Shooting from the lip
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Biggest bunch of junk
Anyone who thinks the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell allowed CBS and NBC to show Saturday night's NFL Network game between the Patriots and Giants because it cared about the best interest of the fans is nuts. The fact is, the NFL wasn't trying to be nice guys. It was smartly avoiding being the bad guys. The NFL would've been killed if that game weren't on free TV, and the league knew it. Putting the game on free TV allowed the NFL to spin it in such a way that it came off looking good. And it gave it a three-hour commercial for the NFL Network. It would be shocking if the NFL ever farms out one of these NFL Network games again. No way. It'll never happen.
Look, the NFL has every right to start its own network and put any or all games on it. But don't tell us what you did Saturday night was in the best interest of the fans. If that were your concern, you wouldn't have the NFL Network to begin with.
Most overhyped story
Sure, the Patriots finishing the season with a 16-0 record is impressive, but doesn't it seem as if everyone is going just a tad overboard? They still have three more games to go. If they lose, they are no different than any other team that hasn't won a Super Bowl, and this cannot be considered a perfect season like the 1972 Dolphins. As Tom Jackson said on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, "They are three games away from immortality and one loss from infamy.''
On Fox, analyst Jimmy Johnson said, "If they lose a game now, it won't just be disappointing. It will be devastating. Bill Belichick cannot allow himself to be a fan of this team. He can't tell them how great they are. He has to be the bad guy and demand that they get better''
But Don Shula, who coached those 1972 Dolphins, said it best on Countdown: "You have to forget about 16-0 because each game now is sudden death. 16-0 won't mean much if they get beat in he playoffs and don't win the Super Bowl. … That's what's going to make it a meaningful season, going 19-0.''
So does anyone have a chance of knocking off the Patriots? The guess here is absolutely not. But which team has the best chance? The chic pick is Jacksonville because the Jags can run the ball and play good defense and showed they can play in bad weather when they recently beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
But there's only one team with a real chance and that's the Colts. Heading into Sunday night's meaningless game, they were 13-2 and, really, came as close as anybody to beating the Patriots. And they were missing five starters the day they lost to the Patriots. And, oh yeah, they're the defending champs.
Waived Lightning goalie Marc Denis did make a good point when he asked why he never started again after turning in his best performance in maybe two years in a 3-2 shootout victory against Montreal on Dec. 11. Certainly seemed as if he should've gotten another chance before the Bolts called up Karri Ramo. Then again, he had a season-and-a-half to prove himself here and didn't.
New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick beat me to this, but did anyone catch what Monday Night Football's Tony Kornheiser and Mike Tirico said last week during the Chargers-Broncos game? Both do a good job -- I like both of them a lot -- but badly slipped off track.
Kornheiser said, "What LaDainian Tomlinson is known for is wearing a visor and criticizing Bill Belichick last year. But he's not appreciated the way all the people whose records he is passing. He is an unknown person. Why is that''
Tirico agreed, saying it's because Tomlinson has "no postseason success and because he plays out here in San Diego''
Unknown? Mushnick pointed out that Tomlinson is in a ton of TV commercials, he was a feature on 60 Minutes recently, he has won an MVP, has been to six Pro Bowls and, before the season started, had the league's best-selling NFL jersey. Besides Kornheiser and Tirico, who exactly doesn't appreciate or know Tomlinson?
Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer had a couple of interesting updates on a couple of former Bucs and whether they will continue playing after this season.
On Broncos safety John Lynch, Glazer said: "He said, 'This is the first season I've really had questions about whether I want to play again.' … The Broncos have come to him and said they want him back, but Lynch doesn't know.''
On Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Glazer said, "I think Warren Sapp will end up retiring.''
John Saunders, host of ESPN's Sports Reporters said, "It has been said that the great thing about sports is it's the only form of entertainment that is not scripted. You do not know how it's going to end and you can't go back the next day and watch it again with the same result … wait, unless it's the Knicks.''
It was our first look at it, but the NFL Network does do a good job covering a game even if Bryant Gumbel makes a better studio host than a play-by-play announcer. The real stars of the coverage are color announcer Cris Collinsworth and studio analyst Deion Sanders, who, not surprisingly, is excellent behind the microphone. Sanders should think about taking his act to a network seen by more people. ESPN should think about Sanders as a replacement for Emmitt Smith on Sunday NFL Countdown.
Fox NFL analyst Terry Bradshaw handed out his annual "Terry Awards'' and a couple of Bucs made the list. Receiver Joey Galloway was named "Owner of the Year'' for his Tampa vitamin and smoothie shop. Meantime, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was named "Assistant Coach of the Year.''
ESPN's Outside the Lines did a touching and updated story on the famous Uruguayan rugby team that survived 72 days in the Andes mountains after their plane crashed. They survived, in part, by eating the flesh of those killed in the accident. Last week was the 35th anniversary of their rescue. The uplifting update was that the two members of the party who climbed nine days through the mountains happened upon a farmer who rode his horse to bring them help. Today, the rugby team includes the elderly farmer as one of its own and paid for his recent hip replacement. The piece was reported by the highly underrated and highly skilled Chris Connelly, who consistently delivers ESPN's best features.
Three things that popped into my head over the weekend
1. Penn State's Joe Paterno can still coach and the guy deserves to stay at Penn State as long as he wants.
2. No matter how hard you try, there is still too much going on to get into college basketball right now.
3. Ohio State and LSU haven't played in so long that I almost forgot they are playing for the national championship. The NCAA needs to do something about such a long break.