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Watchdog Column: The best of Neil Best

Isles double TV ratings

The bad news for the Islanders' ratings in 2009-10 is they were the third-worst in the NHL, averaging 0.36 percent of homes in the area.

The good news: They were up 100 percent from last season, second-best in the NHL to the Blackhawks' 131.1 percent, according to Sports Business Journal and Nielsen.

The Rangers were down 18.3 percent to an average of 0.89 and the Devils were up 48.7 percent to an average of 0.58.

The Penguins had the best average rating at 8.05, the Panthers the worst at 0.25.

Nets don't rate on or off court

The Nets achieved a rare double in 2009-10, finishing with both the worst record and the worst ratings in the NBA, according to research by Sports Business Journal, based on data from Nielsen.

They averaged 0.29 percent of homes on YES, down 45.3 percent from last season. That was the biggest drop in the league, by a comfortable margin.

The Knicks were down 22.8 percent to an average of 0.95 on MSG.

The Cavaliers (8.59) and Spurs (6.61) had the highest average local ratings.

NFL Draft is prime time hit

Will the NFL Draft be back in prime time next spring?

It's the same answer as to whether the Pro Bowl again will be held the week before the Super Bowl: Follow the TV ratings. In other words: Count on it.

Even against first-run entertainment programming on broadcast networks - plus the NBA playoffs on TNT - the NFL set viewership records Thursday night for Round 1.

An average of 7.3 million people watched on ESPN and another 1 million on the NFL Network, up from 5.5 million and 800,000 last year.

The five markets that had the highest ratings on ESPN: Jacksonville (10.9 percent of homes), New Orleans (10.8), Austin (9.7), Cleveland (9.2), and Oklahoma City (8.6).

Simple as one, two three?

Oh, my. This was unfortunate:

The Yankees waited 42 years for a triple play, and Ken Singleton's call on YES Thursday made no sense:

"Ground ball. Alex Rodriguez steps on second, throw to second for one, on to first. Triple play!"

NFL fans ask: TV or not TV?

The NFL has become increasingly focused on making sure the stadium experience is as rich as possible, because it knows the powerful lure of big-screen TVs, comfy couches and no parking hassles.

It appears that concern is well placed.

A study by Turnkey Intelligence for Sports Business Journal showed that even if tickets were free, 44 percent of casual fans of the NFL and 35 percent of avid fans would rather watch at home.

If presented with the opportunity to buy a ticket, 64 percent of casual fans would rather stay home, as would 55 percent of avid fans.

Nets don't rate on or off court

The Nets achieved a rare double in 2009-10, finishing with both the worst record and the worst ratings in the NBA, according to research by the Sports Business Journal, based on data from Nielsen.

They averaged 0.29 percent of homes on YES, down 45.3 percent from last season. That was the biggest drop in the league, by a comfortable margin.

The Knicks were down 22.8 percent to an average of 0.95 on MSG.

The Cavaliers (8.59) and Spurs (6.61) had the highest average local ratings.

MSG show takes left turn

To the surprise of no one, Derek Jeter was added to the roster as New York's best all-time shortstop on MSG's "The Lineup."

Yankees have taken four of five positions, the exception being Jackie Robinson at second base.

Now comes a tough one: Tuesday's show will focus on leftfield.

Judge Steve Hirdt told me the panel would not move centerfielders or rightfielders over, and leftfield easily is the weakest position in New York's baseball history.

I don't think Rickey Henderson was here long enough. Monte Irvin? Dave Winfield? Bob Meusel? Charlie Keller? Cleon Jones? Roy White?

My pick: Zack Wheat, a Dodger in the 1910s and '20s.

NCAA deal is sweet, but not free

The announcements that the NCAA Tournament will expand only to 68 games, not 96, and that every game now will be on live national TV were a clear victory for fans of college hoops.

Remember, though: There is no such thing as a free lunch, and no such thing as a free game.

After spending big to add the NCAAs to its existing portfolio of NBA and MLB games, Turner surely will seek higher subscriber fees from TV distributors as its contracts come due.

Those costs eventually must get passed along to . . . you know who.

Ice Cube true to Silver and Black

Before Friday's premiere of "Straight Outta L.A.,'' Ice Cube's new ESPN film on the Raiders and L.A. in the 1980s, I asked Mr. Cube why he remains loyal to the team even after it moved back to Oakland and given its recent history of dysfunction.

"It's in my blood,'' he said. "I believe you don't give up on your team, because when they win, the joy of winning is that much sweeter. If the Cubs fans can hang on, the Raiders fans can.''

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