ABC Affiliate Won't Show Sunday's Game

Vikings fans living in certain portions of the state may not be able to watch the team's game with New Orleans Sunday night if they don't have ESPN, thanks to the network brass at ABC that deemed their programming is more important than an NFL game with strong local interest.

What a difference a week makes.

One glance at the back cover of the Vikings media guide and you see coach Mike Tice shoulder to shoulder with a Twin Cities sports anchor promoting the station's affiliation to the Vikings.

The affiliate in question is hooked up with ABC, which, thanks to the Disney Corporation, is a distant cousin to ESPN. In the past, when the Vikings have played games broadcast on ESPN, they have been simulcast on the local affiliate channel. While it is unlikely that too many Vikings fans worth their salt don't have ESPN or have at least one friend that has access, it has been a noble gesture of the affiliate to pre-empt network programming for those fans who can't get ESPN.

But apparently the rules of engagement have two distinct sides. With the Minnesota Twins in the playoffs, the same station that publicly embraces Tice pre-empted programming to run the ESPN coverage of the playoff game. What was pre-empted? The second of three presidential debates. Not a "Very Special Episode" of a zany sitcom, but a presidential debate!

In their defense, the debate was being shown on a dozen or more other stations, but, in the view of those that run the station, playoff baseball was a ratings priority to a presidential debate. It made sense … until Friday.

For those Vikings fans that live in Minnesota and get the Twin Cities ABC affiliate, the company owns a subordinate "cable throw-in" station that isn't part of outstate Minnesota cable packages. Apparently giving in to pressures from the network brass at ABC, the local affiliate has agreed to not pre-empt network programming with the Vikings-Saints game.

Who can blame ABC? Why would Minnesotans want to watch the Vikings when they can see award-winning television like "Extreme Makeover" and "Desperate Housewives"? It's not like they were pre-empting a presidential debate. Oh wait. They already did that. Never mind.

SATURDAY NOTES
* To the dismay of Tice, Kelly Campbell was not fined by the league for joining Daunte Culpepper in a post-TD celebration. Tice has hoped the NFL would "fine the snot" out of Campbell, but he was spared.
* Not so fortunate was Kevin Williams. He was fined $7,500 for slamming Houston QB David Carr to the turf. A referee 10 feet away didn't throw his flag for the hit, which knocked Carr out for a play, but, perhaps the Brett Favre concussion came into play. Williams plans to appeal.
* Jermaine Wiggins was upgraded to probable Friday and is expected to start Sunday.
* E.J. Henderson didn't progress this week and won't play Sunday, leaving Dontarrious Thomas at middle linebacker again this Sunday night.
* The Vikings exercised their option with the City of Mankato Friday, kicking in a three-year agreement to keep training camp in Mankato through the 2007 camp.
* New Orleans fans will get to see Sunday's game, thanks to the NFL. The league extended its typical deadline for stadium sellouts to Friday and, thanks to a buyout by local businesses, the final 8,000 tickets were sold. When the NFL looks to relocate franchises, it should look at those stadiums that have empty seats – not Minnesota, where we have an extensive waiting list for nosebleed seats.

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