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Original Issue

Half Measures

Be forewarned: Midway through this column we're going to leave
our discussion of televised sports to bring you a review
of...the slammin' new single from Elektra recording artist Missy
Elliott! O.K., so the comparison using SI and one of its AOL
Time Warner sister divisions is imperfect, but extraneous
halftime gimmicks have characterized NBC's coverage of the NBA
Finals. During Games 2 and 3 we saw a special edition of NBC's
game show Weakest Link, featuring host Anne Robinson skewering
the likes of NBC Sports personalities Bob Costas and Bill
Walton. During Game 1 the network spent the mid-game break
airing a live U2 concert, and during Games 4 and 5 viewers were
scheduled to see musical groups Destiny's Child and Sugar Ray,
respectively. Granted, none of the music had any connection to
NBC--but it also had no connection to basketball.

Halftime entertainment shows are nothing new. Still, the Weakest
Link segments were shameless tie-ins--why not just have a
10-minute edition of Friends in which Chandler learns the hook
shot from his new buddy, Bill Walton?--and the move to music (an
attempt to pander to the coveted 18-to-34 demographic) devalued
the NBA on NBC Finals crew of Ahmad Rashad, P.J. Carlesimo, Steve
Jones, Kevin Johnson and Walton.

Not that we missed them that much. Especially after viewers
became accustomed to the wit and wisdom of Charles Barkley on TNT
early in the playoffs, the drop-off to NBC's pregame and halftime
team was precipitous. The broadcast was particularly weak during
the pregame of Games 1 and 2, when NBC had the crew do a standup
from courtside. The ambient noise at the Staples Center was so
loud that the analysts were forced to shout--something none of us
wants to see Carlesimo doing.

One obvious question is, Why didn't NBC hire Barkley to work the
Finals? "Even if we'd wanted to, TNT wouldn't have let us," says
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol. So NBC stood pat. We can only
hope halftimes during potential Games 6 and 7 don't feature
Pop-A-Shot with Jay Leno.


COLOR PHOTO: DENNIS TINE/LONDON FEATURES INTERNATIONALNBC's halftime gimmicks included Destiny's Child (top) and Robinson grilling Walton.