Shooting from the lip
Looking back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports
NBC's Wimbledon coverage, particularly Sunday's men's singles final, was flawless. At first, I was disappointed that Mary Carillo was not working the men's final with John McEnroe because the two work so well together.
But when McEnroe is the lone analyst, he is just as good. In fact, Sunday, he was at his absolute best as he got into a great rhythm to the point that everything that came out of his mouth was worth listening to.
What makes McEnroe so strong is his ability to take what is happening at the moment, give it perspective, then project how it can affect the rest of the match. For example, when the fourth set started, it appeared Roger Federer was well on his way to victory, but early on McEnroe pointed out that Federer had lost his focus.
"I’ve never seen him this unnerved on this court. … He's totally unglued,'' McEnroe said. I honestly don't think a lot of analysts would have even picked up just how out of sorts Federer was. But McEnroe was dead on as Federer went on to lose the set.
After Federer rallied to win in the fifth, McEnroe simply, but accurately said, "It's one of the all-time matches I’ve seen here at Wimbledon. No doubt about it.''
McEnroe is the best analyst in tennis. No doubt about it.
With all the controversy surrounding Barry Bonds, ESPN's Outside the Lines did a timely and interesting take on the fallen legacy of former Cards slugger Mark McGwire. Did you know that a statue of McGwire commissioned by the Cardinals for the purpose of displaying outside their stadium is sitting in a warehouse collecting dust? How appropriate. His then-record 70-homer season has been erased in a cloud of suspicion since his "I-don't-want-to-talk-about-the-past'' speech before Congress.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell minced no words when interviewed: "This isn't a court of law we're talking about. We're talking about the forum of common sense. The forum of common sense tells me and should tell everybody else that Mark McGwire did something, that there was some additional fuel in his gas tank to get him there.''
On ESPN's The Sports Reporters, Mike Lupica smartly pointed out that Venus Williams won her fourth Wimbledon on Saturday and now has more Wimbledon titles than John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Bill Tilden, Don Budge and Jimmy Connors. That is impressive.
NBC tennis analysts Mary Carillo and John McEnroe talking about how Wimbledon doesn’t play on the middle Sunday of the fortnight.
Carillo: “Part of the reason is that this magnificent facility is nestled in a neighborhood and they want to get the people who live here a day off.’’
McEnroe: “They got the other 50 weeks a year to have off.’’
NBC gave tennis analyst Bud Collins a nice send-off for his 35 years of service. Know what would be an even better send-off? Renewing his contract. I'll say it again. NBC is making a mistake letting Collins go.
Tour de train wreck
So this year's Tour de France is under way. But have they even figured out who won last year's Tour de France? Seriously, is that thing still being appealed and tested and all that? Seems as if they should show the race on Versus and then you flip over to Court TV to see who won. To Versus' credit, the network is not shying away from mentioning the drug controversies that have, essentially, turned this event into a mess. Oh, where have you gone Lance Armstrong?
Most tired subject
Fox baseball does get a thumbs-down from me. What in the world is the network's fascination with Mark Buehrle? I realize the White Sox pitcher was going through contract talks and might have been traded before he agreed to stay with the team Sunday. But we're talking about a guy who is 6-4 this season. He has never won 20. He is 103-70 in his career with a 3.77 ERA.
Fox seemingly couldn't go two minutes without an update that didn't really say much. I mean, he's good, but he's not Sandy Koufax or Steve Carlton. I just didn't understand all the attention.
Best use of time
My favorite broadcaster of the weekend (well, outside of John McEnroe) was Fox pregame baseball analyst Eric Karros. This guy knows how to do it. He's on camera for about four minutes and if that's all the air time you're going to get, you better come strong. He did.
About Alex Rodriguez, Karros said, "Barring injury, he'll go down as the greatest offensive player of all time.''
He said if the All-Star Game is going to determine who gets homefield advantage in the playoffs, then all teams should not have to be represented with a player in the game.
And he said Indians (and, ahem, former Rays reliever) Joe Borowski "has more heart than any pitcher in baseball.''
He also stole some of my thunder. I planned today to tell you how sick and tired I am of baseball's Home Run Derby, how it has become as boring as the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition. I swear I was going to say that. But Karros beat me to it.
Just thinking out loud here, but is that ESPN Now segment the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen? I can't get news on hockey free-agent signings but four guys can sit around and tell me who is more popular — Amanda Beard or Peyton Manning.
For the all criticism boxing takes about its brutality, it was a pleasant and humane sight to see trainer Buddy McGirt stop Saturday's heavyweight bout on HBO between champion Wladimir Klitschko and Lamon Brewster when he realized his man, Brewster, had no chance. McGirt threw in the towel after the sixth round because Brewster was slowly but relentlessly being pummelled.
"He was just a better man,'' Brewster said. "It was an accumulation of punches. I knew at some point that I (couldn't) keep getting hit like that. I have a wife and four kids. I want to be in my right mind … down the road.''
That's why it was a little disturbing to hear the Detroit Free-Press' Mitch Albom make fun of the whole thing on ESPN's The Sports Reporters. Albom said, "Wladimir Klitschko won after his opponent Lamon Brewster's trainer said, 'You’re not fighting hard enough' and called the bout after six rounds. It's not boxing. It's HBO.''
That's not how it went down and Albom's comments were irresponsible at best and flat-out wrong at worst. Had the fight not been stopped, Brewster might be in a coma right now or dead and then we would all be demanding to know why someone didn't stop the fight. Thankfully, McGirt isn't making us wonder that today.
One last thing about ESPN's The Sports Reporters. It's a good show. I like it. And I have nothing against the panel, but must we see Mike Lupica, Bob Ryan and Mitch Albom nearly every week? Same thing with ESPN's Around the Horn. We always get Woody Paige, Tim Cowlishaw, J.A. Adande and Jay Mariotti. ESPN needs to mix it up. There are some fabulous voices out there. Tom Boswell from the Washington Post. Joe Posnanski from Kansas City. Jim Souhan and Pat Ruesse from Minneapolis. Tom Powers from St. Paul. Ann Killion from San Jose. David Steele from Baltimore. Mike Bianchi from Orlando. David Hyde from Fort Lauderdale. Rich Hofmann from Philadelphia. And what about the St. Petersburg Times’ own Gary Shelton and John Romano? I just think a few fresh faces would give the show a fresh perspective.