Shooting from the lip/April 12 edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Move along, move along, nothing to see here. That seemed to be the mind-set of Masters weekend. While CBS said it wasn't going to avoid the Tiger Woods scandal, there was barely a mention of anything but his golf game during its coverage. Same thing with ESPN's coverage of the first two days. Woods being in contention certainly dictated much of that decision, but it still came off as if he was returning from an injury rather than an absence of his own making.
The post-round interviews with Woods weren't any different than you might have heard a year ago at the Masters. They were about golf shots and birdies and bogeys and putting and chipping and driving and what happened on this or that hole. Those who interviewed Woods or even spoke about him seemed on tiptoes, petrified by the prospect of saying anything to upset him. Maybe the weekend was nothing more than a golf tournament for Woods. But for everyone else, it was about Woods' return to golf after one of the greatest scandals in the history of sports.
While there's nothing wrong with asking Woods about his game, it would've been interesting to learn what was going on for him emotionally and mentally. After all, CBS host Jim Nantz asked Phil Mickelson about his emotions of winning while his wife battles cancer. Why couldn't someone have asked Woods (or at least talked more about) his return under one of the most extraordinary circumstance we've ever seen?
Most tired graphic
Rays TV has fallen in love with the Fox Trax, that little graphic that shows where a pitch crossed the plate. They show it so much that it has become annoying partly because it gives Rays announcers more chances to complain about the umpires. Not that they need help. Last week in back-to-back games, the Rays were on the short end of two bum calls. One was a Carl Crawford obvious check swing that was ruled a strike and led to a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play. The next night, replays showed Crawford made a sliding catch in left, but umpire Dana Demuth incorrectly ruled the ball hit the ground.
It was okay that announcer Dewayne Staats and analyst Kevin Kennedy pointed out the mistakes. But then they wouldn't let it drop, especially Kennedy. He even suggested that if Demuth "can’t focus for nine innings'' then maybe they should get an umpire who can. That's going overboard.
Bad calls tend to balance out over the course of a season. Sure, it's frustrating when they go against your team. There's only one thing worse than a bad call: listening to people whine about bad calls for more than a minute.
Least credible analyst
At the same time Saturday night, the Lightning's Steven Stamkos was scoring his 49th and 50th goals and Barry Melrose was working as an analyst for ESPN's coverage of the NCAA hockey national championship between Boston College and Wisconsin. It was hard to listen to Melrose and take him seriously when you remember it was just a season ago when the short-lived Lightning coach said, "Stamkos is not ready for the NHL.''
One of the more interesting moments of the weekend's Masters coverage was hearing Tiger Woods lose his temper after a bad tee shot at No. 6 on Saturday. As soon as he saw his shot was veering off course, Woods snapped: "Tiger Woods … you (stink).'' Then he dropped a mild curse word. Woods said last week he was going to check his emotions, that we weren’t going to see his infamous temper on display. That lasted fewer than three rounds. But he deserves a mulligan on this one. First, the outburst wasn't that bad, even though CBS host Jim Nantz did mention it a few moments later. Most of all, it's not as if Woods screamed what he said. The audio on golf is so good these days, you can almost hear a golfer whisper.
Controversial Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry is known for slamming players. But on Saturday night, he had high praise for Lightning center Steven Stamkos. "I love this guy,'' Cherry said. "(Fifty) goals, and he doesn't make Team Canada (Olympic team)? Are you nuts? … He's a great kid, and he should've been on it.''
It's simply ridiculous that Sunday was the last day of the NHL regular season and the only game that really mattered wasn't on NBC. Oh, NBC showed a game all right -- a meaningless one between the Capitals and Bruins at noon. But at 3 p.m., the Rangers and Flyers played a do-or-die game to see which team would make the playoffs. How was that game not on national television? Blame NBC. Blame the NHL. There's no way this would happen in any other sport, which is why every other sport remains more popular than the NHL.
Umpire Joe West is getting killed for his comments about the Yankees and Red Sox taking too long to play their games. West called it an "embarrassment'' and a "disgrace to baseball'' that the best rivalry in baseball can't seem to play a game in less than 31/2 hours. New York and Boston players criticized him, further showing how arrogant some of those players are, and now it's believed Major League Baseball will crack down on West in some way.
But West deserves a pat on the back. He's 100 percent right. The Yanks-Sox games are so long that watching them is more about attrition than entertainment. You end up watching just to prove you can make it to the end as opposed to wanting to see what happens.
The Yankees and Red Sox believe they are above what's right. They're not. If other great teams such as the Phillies, Angels, Cardinals and Twins can play their games in reasonable times, why can't those two? West deserves a raise for having the guts to say something that Bud Selig and MLB should've handled long ago.
The Rays should be thanking their lucky stars that they didn't acquire outfielder Milton Bradley in the offseason. The regular season isn't even a week old, and Bradley, again, is causing problems. He shattered his bat in his first game with the Mariners, glared at fans and Friday night gave a middle finger to fans in Texas. Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote, "At this rate, it's hard to imagine Bradley getting through 162 games without some serious meltdown if the controversial outfielder doesn't relax.''
ESPN's Buster Olney said, "This has got to be a red flag.'' Olney is right, but then again, shouldn't the past several years have been a red flag with this guy?
Three things that popped into my head
1. The New Jersey Devils are my pick to win the Stanley Cup because of all the elite teams in the NHL -- Devils, Capitals, Penguins and Blackhawks -- they are the only one without goaltending questions.
2. You could make a case that Steven Stamkos' 51-goal season as a 20-year-old on a crummy team is the most impressive single-season performance ever turned in by a Tampa Bay athlete.
3. Phrase heard on the Rays radio broadcast Sunday that likely will be heard many times again this season: "James Shields left with the lead, but the bullpen couldn't hold it for him.''’