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Subdued return for 'Joe Buck Live'

NEW YORK -- He hears it walking into baseball and football stadiums and he heard it again Tuesday night about an hour before the taping of his television show at the Equitable Center Theater in midtown Manhattan. It has become a familiar sound for Joe Buck, someone in the crowd screaming "Artie Lange."

Depending on your point of view, Lange, a stand-up comic and The Howard Stern Show cast member, either saved or hijacked the June 15 debut episode of Joe Buck Live. He engaged in a battle of wills with the host, and when Buck joked that his favorite Web site was TMZ.com, Lange attacked. He asked Buck, "What's your second favorite?" and then created his own URL involving a sex act that we still can't print three months later.

HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg publicly banned Lange from appearing on future programming. But in a smart and unexpected move, Buck opened his show Tuesday with a taped segment that featured Lange bumping into the sportscaster on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan and chasing the host down the street.

"For me to walk out to there and act like that didn't happen, that's not me," Buck said after the show. "I'm not going to run from that. I'm glad we did it and Artie was game for anything. Ironically enough, he and I have become pretty good friends."

Buck and Lange becoming chums might have been the biggest news to come out of the second episode of Joe Buck Live, which featured a Hall of Fame quarterback panel (John Elway, Dan Marino, Joe Namath), two of Texas' biggest talkers (Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) and Curt Schilling announcing that he was not running for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts. The show lacked the fireworks of the opener but provided some entertaining sports conversation, especially when Namath and Schilling appeared on camera. Schilling said he was "incredibly disappointed" with the Roger Clemens situation and admitted in the Web-only "Overtime" segment that during the early days of his career, "I drank to the point where it was going to potentially cost me my career."

If you're scoring at home, the well-heeled Cuban and Jones were the only guests who got into R-rated language, with Jones saying he was "scared sh------" about his stadium because of the risk involved with the cost. Jones said he watched the NBC broadcast of the Cowboys-Giants on the flight from Dallas to New York on Tuesday afternoon and was pleased with what he saw.

"I thought NBC did an outstanding job," Jones told SI.com. "Only 7 percent of NFL fans have ever been to an NFL stadium, and one of the reasons I made the investment in the stadium -- we could have built that stadium for 30 percent less -- is the perception and how it is visualized through the eyes of [the likes of] Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth and portrayed because our fans live these stadiums and games vicariously. I was very pleased with what I saw. I just saw the first half but I would hope the stadium did the talking for me."

The jury is still out on whether Buck can carry a primetime sports-talk show on a regular basis, but Greenburg was clearly happy afterward. Buck's third show is scheduled for Dec. 7.

"This is where we want to be," Greenburg said. "This is the kind of show we want. I thought Joe felt really comfortable. You could see it on stage. He asked all the questions that we wanted asked and we heard a lot of interesting answers. I don't think we went too conservative. I think we made some smart television. I think we tried to force too many laughs last time around and we let them come naturally this time around."

Said Buck: "Anytime you do something the second time, it will get better. And it will get better the third time. But the stakes are high because you are only doing it four times a year."

As advocated by this space on multiple occasions, Buck needed to address what happened with Lange on his show, and it can be argued Joe Buck Live would have been more interesting had Lange appeared in studio. Greenburg said they never considered that option but Lange agreed to tape a bit. After the studio audience reacted positively, Buck pumped his fist in the air offstage.

"Joe felt very strongly that we had to address Artie Lange somewhere because he had been living with it for three months every day," Greenburg said. "I agree with him in retrospect. We were very reticent to give Artie any airtime, but looking back on it, Joe was right. You could not come on the air tonight and play like Artie Lange never happened. So this was the way to acknowledge it and send it off."

Boomer Esiason was terrific in the closing moments of Westwood One's radio broadcast of Monday Night Football. The analyst called out Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning for his conservative play-calling when Miami opted to run on a 3rd-and-6 from the Colts' 30-yard line with 4:33 left and trailing by three points. He also forcefully stated that Miami wideout Ted Ginn Jr. needed to make an end-zone catch in the final minute of the game. "On any given Sunday in the National Football League, big-time wide receivers make that catch," Esiason said. For those who want a different MNF experience, Esiason, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and sideline reporter Steve Tasker are an enjoyable listen.

• If you blinked, you would have missed it: NBC Football Night in America co-host Keith Olbermannchanneled his innerErnie Anastos on Sunday by saying, "Keep plucking that chicken" during his reading of the Chiefs-Raiders highlights.

• Though much of it is an exercise in vanity and uber-insider status, I find myself enjoying The Afterparty with Jay Glazer, one of the new Internet-only shows that recently debuted on FoxSports.com from the Fox Sports Digital Entertainment. It's fair to question whether Glazer is too close with some of his subjects (he's addressed objectivity issues in this space). But such insider access pays off for The Afterparty, as demonstrated Monday when Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and Saints safety Darren Sharper clearly felt comfortable enough to provide some interesting nuggets. For instance, Jenkins said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn't the same player he was before the knee injury: "I don't know what he's going through, but you can tell something is not the same right now."

Also, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, a Glazer regular, appeared from teammate Chad Greenway's home, and the host had the two reenact the conversation between former President George W. Bush and John Madden (who sat together during the Cowboys-Giants game). The segment was a train wreck, but an amusing train wreck. It's also an enjoyable exercise to count the number of times Glazer says, "I just received a text from [fill in the NFL quarterback]." The over-under on that number next week is 6.

• Florida's 23-13 victory over Tennessee on CBS drew an overnight rating of 4.8, up 60 percent from a 3.0 overnight for the same game last year.

• A general rule for avoiding trouble on the Web: Stay away from any and all Hitler references and never compare professional sports to gay porn. Unfortunately, FoxSports.com violated the latter edict last Thursday during its premiere episode of Cubed, which Fox billed as "The Office meets Howard Stern." A better title would have been "Gigli meets New Coke."

The Webisode -- featuring young professionals sitting at adjoined cubicles waxing no-holds barred about sports -- included nudity in the first 25 seconds and an opening segment in which one of the characters asked, "Would you rather watch the WNBA or gay porn?" The worst crime of all? It was horribly unfunny. Hours after the debut, Fox Sports cut the 16-minute version down to a couple of minutes.

In a statement, Fox said: "The entire concept of 'Lunch w/ Benefits' was always described as experimental, as it is quite simply, a world first. In an experiment, things happen which are not always predicted. As one moves down the experimental pathway, it is normal to make changes and adjustments, hence the changes in the Cubed version now available."

Cubed is scheduled to return Thursday.

• NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth said during the Football Night in America pregame show that the Giants-Cowboys game "will come down to one man: Brandon Jacobs." That man rushed for 58 yards and watched another man, Eli Manning, coolly lead his team to a game-winning drive. • I thought Fox NFL Sunday analyst Michael Strahan should have been allowed to plug his new sitcom, Brothers, a bit more last Sunday. Clearly, a half-dozen references were not enough for viewers.

• Rarely do I receive e-mails on boxing announcers, but my inbox was flooded Monday from some passionate Sports Illustrated colleagues killing Max Kellerman's performance last Saturday at the conclusion of HBO's pay-per-view coverage of FloydMayweather's win over Juan Manuel Marquez. Deadspin.com cheekily ran this headline: "If Boxing Weren't Dead Already, Max Kellerman Would've Killed It On Saturday." The announcer also took heat on Twitter (an especially big shot here by CNN contributor Roland Martin) and from boxing writers. The post-bout interview, which I always found Al Bernstein and Larry Merchant handled adeptly, is not an easy gig. But from the many YouTube videos I've seen (I didn't watch the fight live), it's clear Kellerman injected himself into the story. Let the principals act and report on those actions. HBO will air a heavyweight title fight between Vitali Klitschko (37-2,36 KOs) and Cristobal Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs) on Saturday (10:00 p.m. ET)

Update: On Friday NBC informed reporters that the Tweet War between Jets safety Kerry Rhodes and former Patriot-safety-turned-NBC analyst Rodney Harrison were conducted by an imposter posing as Harrison. An NBC Spokesperson told SI.com that they are in the process of working with Twitter to get the fake Harrison Twitter account closed. The person admitted on Friday that he was impersonating Harrison ["This account does not belong to Rodney Harrison but everything posted here was taken from interviews he made," the person tweeted.] The real Harrison is not on Twitter nor Facebook, according to NBC.

The perception from most was that NBC was, shall we say, a little over the top in paying tribute to Cowboys Stadium during its broadcast of Giants-Cowboys. A sampling of takes are here, here and here.

"The idea that people are going to tune in tonight to look at a place is stupid."-- ESPN Sports Reporters panelist and New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, before Sunday night's Cowboys-Giants game.

The broadcast was the most-watched NFL prime-time regular-season game in 12 years (since the Broncos-49ers on Dec. 15, 1997). It drew a 15.1 national rating and 24.8 million viewers, nearly doubling the viewership for the Emmy Awards. Locally, KXAS-NBC drew a 41.7 rating and about 1.06 million, according to the Dallas Morning News. The newspaper reported it was the first time the Cowboys reached more than one million homes locally since November 2007.