Pacers at Celtics
True, he is a beloved Beantown sports legend, but Larry Bird has
always seemed more like fellow Hoosier Woody Boyd than Hub hero
Sam Malone. Today, for the first time since being named coach of
the Indiana Pacers, Bird will return to cheers in Boston, where
everybody knows his name. Bird is making quite a name for
himself on the bench; at week's end his Pacers were 23-11. With
16 wins, the Celtics have already surpassed last season's
victory mark (15) behind their new coach, Rick Pitino, and
second-year forward Antoine Walker. On Jan. 7 against the
Washington Wizards, Walker (22.6 points per game) became the
first Celtic to score 49 points in a game since...guess who.
15th Annual All-Madden Team
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott (left) is a lock.
During the NFC playoff game on Dec. 28 between Tampa Bay and the
Detroit Lions, Fox analyst John Madden noted that Alstott kept
his eyes open while a Lions defender ripped his helmet off his
head. "That's why he's going to be on my All-Madden Team,"
declared Madden, broadcasting's round mound of profound. "Most
guys close their eyes, 'cause they're afraid to get hit." The
player we'd most like to see make Madden's cut: the Bills' aptly
named special teams ace Steve Tasker, who was ejected 1:37 into
the last game (at Green Bay) of his distinguished 13-season
career for inadvertently bumping a ref.
FOX, 3 PM
NHL All-Star Game
The 48th edition of the league's holiday on ice breaks with the
tradition of interconference play. Instead, to whet appetites
for next month's Olympics, which will for the first time include
NHL skaters, the All-Star matchup will be the World (meaning
Europe) against North America. In other words, those guys who've
seen Slap Shot with subtitles against those who've seen it
without. The New World will be led by Flyers center Eric Lindros
and winger John LeClair, while the Old boasts a front line of
Avalanche center Peter Forsberg and wings Jaromir Jagr of the
Penguins and Teemu Selanne of the Mighty Ducks.
FOX, 4 PM
For Aussies suffering the ills of going 23 years without one of
their own winning their men's singles title (John Newcombe was
the last to do so), Rafter is the best medicine. In the
tournament that starts today (and will be telecast on tape-delay
Monday through Friday in late night on ESPN and ESPN2),
Queensland hunk Patrick Rafter (left), ranked No. 2, is the
homeland favorite. Among the women, defending champion Martina
Hingis must contend with upstart Venus Williams--whom she beat
in the U.S. Open final in September--and Venus's younger sister,
Serena, who upset Mary Pierce and Monica Seles in November.
ESPN2, 12:30 OR 1:30 AM
Old Dominion at Connecticut
Memo to NBC Entertainment prez Warren Littlefield: Check out our
Must-She Monday lineup. Fired It Up features Ticha Penicheiro
(left) of the No. 2 Lady Monarchs (13-0 at week's end) as a
spunky Portuguese point guard trying to lead her squad back to
the national championship game. Suddenly Svetlana stars Russian
newcomer Svetlana Abrosimova, 17, a freshman who in her second
start for the third-ranked Huskies (15-1) scored 17 points and
had 16 rebounds in a 126-48 win against Providence on Jan. 6.
Today the casts of both shows tangle at the Hartford Civic
Center in a game that puts UConn's 40-game home winning streak
on the line. Wackiness ensues.
ESPN, 2:30 PM
All times Eastern. Schedules are subject to change.
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. [Mike Alstott in game]
COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY [Patrick Rafter]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND [Ticha Penicheiro]
THE ! ZAPPER
If you are one of the many folks at ESPN involved in producing
this week's Winter X Games, you might be feeling more than a tad
uneasy. Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono have just met their
demise in freak skiing accidents, and here you are telecasting
events such as Boarder X, in which snowboarders race downhill
through obstacles in almost-anything-goes fashion. ESPN has used
daredevil Evel Knievel in promo spots for the Games, lauding the
virtues of danger. Pardon us, Evel, but, in light of events, you
are barking up the wrong tree.