.

Meanwhile, imagine the ultra-drama of Jerry on the sidelines with a headset and a clipboard. He's had a facelift and the team desperately needs one. Worse case scenario: Jerry gets coaching completely out of his system after the team tanks under his all-powerful reign. And then he backs off completely in future seasons, becoming an owner who simply enjoys dressing up to come to the games. You know, like that old duffer who bankrolls the Saints.

Best case scenario: the Cowboys actually respond to Jerry -- which isn't utterly out of the question. He fanatically spurs them toward a fantastic finish and a playoff spot. And after that, you never know.

So yeah, I really like the idea of Jerry Jones prowling the sidelines and getting a big dose of his own medicine. Truth in telling, I'm a native Wisconsinite whose Green Bay Packers aren't exactly playing lights out lately either. The Green 'n' Gold, now 3-3, has had a ton of key injuries, though, while the grossly under-achieving Cowboys have been sound of body if not solid on fundamentals.

Something clearly needs to be done with your Dallas Cowboys. Phillips doesn't have the motivational skills required at this point. But maybe Jerry does.

Odds are he'd make a fool of himself as head coach. But what a show it'd be. And besides, there's that little team down the street called the Texas Rangers, who are threatening to steal the Cowboys' thunder by actually standing up to the mighty New York Yankees. Jerry naming himself head coach would nip that right in the bud.

I know. It's crazy. But the timing has never been better.

It's not supposed to be this easy: Rangers trot to 2nd post-season win, making Rays look like '98, '99 Rangers

Rangers celebrate second cruise control win over Rays. Photo: Ed Bark

No other major league team is without at least one post-season series win. But the Texas Rangers now would have to utterly collapse to remain a member of that exclusive club of one.

Texas' 6-0 win at Tampa Bay Thursday afternoon puts the team on a cloud as it heads home to play a possibly clinching game Saturday in Arlington. What happens will happen on TBS, which also has the exclusive rights to carry the best-of-seven American League Championship Series that almost certainly will include the Rangers.

The Rays will whine long and hard -- as they did during the game -- about whether third baseman Michael Young really checked his swing on what would have been a third strike in the fifth inning of a 2-0 game. Young then belted a 3-run homer -- his first hit of the series -- to give Texas and winning pitcher C.J. Wilson a big fat cushion.

From one replay it looked as though Young indeed had checked his swing. From another, maybe not. But those slo-mo shots can be especially deceiving in these cases. Texas got the call, Young capitalized and Tampa Bay cried itself a river. They weren't going to win anyway.

This is uncharted, heady territory for the North Texas Nine. No, they're not the Cowboys. But ride 'em, Rangers and for once take the play away from Jerry Jones and his burly batch of underachievers. The real excitement for the next few weeks to come could be in that li'l brick ballyard down the street from the Cowboys' Roman Colosseum.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Oct. 6) -- afternoon delight, with Rangers doing all right

The Texas Rangers' Wednesday afternoon post-season debut on TBS, an invigorating 5-1 win at Tampa Bay, dominated the daytime Nielsens but overall couldn't quite match the numbers for Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast among others.

Such is life when a network makes it tough to see the game during the heart of most people's workdays. And those who sneaked some peeks at work don't figure into Nielsen's scoreboard.

Still, the Rangers averaged a pretty sturdy 180,068 D-FW viewers for a game that ended at 3:44 p.m. The crowd peaked in the game's final half-hour, with 249,325 viewers on hand.

In contrast, hardly anyone saw the Phillies' Roy Halladay pitch a no-hitter against Cincinnati in the next TBS game. That one drew a piddling 56,098 viewers before 124,663 watched the Yankees beat the Twins in TBS' featured prime-time game.

In the broadcast network prime-time arena, CBS' Criminal Minds had the most viewers with 304,731. CBS' The Defenders followed with a 9 p.m. win, drawing 277,028 viewers to beat Fox4's runnerup local newscast (214,697 viewers).

The first half-hour of Fox'sHell's Kitchen (186,994 viewers) won at 7 p.m. in a close battle with ABC's The Middle and Better With You and CBS' Survivor: Nicaragua.

Among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, Hell's Kitchen took the 7 p.m. gold, followed by Modern Family from 8 to 8:30 p.m. and HK from 8:30 to 9 p.m. Fox4's news and The Defenders tied for first at 9 p.m. in this key demographic.

The second episode of NBC's Law & Order: Los Angeles ran third at 9 p.m. in both total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds. ABC's The Whole Truth again played dead with a pair of fourths at that hour.

In local news derby results, CBS11 had the biggest overall news audience of the day with 207,771 viewers at 10 p.m. But Fox4 took the gold with 25-54-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for news programming) in a tight four-way fight. Longtime Fox4 10 p.m. anchor Clarice Tinsley may be the oldest in the market. But she's been holding her own with the "kids" lately, narrowly winning two of the last four weeknights.

Fox4 and WFAA8 tied for first in total viewers at 6 a.m. But Fox4 won outright with 25-to-54-year-olds before the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day blew out the competing network morning shows in both ratings measurements.

CBS11 ran the table at 6 p.m. and WFAA8 did likewise at 5 p.m.

That's what we're talkin' about: Rangers win Game 1 against Rays

Texas Rangers brain trust, led by team president and co-owner Nolan Ryan, celebrates happy returns in Tampa. Photo: Ed Bark

Timely power hitting and a strong, 10-strikeout seven innings from starter Cliff Lee gave the Texas Rangers their first post-season win since 1996 in Game 1 at Tampa Bay.

The Rangers' two-run second inning matched the team's entire 6-game scoring output in the 1998 and 1999 playoff sweeps at the hands of the Yankees. The game ended with a 5-1 Texas win after a semi-scary 9th inning in which closer Neftali Feliz walked the first two hitters he faced and survived a line shot to right field before ending the game with two strikeouts.

TBS carried the game during early to mid-afternoon hours, no doubt evading interest on the part of much of the country. Ratings in D-FW, which will be available Thursday, also might be misleadingly low. Nielsen Media Research still hasn't entirely gotten the hang of registering sports bar viewing, let alone workplace TV sets in use.

Commentators Don Orsillo and Buck Martinez seemed to do a solid job for the most part. But it's obvious that Texas isn't high on the TBS pecking order right now. The Rangers after all aren't playing the Yanks, who will get Wednesday's prime-time berth in their game at Minnesota.

Lee had some shaky early innings, escaping a bases loaded, one out jam in the first. But in the end he gave the Rangers exactly what they paid for -- a dominating starting pitcher and now a commanding position in these playoffs.

Another midseason acquisition, veteran catcher Benji Molina, also excelled with three hits, including a two-run homer in the 4th inning.

Even WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen was on hand, "Crossing State Lines" to travel all the way to Tampa Bay after very, very seldom venturing to Arlington to watch the Rangers play in recent seasons. Good for him. He'll bring a lot to the party, even if he ranks as D-FW's consummate fair weather fan. Oh, but we kid. Sorta.

No more talkin' 'bout My Generation

Made-in-Texas series now are a done-and-gone two for two after just two weeks of the new fall season.

ABC's Austin-originated My Generation has joined Fox's Dallas-produced Lone Star in the cancellation corral. Each aired for just two episodes before the ax swung. Generation drew a piddling 3.8 million viewers nationally for its second outing Thursday in ABC's prime-time lead-off spot. The network hasn't announced a replacement yet, but has removed the show from its press site.

Fox's The Good Guys, also filmed in North Texas, could be joining this group imminently. Its latest Friday night episode had 2.5 million viewers. Although receiving generally favorable reviews, the serio-comic cop series has struggled mightily in the ratings since its summer launch.

NBC's North Texas entry, Chase, continues to run in place on Mondays at 9 p.m. (central). It's getting a bit winded, though. Last Monday's second episode had 6.3 million viewers to finish a distant third in its time slot opposite CBS' Hawaii Five-0 (12.7 million) and ABC's Castle (11.1 million).

Hold on though, the fifth and final 13-episode season of made-in-Austin Friday Night Lights is coming on Oct. 27th, although you'll need DirecTV to get the first looks. NBC, as in past seasons, will repeat FNL after its DirecTV run ends.

Fox4's new look 9 p.m. newscast isn't quite a slam dunk, but does include a dunking meteorologist

Fox4 weathercaster Dan Henry skies and scores. Photos: Ed Bark

It's not every day you can see a news anchor, sports anchor and meteorologist shoot baskets live during a local newscast. Let alone watch the weather dude dunk.

Presenting Fox4's new and quite possibly very improved 9 p.m. local newscast, which on Thursday featured three live anchor-newsmaker interviews in an effort to better combat the oft-formidable network entertainment programming on rival stations.

The center ring attraction was an extended in-studio interview with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. And I do mean extended. Co-anchor Steve Eagar set things up by talking to Cuban for one minute, 53 seconds before a commercial break.

Then came an 11-second, drum-accompanied tease -- "Cuban. Doocy. Eagar. One On One On One with Mark Cuban" -- before an uninterrupted 13 minute, 12 second gathering of the Mavs main man, a vested Eagar, sports anchor Mike Doocy and climactically, weathercaster Dan Henry.

Henry showed off his two-handed dunking prowess -- albeit on an obviously less than regulation height basket -- before Cuban tried and at first failed to execute a one-hand slam. But Fox4 later showed tape of Cuban kinda sorta dunking before he flashed a very broad grin.

The ultra-elongated interview with Cuban, who alternately cradled and palmed a basketball, touched on a lot of topics but didn't mention the Securities and Exchange Commission's newly revived "insider trader" allegations against him. There probably wasn't much Cuban could say, but the question should have been broached.

Other than that, no big problem. It's about time that Fox4 changes and livens things up without resorting to the cheap, sex-alicious content of CW33's competing 9 p.m. newscast. Eager and Doocy might have been overly chummy with Cuban at times, but they did press him a bit on why anyone should believe the Dallas Mavericks will be any better this season after not signing anyone resembling a marquee free agent.

Cuban stuck to the notion that nothing less than an NBA title will satisfy him, although few believe that's a realistic possibility in the coming season. The only technical glitch was a "Dress For Success" tag that briefly showed up on-screen.

Heather Hays split-screens it with tree protector Ray Deshaw.

Before Cuban's appearance, co-anchor Heather Hays had a solid live interview with Collin County rancher Ray Deshaw, who's battling officials over the preservation of trees he planted 20 years ago. The county says they pose safety and drainage problems. Unfortunately, Deshaw's name was misspelled "Dishaw" throughout the interview. These things happen.

Eagar earlier had a live interview with Fox football analyst and former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury over the issue of intrusive parents at youth football games. The segment was sparked by a recent parental brawl during which one dad brutally forearm-shivved another dad from behind. Fox4 repeatedly played the footage.

All of the interviews provided in depth looks at newsworthy topics or people. This of course enhances the anchors' profiles while reducing the need for reporters in the field. Still, the newscast found time for three fairly lengthy dispatches from reporters Matt Grubs, Sophia Reza and Lari Barager. Henry also got around to doing the weather after dunking.

There are some perils. Those with no interest in Cuban might well have changed the channel rather than sit through more than 15 minutes with him. It did in fact seem like an eternity, even for a big sports fan like yours truly.

The plusses also are apparent. Standard issue news blips are mostly eliminated, as are run-of-the-mill crime stories and other junk on a bunk. At least that was the case Thursday night.

The ratings didn't quite pan out, though. Fox4 ran fourth in total viewers and with 18-to-49-year-olds in Thursday's 9 p.m. slot while tying NBC's The Apprentice for third among 25-to-54-year-olds.

No matter. I'd stay the course with this more substantive, enterprising treatment of local news. No need to make that big a fuss over Cuban, whose segment should have been trimmed by at least a few minutes or more. But I'm betting the producers already are making adjustments. And kudos to them for making the effort to try something different without selling out the news product.