Shooing from the lip/Sept. 5th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Saturday's USF-Notre Dame game, which featured two weather delays totaling nearly three hours, could have been a television nightmare for NBC. Instead, it turned out to be a shining moment for NBC Sports.
For starters, a quirk in NBC's scheduling actually turned out in its favor. Notre Dame football is usually produced by Rob Hyland and called by Tom Hammond. But Hyland and Hammond were in South Korea for the track and field world championships. That meant producer Tommy Roy filled in for Hyland and no sports producer is more accustomed to weather delays than Roy. That's because Roy’s primary responsibility at NBC is producing golf, which often has weather delays. Meantime, Dan Hicks, normally seen hosting NBC's golf coverage, was filling in for Hammond. And no play-by-play announcer is more used to filling time during weather delays than Hicks.
Another star Saturday was sideline reporter Alex Flanagan. For those who think sideline reporters are unnecessary, Flanagan proved otherwise Saturday, especially in her interview with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. We learned the teams were getting nutrition through food and drink, and that no one was allowed to watch video of the first half. That's good stuff. Later, Hicks and color analyst Mike Mayock interviewed Big East officiating head Terry McAulay, who explained the various rules associated with weather delays. Throughout, NBC showed weather maps with the impending storms.
The only thing viewers might quibble with was NBC moving the end of the game to Versus, but even that was understandable. NBC had invested a lot of time, money and energy for Saturday night's debut of "Family Movie Night'' and certainly didn't want a family movie ending at midnight.
All in all, it was a bad day and night for Notre Dame, but a great one for USF and NBC.
The best thing about the start of the college football season is the return of ESPN's College GameDay, the finest pregame show in the history of sports television. Host Chris Fowler and analyst Kirk Herbstreit are, by leaps and bounds, the strongest part of the show, but a new guy showed lots of promise Saturday in his debut. Former Georgia linebacker David Pollack was on air only for a few minutes, but he was relaxed, smooth and confident in his delivery and well worth listening to, as well. Hopefully, GameDay will tap into Pollack a little more in future shows.
Because ESPN's College GameDay is so great, it makes it that much more disappointing when it drops the ball. This past offseason was one of the most tumultuous in college football history with conference shifts and major scandals hitting Ohio State, Miami and North Carolina. College GameDay has become the show of record for college football. While it briefly addressed teams possibly leaving the Big 12 and recapped the problems at Ohio State, it really didn't delve into those topics, especially the scandals, during Saturday's 2011 debut.
Host Chris Fowler and analyst Kirk Herbstreit are two of the strongest voices when it comes to college football. Fans want their opinions, their analysis, their perspective. What makes GameDay so good is that it is so thorough, but not addressing college football at an obvious crossroads left a hole in Saturday's show.
Most interesting point
During the Rays Live pregame show Sunday, analyst Brian Anderson pointed out how outfielder B.J. Upton struggled this season when trade rumors were their strongest. Anderson mentioned how Upton went into a 5-for-52 slump just before the July 31 trade deadline and then went in a 5-for-36 hole the last two weeks in August when he was eligible to be involved in a waiver deal. But, in between, he played well and then drove in five runs Saturday night.
Not a bad theory and worth throwing out there. Then again, Upton is hitting .222 a year after hitting .237 and two years after hitting .241. So the problem might go a little beyond trade rumors.
One of the better TV moments of the weekend came during Saturday's dramatic U.S. Open tennis match between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Late in a grueling second set, Williams went all-out for a shot and ended up doing a full split, which CBS smartly showed from several angles.
"That hurts just looking at it,'' CBS analyst John McEnroe said. "If I tried that, I’d be out for a year.''
McEnroe thought about that and decided he wouldn't miss a year: "Make that 'life.' ''
It really was a splendid match as Williams won 6-1, 7-6 (7-5). Azarenka was seeded fourth and only faced Williams in the third round because Williams hasn't played a full schedule this season and is seeded 28th. She remains, of course, one of the top players in the world.
As the two pounded it back and forth during the second set, CBS's Mary Carillo said: "This is why it’s such a great pity that this is a first-week match. This deserves to be have been played in the second week.''
That's one way to look at it. Another way is that U.S. Open fans got a great match to watch in the middle weekend instead of, possibly, missing it on a weekday or weeknight in the second week.
Three things I liked on TV this weekend
1. NBC's coverage of the PGA, especially Jimmy Roberts' feature on the Folds of Honor Foundation, a golf foundation that provides scholarship money for children and spouses of military men and women killed or disabled while serving.
2. ESPN's College GameDay feature on Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker, who was badly injured and lost his girlfriend in the Alabama tornado outbreak in April.
3. Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit calling the LSU-Oregon game Saturday night. I never get tired of those two together on a broadcast.
Three things I didn't like on TV this weekend
1. No Mike Lupica on ESPN's Sports Reporters for the second week in a row. Like him or not, Lupica is the Reggie Jackson of that show -- the straw that stirs the drink.
2. You know, 99 times out of a 100, I don't mind Rays TV announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson getting silly and going well off topic. Sunday was, for some reason, time No. 100.
3. Local high school football games on TV are okay, but national games? We already get like 48 college games a weekend, do we really need high school games, too?
Three things that popped into my head
1. Maybe Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is a good coach and he might even be a nice guy. But did you see how much he yells? He makes Bob Knight look like Leo Buscaglia.
2. Boise State fans will point to the win over Georgia as proof the Broncos can play with the big boys. Hey, Boise is good, but you can't brag too loudly about beating the seventh or eighth best team in the SEC.
3. Best part about Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova getting knocked out of the U.S. Open? We don't have to hear them screaming on every point. Seriously, their matches have become unwatchable because of it.