BEING A PART of the action. It's a new trend in television and radio broadcasting, and I can't say I'm a big fan.

TNT opened its telecast of the NBA's All-Star Saturday with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley standing at center court, talking simultaneously into the network and arena mikes.

When Barkley was asked what he was looking forward to in the Rookie Challenge, he mumbled something about Yi Jianjian. Gee, wasn't that exciting?

Sunday, far and away the low point of Fox's coverage of the Daytona 500 was when 20 former winners lined up to share in the "Gentlemen, start your engines!" command.

Unfortunately, a 21st — Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip — was plugged into the P.A. system as well as the network mike, and his call easily drown out anything the greats were saying. Oops.

This hands-on participation started when the networks paid their way into MC'ing postgame celebrations. Sunday night, we saw why this can be a good thing.

For the presentation of the NBA All-Star Game MVP, Johnson got the crowd's attention and dished off smoothly to David Stern for a nice ending to an entertaining weekend.

But taking that next step — becoming actively involved in major events — smacks of laying claim to partial ownership in the competition. That only serves to create a potential bias when the broadcasters eventually must become reporters rather than cheerleaders.


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It's OK for Billy Payne to introduce the golfers as they take the first tee at Augusta. But when Chris Berman starts doing it as part of ESPN's new broadcast relationship, you'll know this disease has reached epidemic status.

Give me talk, not hearings

The best part about KNBR having rival AM stations is you often get a choice: Live event or sports talk? National syndication or local hosts?

Something that makes no sense is when the network elects to put the same live event on both stations, as was the case during Roger Clemens' up-close-and-personal with Congress on Wednesday.

What does it say about the quality of your sports talk when you don't give your audience a chance to respond immediately to the biggest news of the day?

It reminds me of a stunt KNBR used to play with Rick Barry — sending him to do live interviews at lackluster events simply to prevent him from further embarrassing himself taking calls from listeners.

A bad tradition continues.

Dumbest thing I saw all week

Some pranks are funny. Telling a young major league pitcher he's been traded to Japan might qualify. But letting the media in on it is a terrible idea. Had the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick responded by saying something unretractable about the organization, he just might have found himself on a one-way flight to Tokyo.

Three you gotta see

-Accenture Match Play Championship first round (Wednesday, 11 a.m., Golf Channel): All the greats in head-to-head competition. It's golf at its finest.

-Celtics at Suns (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN). Kobe-Shaq (Wednesday, 6 p.m., ESPN) is getting all the hype, but this is the better matchup.

-Tennessee at Memphis (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN): What a day: 1 vs. 2 sandwiching Stanford-Cal women (1 p.m., FSN) and Kent State-St. Mary's men (9 p.m., ESPN2).

Scanning the airwaves

The Bay Area is basketball country. The NBA All-Star Game (4.2 rating) outdrew the Daytona 500 (4.1) here Sunday despite the fact the basketball exhibition was on TNT whereas the NASCAR Super Bowl was on Fox. ... CSTV (College Sports Television) has a new name: CBS College Sports Television.

E-mail media-related questions and

comments to Dave Del Grande at

dave@bayareanewsgroup.com.