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Original Issue

Under Review Rome Returning--At Odds with NBC

--"I've changed," says Jim Rome, scheduled to return to TV on
Tuesday as host of ESPN's Rome Is Burning, a weekly one-hour talk
show featuring interviews with newsmakers as well as Rome's
rapid-fire, testosterone-laden opinions on sports. (He famously
tells radio callers to "have a take and don't suck, or you will
get run.") "I'm married and I have a child now," Rome says. "I'm
wiser." Ten years ago, as host of a raucous call-in show on
ESPN2, Rome nearly imploded his career. It was on that set that
Rams quarterback Jim Everett knocked Rome off his chair after
Rome taunted Everett by calling him "Chris," a veiled reference
to the passer's reputed lack of toughness. Rome left the network
shortly after. "I knew I made a mistake, and I wanted to fix the
mistake," says Rome. So he went back to his radio roots to prove
he was more than an obnoxious punk. His radio show now airs on
185 stations and has an estimated 2.5 million listeners. The
experience he gained there, and the six years (1997-2002) he
spent hosting Fox Sports Net's The Last Word, helped Rome mature
into an edgy but well-reasoned interviewer. Unlike ESPN's
previous personality-driven shows--such as Jay Mohr's
spectacularly unappealing Mohr Sports--Rome Is Burning is built
around a proven favorite of sports fans. Rome's second go-around
with ESPN should have far better results.

--Information is hay for horseplayers, which is why we implore NBC
to make an addition to its coverage of the Triple Crown races: a
real-time tote board on the bottom of the screen that updates the
odds for the race. NBC has no qualms about showing the current
odds, which were shown seven times during Saturday's 90-minute
Kentucky Derby broadcast. The network should go one step further.