Shooting from the lip

19

June

Looking back at weekend of televised sports ...

flag.Biggest controversy
While Ireland's Rory McIlroy was running away with the U.S. Open on Sunday, NBC was dealing with a major controversy and it has no one to blame but itself.

To celebrate the U.S. championship on a course played not far from the nation's capital, NBC opened Sunday's broadcast with a montage tying together golf and patriotism. In it, children recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The children started with, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation …''
The next two words are "under God,'' but the piece was edited in such a way that those two words were left out. Later in the opening, the children continued with the rest of the Pledge: " … with liberty and justice for all.'' As the opening was coming to an end, the children again could be heard reciting the Pledge, but again, the words "under God'' were never heard.

Immediately, many watching flooded Internet message boards and Twitter to criticize NBC. Finally, around 4:35 p.m. -- about three hours into NBC's coverage -- host Dan Hicks read the following statement on air:

"It was our intent to begin our coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being here in our nation's capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.''

But the damage already was done and the apology seemed not only late, but insincere to those offended.

Either the omission of "under God'' was intentional or no one noticed that it was edited out. Either way, NBC deserves whatever criticism it gets. And whether you were offended or not -- and whether you believe in God or not -- really isn't the point of this. The fact is enough were offended that NBC was forced to read an on-air statement. When you have to read an on-air statement, you've probably done something wrong. That's bad business. So what did NBC do wrong?

Well, if the words were left out on purpose for fear of mixing religion and sports then using the Pledge of Allegiance should have been shelved in favor of another opening because NBC had to know the reaction it would get. And to leave it out by mistake means no one who looked at it before it aired was sharp enough to realize the backlash it would get. Did NBC really think that no one would notice?

NBC does an outstanding job covering the U.S. Open and McIlroy's performance was incredible to watch, but both were lost in either a colossal error in judgment or complete lack of competence.

Best coverage
Poor NBC. Aside from the whole "under God'' controversy, the U.S. Open did the network no favors. Tiger Woods didn't play. Phil Mickelson was out of it pretty much from the start. And Rory McIlroy sucked all the drama out of it. Still, NBC continues to have the best golf coverage on television. Golf fans already know how good hosts Bob Costas and Dan Hicks are, as well as Johnny Miller, who might be the best sports analyst on TV, and on-course reporter Dottie Pepper.

The under-appreciated person on the telecast is Golf World magazine senior writer Tim Rosaforte. The good news is Rosaforte's appearances are chock full of information on the golfers' backgrounds. The bad news is he only makes a couple of appearances on each broadcast. NBC should tap into him more because his segments are among the best of the coverage.

kennedy.jpgBest feature
The best feature of the weekend was during Saturday's U.S. Open coverage when NBC's Jimmy Roberts looked at American presidents who played golf, going all the way back to the days of William Howard Taft (1909-1913). The feature included interviews with George H.W. Bush and the late Gerald Ford. It also had clips of many past presidents playing golf, including rare footage of John Kennedy, who actually had a nice swing.

In an interesting footnote, Roberts said the JFK footage was shot in August of 1963 and was for Arnold Palmer to review. Palmer looked at the footage and planned a trip to the White House to give JFK some lessons. That trip was scheduled for December of 1963, but Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.

anderson.jpgBest analysis
Every time I write something nice about Rays television analyst Brian Anderson, I get a handful of e-mails asking, essentially, "What's your love affair with Brian Anderson?'' For the record, I've spoken once to Anderson -- and it was on the telephone. We're not "buddies'' and if he goofs up, I would write it. So why do I consistently write good things about Anderson? Because he's really good. Here are two more examples from the weekend.

During Saturday's broadcast on Sun Sports, Anderson talked about how Rays slugger Evan Longoria needs to have a more consistent approach at the plate. Give credit to play-by-play announcer Dewayne Staats for picking up on that and asking Anderson what he meant. Anderson said Longoria needed to have better swings and not reach as much because he was popping up everything. Next pitch: Longoria reached and popped it up.

Then Sunday, Anderson pointed out that Marlins starting pitcher Chris Volstad rarely throws inside to left-handed hitters, which is a chief reason why lefties were hitting .345 against him. Moments later, Volstad struck out lefty Casey Kotchman, who doesn't strike out often. Kotchman was called out looking at an inside fastball and was clearly caught off guard that Volstad came inside -- and that only reaffirmed Anderson's point.

Those are great observations and perfect timing. When you think about it, those are the two qualities that make a really good analyst.

lederman.jpgBest cameo
Anyone who watches HBO boxing regularly loves Harold Lederman. For the past 25 years, Lederman has served as HBO's unofficial ringside judge and he has become a legend even though he never appears on camera. Well, that changed Saturday night when Lederman was the analyst on the fight before the main event. Analyst Max Kellerman was home attending the birth of a child. Roy Jones Jr., the other analyst, had business ties with one of the fighters, so he was kept off the air for that bout.

That left no analyst alongside announcer Bob Papa. So in stepped Lederman, who was sensational. The only problem was his fight ended with a first-round knockout. So his 15 minutes of on-air fame was cut to less than three minutes.

Three things I liked this weekend on TV
* Sun Sports putting a microphone on David Price, who gave us some inside dope about how Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez is a master at catching opposing pitchers tipping their pitches.
* Nice hustle by Sun Sports to get an interview with Marlins president Larry Beinfest not long after manager Edwin Rodriguez turned in his resignation.
* On ESPN's Sports Reporters, it was finally pointed out that while LeBron James is taking all the grief for the Heat not winning the NBA championship, teammate Dwyane Wade has gotten off scot-free.

damon.Three things that popped into my head
1. Tim McClelland is considered one of the top umpires in baseball, but Saturday night's Rays-Marlins game reminded me of just how arrogant he seems to be behind the plate.
2. No one should root for an injury, but I'm guessing not too many Rays fans were broken up when they saw Carl Crawford go on the disabled list with his .243 batting average.
3. Did anyone else think Johnny Damon would be this good with the Rays?

[Last modified: Sunday, June 19, 2011 11:10pm]

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