THE SPORTS DOCTOR- High-res? Can HD-TV improve sports in '09?

Chances are you know someone who doesn't own a television. Crazy, isn't it? I've found NPR to be the most common denominator among this faction, and while I appreciate public radio, I can't imagine life without HBO or VH1 Classic. 

But I don't spend all my time searching for a Led Zeppelin special; thanks to my little satellite with a clear view of the southern sky, I'm among the billions who made 2008 the most lucrative year for televised sports ever.

Check out these 2008 Nielsen numbers:  

* The most-watched global event ever (2008 Beijing Summer Olympics: 4.7 billion viewers)

* The most-watched football game ever (Giants-Patriots, Super Bowl XLII: 97.5 million viewers)

* The most-watched cable broadcast of all time (Cowboys-Eagles, Monday Night Football: 18.6 million)

* The most-watched cable golf event of all time (Tiger vs. Rocco, U.S. Open Playoff: 4.8 million)

* The most-watched cable baseball game ever (Red Sox-Rays, ALCS Game 7: 13.4 million)

* The most-watched NBA Finals in five years (Celtics-Lakers, NBA Championship Series average: 14.9 million)

* The most-watched NHL regular season game in nine years; most-watched finals in five years (Winter Classic: 2.5 million; Stanley Cup, Penguins–Red Wings average: 4.5 million)

* The most-watched Wimbledon final in eight years (Federer-Nadal: 5.2 million)

How many of these benchmark telecasts did you miss? I missed four. Maybe that's because I don't pay for high-definition. Nielsen has found that ratings for sports events are 20 percent higher in homes with high-definition TV sets. 

Could high-def change what I don't like about certain sports? When I think about what I didn't watch, I have to wonder.

Tell me, does Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb play better with more pixels? On my television, he's not worth watching. As for the Cowboys, I have a sneaking suspicion their collective ego is much magnified by an LCD screen– as if it weren't big enough already.

My love of baseball does not extend to watching scruffy, dirty, pine-tarry Jason Varitek or his unkempt compatriots. The Red Sox look like a bunch of Cro-Magnons on regular television. Are they suddenly cleaner and more presentable in high-definition? Let me know.

When it comes to golf, a new television may be just what it takes to make me watch Tiger Woods.  For years my husband has told me that I refuse to see what makes Tiger so great. Could it be that what comes across as sulking on a conventional TV is revealed as humility by the miracle of progressive scan? Maybe money shows up more clearly on HDTV, which would explain why Tiger prefers tournaments like the American Express World Championship to the Ryder Cup.

As for hockey, I can only imagine how appealing a toothless grin looks in high definition. Perhaps a puck would stand out on an upgraded TV, and I wouldn't get a migraine from trying to follow the action. I do hear blood bounces on ice. That must be something to see in high definition.

Even without a fancy new 60-inch monstrosity dominating my living room, I probably saw more sports in 2008 than ever before. Not only did I watch the NBA Finals, I actually enjoyed them a little. I could hardly tear myself away from the Olympics. The ping-pong alone justified all the hours I wasted on beach volleyball. 

It's not surprising 2008 has been so lucrative for televised sports. Sales of HDTVs went up almost 60 percent this year. If I had one, would the World Series suddenly be interesting? Would NASCAR's appeal be revealed to me? Would a crystal clear picture make ACC football exciting? 

I have my doubts, but if I can get the scratch together, I have all of 2009 to find out.