Shooting from the lip
Most boring broadcast
We all know fans must pay regular-season prices to go to NFL preseason games. I think the league should pay the fans to watch this junk. And the only good thing about watching it on TV is you can switch channels. The Bucs games have become boring. Chris Myers and Charles Davis are normally solid announcers, but they don't exactly fill the evening with especially deep or insightful analysis beyond what our eyes can see. Channel 8 would be better served calling more often on sideline reporter J.P. Peterson, who spends more time around the team than Myers and Davis, who have other jobs, and can offer more and better perspective.
Having said all that, the Channel 8 pregame show is good, especially the work of Doug Graber, right, a former Bucs defensive coach. His "Chalk Talk'' segment is the best thing going on the show. Saturday, he broke down footage of No. 1 pick Gaines Adams and revealed mistakes even the die-hard football fan is not smart enough to pick up. Yet Graber explained in terms the casual fan could understand.
ESPN football analyst Merril Hoge likes Bucs QB Jeff Garcia. You just get the feeling he doesn't think a whole lot of the rest of the team.
"The thing that concerns me in Tampa is the lack of a ground game, the pounding of the rock, the consistency there,'' Hoge said. "Jeff Garcia cannot win games consistently by improvising all day. Tampa must find a consistent running game and play better defense if Tampa has any hopes of having a season where they can go to the playoffs.''
On ESPN's Sports Reporters, Bob Ryan pointed out that this is a big week for the United States' basketball team as it tries to qualify for the Olympics. And even if it does, there's no guarantee it can win a gold medal even with the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. As Ryan also astutely pointed out, the United States is not the defending champion in either the Olympics or the world championships. "We are the champions of nothing,'' Ryan said. "We invented this game, but now it belongs to the world.''
Hottest broadcast team
Check out tonight's game between the Colts and Bears. Yeah, it's a rematch of the Super Bowl, but that's not why you should watch. Listen to the broadcast team of Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski. I know a lot of football fans were down on Kornheiser, the Washington Post columnist and co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, last season. I was a fan of his from the start, but I also thought the reason so many didn't like him wasn't really his fault. I just thought he and Joe Theismann had a tough time playing off one another. Just like Howard Cosell had "Dandy'' Don Meredith, Kornheiser needed someone a little more playful than the too-serious Theismann. Tune in to Kornheiser and Jaworski tonight on ESPN and I think you'll see a difference.
Fox baseball pregame panelist Eric Karros is never afraid to say what's on his mind, which makes him one of the better players-turned-broadcasters in the business. I think Fox needs to expand his role so we can get even more of him. Well, Saturday, he laid into the fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"They have the best record in the National League, and they've had two sellouts,'' Karros said. "Opening day and a game against the Red Sox, and most of those people probably came to see the Red Sox. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have had four sellouts! Come on, people (in Arizona), support your team!''
The best, hands-down, no-doubt-about-it, feel-good story of the baseball season is the return of the Cardinals' Rick Ankiel. You might remember Ankiel as the promising left-handed pitcher who suddenly developed Steve Blass disease, meaning he started throwing pitches behind batters, over the backstop, into the ground — everywhere but near home plate. So he quit pitching, went back to the minors as an outfielder and despite injuries and personal obstacles, has made his way back to the majors, where he totaled three homers in his first three games.
"I just look forward,'' Ankiel said during ESPN’s Sunday Conversation with Peter Gammons. "The past is the past. You can't change it. I just look forward to looking forward.''
My new favorite graphic is the little radar chart ESPN uses for the Little League World Series. It shows the actual speed of a pitch, but then quickly translates the speed to its major-league equivalent.
For example, a pitcher from Texas on Saturday threw a 72-mph pitch, but because of the distance, it was just like a 96-mph major-league fastball.
I love it when New York Times columnist Selena Roberts is on ESPN's Sports Reporters. She brings a little different perspective than the usual crew of Mike Lupica, Bob Ryan and Mitch Albom. And even though all three are pros at that show and all three shared the stage with Roberts on Sunday, Roberts was the MVP. Her best line was when talking about whether the Redskins’ Joe Gibbs was still a decent coach: "I can't tell if he's an 8-track or he has moved to the iPod generation.''
Speaking of NASCAR
Sunday's race in Brooklyn, Mich., was postponed because of rain, so ESPN filled the afternoon with a rerun of last week's race at Watkins Glen, N.Y. That's the best the World Wide Leader can do? A repeat from a week ago? I know it was an exciting race, but you would think ESPN could produce some original NASCAR programming or even rerun some old Sports Centuries or documentaries about NASCAR instead of showing something most race fans probably don't want to watch again. Look at it this way. If an NFL game were postponed, I'd rather watch NFL Films than a game that was on last week.
ESPN pulled a fast one on NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty, pulling out old video of Daugherty with the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of the worst mustaches since the invention of the mustache.
Daugherty: "That was baaad. That was sweet. Look at that, man.''
Rusty Wallace: "You look mean there, buddy.''
Daugherty: "Big, mean and ugly.''
Three things I thought of this weekend:
1. Vinny Testaverde just might play until he is 90.
2. It's great to see the Cubs and Cards making the National League Central race close. And while I love Lou Piniella wouldn't it be nice to see a new team like the Brewers in the playoffs?
3. If I never have to watch another NFL preseason game again, I'll be a happy man. Of all the sports, the NFL has the worst exhibition season.