Shooting from the lip
A look back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Can I have a mulligan? A few weeks back, I went on and on about how great NBC golf commentator Johnny Miller is and how he's the best golf analyst out there and he's smart and insightful and blah, blah, blah. Well, I still think all those things, but after listening to the job Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger did for ABC during Sunday's can't-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen British Open, it's impossible not to put them on Miller's level.
Like Miller, the two talk like the experts they are and like fans as well — gasping, applauding, cheering, laughing and scratching their heads right along with the viewers at home. All the while, they build drama and offer forecasts, and everything that came out of their mouths Sunday only enriched what might have been the best final day of a golf tournament in years.
I've already gushed about Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo's work, and to list every great thing they said would take about six pages. Like I mentioned, everything they said was worth listening to. But if I had to pick out just one line, it would have been this gem from Azinger when every golfer on the course started stumbling on the back nine:
"If they were playing in water, the sharks would show up,'' Azinger said, "because I sense a little bleeding.''
Even casual golf fans — and that's what I consider myself — have to admit that Sunday's British Open was about as exciting as a sporting event can be. To me, this is the best golf tournament in the world. It's an international field, and there's just something about watching the overcast skies on a links course with golfers and fans bundled up. The fact that it's coming from the part of the world where golf was invented makes it a tournament better than any other.
But ABC's Paul Azinger gave a player's perspective that shows why the British Open — and you know they call it simply the Open Championship, as if there is no other — is the best tournament in the world.
"Any style can win the British Open,'' Azinger said. "You can’t really say that necessarily at Augusta or at the United States Open. … And, of course, it's the oldest championship.''
It's easy to want to kick Falcons quarterback Michael Vick not only out of the NFL but off the face of the earth these days over these dogfighting allegations. Like everyone else, I'm disgusted by the details of the investigation, and if they are true, I think Vick should be forced to live under the same conditions as those dogs. But should he be banned from playing right now?
During ESPN's The Sports Reporters, Mike Lupica made a solid point: "I think if (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell was going to suspend him just for being indicted, that would have happened already. You’re on a slippery slope even when you're a sports commissioner trying to look tough and keep your sport looking clean when you start convicting people before our legal system convicts them.''
Fellow panelist Jimmy Roberts needed two words to emphasize Lupica’s point: Duke lacrosse.
Biggest pet peeve
Okay, what's the deal with every coach/manager/player in the world holding their hands in front of their face while talking strategy? Football coaches hold up clipboards, and now baseball players hold their gloves over their mouths? That's the one that gets me. Do pitchers and catchers really think some guy 150 feet away can read their lips? During the weekend, I actually saw a catcher hold his catcher’s mitt in front of his face while talking to a pitcher … while he was wearing his mask!
"We want our heroes to be good guys, but maybe we need jerks like Bonds from time to time to remind us what real heroes are — and they are not just people who have mastered a difficult physical feat. … Real heroes are not just athletes. In fact, most of them are not: the firemen who gave their lives to save the innocent on 9/11; the soldiers who go into the streets of Baghdad day after day; parents who adopt handicapped children. Heroes are those who set the examples we teach our kids to follow. Barry Bonds is no hero. He is just a guy who hits home runs. Who would want a kid to be like him?''
The British Open was the most compelling thing on TV Sunday. But a close second? A Man vs. Wild marathon on Discovery. Have you seen this show? British adventurer Bear Grylls puts himself in survival situations (deserts, mountain ranges, jungles, even the Everglades) and shows you how to survive. He does the usual stuff like make rafts, build shelters and so forth. But this guy has caught fish and bitten into them as soon as they are out of the water. He has eaten from a dead zebra, plus chomped on the usual maggots, worms and other bugs. Once, even squeezed the "juice'' out of elephant dung for hydration.
This is the best show on television, and I’m on record as saying I want to be Bear Grylls when I grow up.
If you don't think this NBA scandal with referee Tim Donaghy betting on games that he officiated is serious stuff, you need to think harder about it. I'm not saying this will bring down the league, but this is bad. It's one thing to think athletes are using steroids or fixing games. But it's quite another to think that an official — someone in charge of making sure the game is played fairly — could be playing with the outcomes and integrity of the game.
It will be interesting to see how commissioner David Stern behaves through all of this. He has supported NBA officiating to the point that he has seemed obsessed with knocking down anyone who dares question it. Although it has always been a silly joke to say, "Ah, the NBA is fixed,'' Stern saw nothing funny about that. Now, it turns out, some of the games might have been fixed after all. This will be a defining moment for Stern.
Worst use of graphics
Of everything Fox Sports covers, it covers those sports pretty much better than everyone else. I'd rather watch baseball, the NFL, college football and NASCAR on Fox than any other network. There are a lot of reasons why, but part of it is graphics. On Fox's baseball pregame, however, someone has gone a little overboard. The show had not one but two tickers scrolling news across the bottom. Two. And they rolled while analysts Eric Karros and Kevin Kennedy — two guys who usually have something good to say — were talking. Just because you have the capability to show a bunch of information at one time doesn’t mean you have to use it.
It's hard to find much to laugh about when your team is getting its can kicked in, but if you stuck around to the end of the Devil Rays' 21-4 loss to the Yankees, you probably at least smiled. Yankees legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard has a knack for racing to the elevators when a game is over. He tries to get a head start by leaving his desk and heading for the exits with two outs in the last inning.
On Sunday, Sheppard left and had to return to his seat four times because the Rays kept extending the inning and he had to keep announcing the next batter. On his fourth trip back, Sheppard slammed his papers down. It was probably the only satisfaction Devil Rays fans had against New York since Friday night. Nice job by the Rays broadcast crew to make a little story out of it.
Fox baseball insider Ken Rosenthal ran through his usual list of players on the trading block. Nothing earth-shattering, but there was something mildly interesting with local ties. Rosenthal said the Angels are in the hunt for Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira. Normally that wouldn't be a big deal, but Seminole High's Casey Kotchman plays first for the Angels and is having a pretty decent season. What would happen to him if the Angels do acquire Teixeira?