Shooting from the lip
A look back at a weekend of televised sports ...
I found someone who is getting as tired of Gary Sheffield popping off as I am. Fox baseball's pregame analyst Mark Grace ripped into Sheffield for his remarks on an upcoming HBO Real Sports segment when he accused Yankees manager Joe Torre of treating African-American players differently than other players.
"Gary Sheffield is very confusing,'' Grace said. "Last month, he was taking Latin players to task. This week, he takes a segregated Yankees clubhouse to task. Who is it going to be next month? Is it going to be Ichiro (Suzuki) and the Asian players? It's always something with Gary. He needs to leave that stuff alone and just go play.''
ESPN's Outside the Lines had an interesting roundtable to talk about the legacy of Hank Aaron. Bob Ley, one of the real pros out there, moderated the discussion with Dusty Baker and Tom House (two of Aaron's former teammates and good friends), as well as Frank Robinson and author Lonnie Wheeler, who helped Aaron write his autobiography.
The discussion centered around Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's homer record in 1974 in the face of racism and hate mail. It also talked about Aaron's role in the African-American community then and now.
Meantime, Baker explained why Aaron will not be in attendance when Barry Bonds breaks the record. Aaron, 73, says he is too old to be chasing Bonds around the country, and Baker added that Aaron just doesn't want to face all the questions about whether or not he believes Bonds has cheated. But Baker's best point was that you never see Aaron anyway. He's a quiet, private man. He doesn't attend big baseball games, you don't see him doing commercials or going to things like the ESPYs. As Baker pointed out, he's a senior executive with the Braves and you wouldn't know it. That's just who he is, and now I better understand his decision not to be there when Bonds hits 756.
In the Hank Aaron roundtable on Outside the Lines, Dusty Baker had the best line of the weekend when talking about Aaron. "He played hurt all the time,’’ Baker said. “He’d come limping in like Fred Sanford. Then the game would start and he would run like Bob Hayes.’’
This will probably get me in trouble with some people, and I admit I'm stereotyping here, but the biggest problem I have with female sports analysts is they are rarely critical. Yes, many men are too soft, too, but it seems to be more prevalent among female analysts. They don't seem to want to offend others they might have played with or for or those who are friends.
Not ESPN's Julie Foudy, who is quickly establishing herself as a strong soccer analyst. This weekend, she blasted USA soccer for naming only 18 of the 21 spots for the World Cup team, saying leaving spots open creates unnecessary tension and keeps the team from completely bonding. She didn't yell it or beat it to death. She wasn't harsh about it. She explained her point rationally in 30 seconds. And it was a good one.
I'm going to watch this week's British Open no matter what. I think it's the best golf tournament in the world, particularly on television. But how much more fun would it have been if Phil Mickelson had gone into it with a little momentum? Watching Tiger and Phil battle it out takes golf to another level. It's like Jack and Arnie. It makes golf better.
But no, Lefty decided to have another meltdown in Scotland, bogeying three of the final five holes to end up in a playoff, where he bogeyed again and lost to some guy I had never heard of. Nice job. Now who knows where his head will be this week.
You know, ever since Jean Van de Velde's infamous crash on the 72nd hole at the 1999 British Open, all you hear are people saying, "He only needed a double-bogey 6 to win. How could he make a triple-bogey 7? How?!''
Well, Nick Faldo had the most sensible explanation I've ever heard during ABC's British Open preview show on Sunday. Faldo said if someone tells a golfer that he needs only to make 6 to win (as Van de Velde's caddie did that fateful day), a "golfer’s brain scatters.'' In other words, a golfer is not built to think of making 6. There is no strategy for making double bogey.
"Now,'' Faldo said, "if someone tells you have to make a 4, then that makes sense. You can plot out how you want to play that hole.''
Makes sense, no?
Most disappointing event
CBS had the brilliant idea to air a behind-the-scenes look at how a golf broadcast is put together. The network took an hour during Saturday’s otherwise pedestrian John Deere Classic to take viewers into the production truck. Great idea. Poorly executed. Mostly all we saw were people with headsets staring at TV screens, and it was nearly impossible to hear anything worthwhile because so many people were talking at once.
I learned some things, such as it takes a crew of 130 to put on a golf broadcast. And, the good point was made about how difficult golf is to broadcast because instead of having two teams and one ball to follow (like a football or a baseball), there are dozens of golfers and dozens of balls in the air at all times. There was a funny moment when a producer screamed at a screen, "Come on! Hit the ball already!'' to a golfer who was taking too much time.
Overall, the main problem was that Gary McCord, who is fun to listen to normally, hosted this little experiment and didn't seem well prepared. He tried to interview production people, but they were too busy doing their jobs to talk. CBS would have been better off having an expert explain in detail what each person was doing then focus on that person for a few minutes. The whole thing was too helter-skelter.
All in all it was an ambitious plan and not a total waste. Covering a golf tournament is more intense than most of us realize. But CBS bit off a little more than it could chew. I’d like to see it try again with a better plan.
Fox's taped interview from the All-Star Game with Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey talking to Willie Mays was a treat. It was even better than had a regular reporter asked Mays questions. I don't know whether someone fed Griffey this question: Most assume that Mays' over-the-head catch in the 1954 World Series was his greatest ever, but Griffey asked if that, indeed, was his best catch. And the response was surprising.
"No, that wasn't my best catch,'' Mays said. "But it was my best TV catch.''
Mays said his best catch was crashing into the fence at old Candlestick Park in San Francisco and holding onto the ball despite getting knocked out. Showing good hustle, Fox found tape of the catch and Willie was right. It was a better catch.
I'm not going to watch an entire triathlon on a Sunday afternoon. And I'm not going to watch an entire leg of the Tour de France. But, you know, I might watch a little. That's why NBC and CBS get high marks this weekend. NBC has hit on something, taking a triathlon (which drags on and doesn't have a huge TV following) and showing it on tape after boiling it down to a tight hour broadcast. The good direction and storytelling creates drama, and you get your result without spending half the day on something that, really, is not all that compelling to watch. I mean, it's just people running and swimming and biking.
Meantime, the Tour de France falls into the same category. It's guys biking all day long. But CBS used the same tactic and showed it in an hour on tape.
If Alex Rodriguez ends up opting out of his contract with the Yankees, where will he end up? I say the Cubs. It makes too much sense. It's a team with great tradition. It's a big market, but it's not New York. It can pay, especially if Mark Cuban ends up taking over as owner and wants to make a big splash. But the biggest reason of all? A-Rod loves Lou Piniella. And Lou loves him.