Shooting from the lip
Looking back the weekend of televised sports ...
Watching the Lightning lose again Saturday night, maybe this question popped into your head: What's wrong with the Bolts? The answer: maybe nothing. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, know what the Lightning's record is? 102-84-14. It is 27-11 in overtimes and shootouts. If you counted those games as ties, like in the old days, that pans out to a 75-73-52 record. It is 3-8 in the two one-round-and-out postseasons. A .500 team is about what it is -- for more than two years now.
What's troubling this season is that unless Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Brad Richards or Vinny Prospal has the puck, you get the feeling the Lightning has absolutely no chance of creating a scoring chance let alone scoring a goal.
Ever have that unsettling feeling that something is missing? You check to make sure you have your keys. You check to make sure you have your wallet. You check to see if you left the oven on. That's how the weekend felt without hearing Dick Vitale, and that's how it’s going to feel until he returns in February after having surgery to treat ulcers on his vocal cords. February can't get here soon enough.
On CBS' NFL Today, Armen Keteyian asked a good question and Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave a better, albeit not very satisfying, answer.
Keteyian: "You have steadfastly refused to deal with what I would call the big three: SpyGate, Perfect Season and your relationship with Eric Mangini. Why is that?''
Belichick: "I think that would be a conversation for another day, Armen. I think right now … the best thing for our team is to focus on the job at hand, what we're doing, and deal with that some other time.''
That answer is why the Patriots are going to go undefeated this season.
Biggest missing player
Know whom the Lightning misses? Cory Stillman. He's a bit of an odd bird, but the guy produces. He's on pace for 84 points this season. And it seems the teams he plays on do well.
It should be no surprise that the Florida basketball team was pounded by Ohio State on Saturday because the Gators weren't prepared to play anybody. Why is Billy Donovan scheduling teams such as North Carolina Central, Tennessee Tech, North Florida, Stetson and Vermont? And those aren't the only weaklings Florida has played. Why not toughen up your team by playing a meaty early season schedule, even if you lose a few times? Look at UCLA. The Bruins have already played Maryland, Michigan State and Texas. Pitt has played Duke, Oklahoma State and Washington. Duke has played Marquette, Wisconsin and Pitt. That's how you do it.
By the way, whom does Florida play next? Temple then High Point. High Point? Is that even a school?
Well, who's to say it's the "worst excuse,'' because Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has never really given an excuse for why her powerhouse no longer plays UConn in the regular season. The assumption, as Times staff writer Greg Auman pointed out in Saturday's paper, is that she flat-out hates UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Whatever the reason, Summitt needs to get over it because Tennessee and UConn not playing in the regular season hurts women's basketball. Summitt needs to realize that the game is bigger than she is.
BYU-UCLA? Nevada-New Mexico? Cincinnati-Southern Miss? With all due respect, is anyone getting into these bowl games? These aren't even good games on a regular old Saturday in October. Unless you’re a big fan of one of the schools, the bowl games are a snooze until Jan. 1.
Another sign that officials take their jobs way too seriously: Did you see the chintzy technical foul picked up Saturday by Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl? The guy took a couple of steps out of the coaching box — not to yell at an official, but to say something to one of his players. In other words, he was coaching. The ensuing free throw gave Xavier a four-point lead with 3:47 left. Tennessee came back to win, but officials can't get that nitpicky in a tight game with only a few minutes left.
Can someone please explain why the NFL is playing a game on Christmas Eve? Come on, Christmas Eve? There's no reason the NFL needs to have players, coaches, media, team personnel and stadium workers, and all the extra security and police and so forth working instead of being at home with their families on Christmas Eve. Another thing, since we're talking about the NFL schedule. Doesn't it seem unfair to have Thursday night games this late in the season? Teams are battling for playoff spots and the league is making them play on three days' rest? All to make a little more money for a sport that practically prints money?
The NHL's big outdoor game is coming up. Pittsburgh against Buffalo at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. Great idea. Awful timing. These knuckleheads at the NHL are playing the game on Jan. 1. Gee, anything else going on that day? Uh, let's see. Yeah — a billion college football games! It's Jan. 1. Watching college football all day on New Year's Day is an American tradition.
This is another example of why the NHL struggles in this country. This is a game that might draw in a few nonhockey fans, so why not play the game on the afternoon of Jan. 5? The NFL playoffs start that day, but the first game isn't until 4 p.m. Maybe the league worried that the Bills would be in the playoffs and needed the stadium that day, but what were the odds of that? Bottom line: Any day would be better than Jan. 1.
Check it out
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman will narrate a special Monday Night Football season retrospective at the conclusion of the game telecast. Think it's called Driving Mr. Kornheiser?
Fitness trainer Brian McNamee was the one who pointed a finger at Yankees pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, accusing both of using performance-enhancing drugs. Pettitte later admitted he did use HGH, but Clemens is adamant he has done nothing wrong. But Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News asked a good question during the Sports Reporters on ESPN: "Why would Brian McNamee, the trainer, be telling the truth about Andy Pettitte and then be lying about Roger Clemens?''
ESPN's Chris Mortensen did a nice job breaking down what might happen to NFL coaches on the hot seat. He says the jury is out on Miami’s Cam Cameron and the Giants' Tom Coughlin. Meantime, it appears that St. Louis' Scott Linehan, San Francisco's Mike Nolan, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Carolina's John Fox and Washington's Joe Gibbs are all safe. For now.
Most touching story
There are still good guys in sports. ESPN's Outside the Lines did a piece on Chargers defensive star Shawne Merriman, who, with his new construction company, built a new home for a family that lost everything in the San Diego fires. Merriman didn't just write a check, he poured concrete and swung a hammer on his off days. Why was it such a big deal to Merriman? Incredibly, he lost two homes to fires growing up. When he was 11, an arsonist set fire to his apartment building. When he was 16, his family had no electricity and a candle led to a fire that destroyed his home.
And how’s this? The San Diego family thought all the paperwork with their insurance company and the new construction would leave them without a home for two years. Merriman’s company finished the job in 56 days. Merriman's number is 56.