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HOLLYWOOD — More people raced to catch sporting action in May versus last year’s comparable sweeps period, leaving a lot of weekend syndies in the dust. The approximately 60 hours worth of basketball, ice hockey and NASCAR events in May proved too hard to pass up, attracting 7% more viewers than 2001.

In response, five of the top eight weekly vets posted double-digit year-to-year percentage decreases, getting squeezed out of ratings glory for this critical spring contest.

Silver lining

Paramount Domestic Television’s “Entertainment Tonight Weekend,” in landing a blue-ribbon 3.6 Nielsen score — only a 3% drop from last year — proved one of the few exceptions. It even managed to triple its margin of victory compared to May 2001.

But the bulk of the majors lost major ground. Counted in that group were Twentieth’s “X-Files” (2.7, down 21%), Tribune’s “Andromeda” (2.7, down 13%), Warner Bros.’ “ER” (2.5, down 17%), Columbia TriStar’s “V.I.P.” (1.9, down 17%) and Tribune’s “Beastmaster” (1.8, down 14%).

MGM’s “Stargate SG-1” (2.6, down 7%) and Par’s “Extra Weekend” (2.0, down 5%) also drew lower marks. Par’s “Maximum Exposure” (1.8, unchanged) was flat.

As far as rookie weeklies go — in their first May outing — Twentieth’s “The Practice” (2.6) presided over the pack. Trailing were Tribune’s “Mutant X” (2.2), Twentieth’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (2.1) and Twentieth’s “World’s Wildest Police Videos” (2.1).

Over in daily strip goings-on, in their third complete week of May sweeps, the top six off-net sitcoms all improved their perfs from last week. Not faring as well was Par’s “Spin City” (1.3, down 13%), which fell to an all-time low.