Shooting from the lip
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports
On one hand, let’s not get too carried away with Roger Clemens' season debut on Saturday. He was facing a weak National League lineup and all he did was give a mere quality start — six innings, three runs allowed. Hardly worth a million dollars. On the other hand, this guy is soon to be 45 years old and he gave, well, a quality start. Still not worth a million bucks, but impressive nonetheless.
Coolest event of the weekend
Not the NBA Finals. Not golf or the French Open. Not even The Sopranos.
The absolutely coolest thing on TV over the weekend was a rerun of the annual rowing showdown between Oxford and Cambridge on ESPNU. Forget guys with shoe deals and million-dollar contracts. These were just a bunch of guys grunting and straining for no compensation. Cambridge won easily, but what made the broadcast so great was the breathless commentary of someone I never got the name of. But he had two priceless beauties.
On the effort of the rowers: "Right now the body is asking why. The mind has no answer. But the spirit is willing.''
On the beautiful conditions of the River Thames: "Mother Nature has decided to be at her mildest. The river is a veritable pressed shirt. There's not a crease in it.’''
Tell me that is not awesome!
With ESPNU joining Bright House Networks on Channel 151, the cable system has moved ESPNews from 121 to 150 and ESPN Classic from 26 to 152. That meant there was an opening on Channel 26 and it has been filled by Versus, which had been on 70. In a roundabout way, that's good for the NHL. At least 26 is neighbors to ESPN and ESPN2 and now more people might find themselves at least switching through Versus while channel surfing. I'm not expecting that local NHL ratings suddenly will rival American Idol, but the channel change could attract a few more viewers.
Best reason to calm down
I think all this talk about Roger Federer being among the top two or three greatest players of all time needs to stop until he wins the French Open. I'm as guilty as anyone, suggesting earlier this year in this space that he's the Tiger Woods of tennis and might be the best ever. But he still hasn’t won the best tournament in the world on clay. Until he does, Rod Laver continues to be my all-time greatest tennis player .
It's a feature that dates to the days of Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek on NBC's old Game of the Week, but I love how Fox gets a player from each team to announce the starting batting order. Know what? The Rays should do that on their broadcasts. Get a different Rays player every night to give the batting order.
Tampa's own Gary Sheffield is still taking a beating for his remarks that Latin players can be controlled, while African-Americans can’t. Sheffield clarified his remarks during Saturday's Fox broadcast of the Tigers-Mets.
Shef's point is because Latins are not a part of the draft, they can be signed for way less money than blacks or whites, for that matter. Teams can sign five or six Latin players for the price of one American player — black or white or whatever. And Latin players know they have to do whatever they’re told.
"They're so many of them,'' Sheffield explained, "that if they speak up they can send them back and get another one.''
Fox baseball analyst Ken Rosenthal said Sheffield's original remarks were politically insensitive, but that "he did hit upon something.''
Mike Lupica, on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters: "The Angels don't just have the best manager in baseball in Mike Scioscia and aren't just the best-kept secret in baseball. They might just be the best team in baseball.''
Right now, I'd still take the Red Sox. But Lupica's point is not half-baked.
Best reader shoutout
I caught only a few minutes Friday night of the Rays-Marlins series, but here's a little info passed along by reader Garth Kroitzsch:
After listening to the Marlins announcers two out of three games this weekend and two out of three games when the Marlins were here … well, could we be any luckier to have Dwayne Staats and Joe Magrane? They are so much more "fun'' to listen to. And it goes without saying, so much more informing and knowledgeable.
During Sunday's Belmont coverage on ABC, reporter Jeannine Edwards, before the race, tried to make a comparison with Rags to Riches, a filly, racing against the boys. She said it's like Maria Sharapova, top, playing Roger Federer in the French Open or Annika Sorenstam, bottom, playing against the PGA Tour guys.
I'm sorry, but it's nothing like that. I realize Rags to Riches went on to become the first filly to win the Belmont in 102 years, but to say it's like Sharapova beating Federer or Sorenstam winning a PGA Tour event is an overstatement that's about two exits past ridiculous.
And since I'm ranting, if you're going to make a comparison like that, why say Sharapova and not Justine Henin, who won her third consecutive and fourth overall French Open about five hours before Edwards said what she said?
Best reader complaint
Here's a letter from another reader — John Velchoff of Land O’Lakes:
The TV Bonehead Award goes to Channel 28 for Saturday's broadcast of the Belmont. Just seconds into the race, it put up a weather alert that causes the picture on the high-def broadcast to revert to standard definition. A thunderstorm alert couldn’t wait two minutes for the end of the race? I was in the radio business for 35 years and I'm never disappointed by the stupidity I expect from these idiots.
By the way, during CBS' coverage of golf on Sunday, Channel 10 had to run a weather alert. But what it did was make the golf screen slightly smaller and run the crawl along the bottom. The picture wasn't as big, but least nothing was being blocked.
Most missed events
There were a few great fights over the weekend, most notably Tampa's Antonio Tarver regaining the IBO light-heavyweight crown with a decision over Elvir Muriqi and Miguel Cotto stopping Zab Judah in a WBA welterweight title bout.
And I didn't see any because fights this good are never on regular over-the-air television anymore. I'm sure boxing people have crunched the numbers and figured out that pay-per-view and premium cable is making them more money. But, in the long run, boxing is losing fans because the only people spending money on big-time fights are those who already love boxing.
Remember the days when big-time fights used to be on ABC's Wide World of Sports and NBC’s Sportsworld? I became a boxing fan because I watched fights on Saturday afternoons. I got to know boxers such as Jimmy Young, Ken Norton, Danny Lopez, Vito Antuofermo, Mike Rossman. They would fight title fights. On live TV. On weekend afternoons. I still remember Marv Albert calling James Scott fights live from Rahway State Prison, where Scott was incarcerated for armed robbery.
Even legendary names such as Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns would fight live on regular TV. It's how I became a fan. Back when I was 10 years old. Go ask a 10-year-old now to name three boxers. Bet he or she can't. (Photos: Associated Press.)