The Olympics long have appealed disproportionately to viewers outside the hardest core of sports fans -- the Games do particularly well among women -- but in recent years, many avid sports viewers have drifted away altogether.

Much of that loss of cachet is a backlash against NBC's strategy of saving ratings-friendly events for tape delay, when they can be packaged for dramatic effect and prime-time audiences.

Given modern media realities, that approach won't fly. It has led to intense interest in this week's IOC bidding, in which Fox, ESPN and NBC are making pitches for 2014 and '16. (Fox has said it also will bid for 2018 and '20.) A decision could come Tuesday.

Fox and ESPN have promised to show everything live but also would repackage highlights for prime time. The wild card is NBC in the wake of Dick Ebersol's recent resignation.

If the Peacocks are ready to go live, which many believe they will, it would be nice to have them back, given their long association with the Games. (No Bob Costas in the studio? That just wouldn't be right.)

But if not, it is time for them to fly the coop.

Mad Mike still hungry

Even by the high standards of the Mike Milbury oeuvre, the NBC analyst uttered an all-timer after the NHL declined to suspend the Canucks' Alex Burrows for biting Patrice Bergeron's finger in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals:

"If I had known in the late '70s it was OK to pig out on human flesh, I would have eaten Guy Lafleur . . . This is a disgraceful call by the league.''

Milbury added, "They're impacting this series by a non-call.'' Sure enough, the second of Burrows' two goals won Game 2 in overtime.

Best Twitter response to that line about Lafleur, via @WesJohnsonVoice: "He'd have tenderized him with a shoe first.''

It is foul, it is gone!

John Sterling's call on WCBS radio of Nick Swisher's home run off the foul-pole screen Sunday: "There it goes to deep right! It's going to go foul! It's going to go foul down the line! [Pause.] And it is a home run!''

Hoops rules

On May 15, a Heat-Bulls playoff game on TNT averaged 6.8 percent of homes in the New York area, beating the 6.7 for Yankees-Red Sox on ESPN.

Three weeks later, baseball took a much bigger beating in the Big Apple. Game 3 of the NBA Finals on ABC averaged a 10.6 rating in New York. On ESPN, Braves-Mets did a 3.7.

Kay OK with workload

YES' Michael Kay should be rested and ready for the Yankees' big series against the Red Sox, having skipped their entire West Coast swing.

Such breaks always prompt reader inquiries about whether Kay is working less than in the past. Not so. He said his contract calls for 125 games this season (including spring training), just as it has before.

Whatever you think of Kay's work -- and of the admitted "tightrope'' he walks as a sports talk host on 1050 ESPN -- the guy certainly keeps busy in-season. Does the grind ever get to him?

"It's tough, but everybody involved makes it easier,'' he said. "YES makes it easier for me and 1050 has given me a lot of time off. I think it's become part of my normal life where it's not exhausting me as much.

"I love doing the [radio] show so much in the winter that I'm going to suck it up during the six months of baseball season.''

Kay has been fighting an uphill ratings battle against WFAN since he moved to afternoons in 2005, but the station is optimistic about the direction of the show's content and ratings, which are up from this time last spring.

Said 1050 GM Dave Roberts, "It is a franchise we are proud to be building around and we're very confident with the game plan we have in place.''