Shooting from the lip
A look back at the weekend in televised sports ...
ESPN is taking over all of sports. Need proof? Now the World Wide Leader is competing against ... itself. Richard Deitsch, the first-rate media writer at Sports Illustrated, reported over the weekend that Hannah Storm -- the former CBS morning host and former NBC Sports broadcaster before that -- will anchor a new weekday morning SportsCenter on ESPN. Right now, ESPN just shows the replays of the late SportsCenter from the night before. In addition to Storm's SportsCenter, there could be additional live SportsCenters in the morning.
What's odd is ESPN's stiffest sports competition will be over on ESPN2 where the mornings are filled with the Mike & Mike radio show and First Take, the revamped version of Cold Pizza. Strange ESPN is adding competition for itself, but give the network kudos for hiring the talented Storm.
Maybe it all means nothing, but if ESPN is going to throw a bunch of money at producing fresh SportsCenters, could that mean the ESPN2 lineup is in danger of getting cut? I kind of like First Take, but quite frankly, I'm not sure anyone would miss it or Mike & Mike, especially if the new SportsCenters add the latest in analysis and interviews.
Watching fans boo Kyle Busch after he won Saturday night's race at Darlington, NASCAR must have been giddy. NASCAR fans' hatred of Jeff Gordon has faded a bit in the past couple of years, partly because Gordon isn't winning enough to hate anymore. The sport needs somebody new to hate. Busch is just that guy.
The Rays are no longer our little secret. On Fox’s coverage of the Yankees-Tigers Saturday, analyst Eric Karros said, "They're going to be a factor all year.'' Meantime, former Ray Eduardo Perez was singing the Rays praises on Baseball Tonight, even if he is still referring to them as the Devil Rays. Come on, Eduardo, it's only been like six months since the name change.
It's hard to find someone whose reputation has crumbled as quickly as Roger Clemens, but what about the other way around? Have you ever seen a player rebuild his reputation as quickly as the Lakers' Kobe Bryant? He went from a rape allegation (at the least, it was an extra-marital affair) and wasn't it like eight months ago that he was doing everything he could to get traded out of L.A.? Now he's the MVP and good guy again. How did it happen? As Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free-Press said on ESPN's Sports Reporters, "Nothing in sports rehabilitates like winning.''
Speaking of Sports Reporters, ESPN's Howard Bryant was on the panel Sunday and he's always a welcome sight. You can tell he doesn't fly off the handle and abide by the theory that the louder he is, the more right he must be. He's sort of the anti-Around the Horn. (That's a compliment.) His opinions are strong, but obviously measured and delivered only after he has thought about them.
Anyway, Bryant made the best point when talking the latest allegations in the whole Bill Belichick/Spygate story: "Now we're going to find out just how tough and how fair Roger Goodell is. We know what he'll do with the players. ... But now it's one of your own. Now it's management and now it's the front office. And I think if the commissioner wants to have any credibility whatsoever, he's got to suspend (Belichick) if it comes out conclusively.''
By the way, Pats fans, this mess isn't going away. Belichick apparently was caught with his hand in the cookie jar back in 2001 and 2002 and then again in 2007. You're telling me he never did it once in-between?
Kelly Naqi's thorough story Sunday on ESPN's Outside the Lines uncovered a potentially major scandal involving USC basketball star O.J. Mayo, who has declared for the NBA draft. Check out ESPN's Outside the Lines page on its Web site, but essentially her story breaks down like this: Mayo was befriended by a man who gave Mayo money and gifts dating back to when Mayo was in the ninth grade. Some of the money, apparently, was provided by a sports agent -- the same agent who now represents Mayo. Naqi had receipts, witnesses, the whole nine yards that leaves little doubt about the story.
There is no doubt about this: Naqi continues to set the standard for investigative sports reporting. I'd hate to see her knocking on my door with a microphone and a camera, but I love seeing her on my television. Simply put, she's the best in the business.
ABC's taped conversation between Celtics center Kevin Garnett and Celtics legend Bill Russell, which it has been showing throughout the postseason, is fascinating stuff. Rarely anything that comes out of the mouth of ESPN/ABC's Stuart Scott interests me, but he nailed it after ABC showed a portion of the talk: "If you don't have chills right now then you don’t get it.''
Props to ABC's Mike Breen. During Saturday's broadcast of the Celtics-Cavs, Breen asked partner Mark Jackson what Jackson thought of the Knicks hiring Mike D'Antoni as coach. Why made it such a good question? Jackson wanted the Knicks job.
"What?'' Jackson said half-jokingly. "You trying to rub it in?''
Number of the weekend
128. That's how many at-bats Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had gone without homering this season -- the longest drought of his career. It's a point Fox's Dick Stockton made just seconds before ... Jeter hit his first homer of the year.
Best and worst quote of the weekend
I know the Rays' Evan Longoria was all jacked up after his walk-off homer Friday night, but he could've found a better phrase during the live post-game interview on FSN about the one-hit gem tossed by pitcher James Shields than, "He pitched his a-- off.'' Then again, it’s true. Shields did do just that.
Three things that popped into my head over the weekend
1. New Orleans guard Chris Paul was three votes shy of being a unanimous selection of the NBA's All-Star team. How could anybody not vote for him?
2. The Magic play its games about an hour-and-a-half from here and is in the second round of the playoffs, but yet hardly anyone around here cares. Why is that?
3. Give me one good reason why the Rays can't keep this pace going all season long.