Shooting from the lip/April 23rd edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Bad break for ESPN and baseball fans Sunday when the series finale between the Red Sox and Yankees was rained out. What a juicy story line with the struggling Red Sox blowing a nine-run lead Saturday and new manager Bobby Valentine being booed by the fans and criticized by his players. It would have been incredibly interesting to hear what ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst and former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona had to say about the mess in Boston.
There is already talk Valentine's job is in jeopardy, but Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan isn't blaming Valentine.
"They aren't very good,'' Ryan said of the team on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday. "And he was handed a bad roster, period.''
New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, "They talk like they are still champions of the world.''
Lupica astutely pointed out that the Red Sox haven't won a postseason game since Game 6 of the 2008 American League Championship Series against the Rays.
Biggest missing piece
Seems no NFL team wants to be on HBO's Hard Knocks. The Falcons are the latest team to turn down an offer to be on the show that highlights one team during training camp. Several other teams, including the Jets, also said no, according to reports.
A part of me understands why teams aren't interested. The show can be a distraction, and in the ultraparanoid, extremely secretive NFL, teams don't want anyone (i.e. other teams) getting a peek inside their organization. HBO might be forced to go to a below-average team with not much personality that wants the publicity, such as the Jaguars, Bills or Browns.
The team we would like to see? The Broncos, although we might be sick of Denver by season's end. The Broncos, with new quarterback Peyton Manning, will appear in prime time five times this season, including the season opener against the Steelers and a Monday Night Football matchup against the Falcons in Week 2. After last season's coverage of Tim Tebow and this season's coverage of Manning, the Broncos have become the NFL's most-followed franchise.
Worst use of split screen
Most of the country, including those of us in the Tampa Bay area, got the Yankees-Red Sox game on Saturday's Fox Game of the Week. Smartly, Fox switched to the White Sox-Mariners game in the ninth inning as Chicago's Phil Humber went after a perfect game. Well, at first the switch was only partway.
At the time, the Red Sox led the Yankees 9-1, and yet Fox decided to split the screen and put both games up at the same time. True, the Yankees were just starting their comeback that ended with a 15-9 victory, but come on, we're talking about a perfect game. Before Saturday, there had been only 20 ever in major-league history.
After Humber got the first out in the ninth, someone at Fox finally wised up and put the perfect game on the screen by itself.
Since I'm complaining, why didn't Fox go to that game as early as the seventh or eighth inning, at least while the Mariners were batting?
Last week in this space, I said networks should drop in-game interviews with coaches and managers because no one ever says anything interesting. I stand corrected. During Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox game on Fox, the Yankees were trailing 7-0 when Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "A lot of runs can be scored very quickly here because of that wall in leftfield. And there have been some strange things that have happened in this park.''
The Yankees came back to win 15-9.
When NBC lost the television rights for Wimbledon to ESPN last summer, some fans -- if they were like me -- were disappointed because it meant we might not be able to hear John McEnroe, the best tennis analyst on TV, during the best tournament of the year. But good news: ESPN announced last week that McEnroe will serve as lead analyst for Wimbledon. If we're lucky (and ESPN is smart), McEnroe will be teamed with his brother Patrick.
McEnroe also will continue to work for CBS and ESPN during the U.S. Open, and he said he would be interested in doing more with ESPN besides tennis. (Advice to ESPN: Take McEnroe up on his offer.)
McEnroe gave an interesting interview to USA Today last week in which he longed for the days when players were emotional like he was. And he had a cool suggestion: get rid of the linesmen and let players call their own lines. If there's an argument, players would have the option of replay challenges.
"It would make it more personal and bring out their personalities,'' McEnroe told the paper. "Fans could get on players making bad calls. Everybody could relate to it.''
How can anyone watch the Stanley Cup playoffs and not consider it one of the best sporting events of the year? The first round isn't even over and already we've seen more drama, passion and excitement than is normally seen during the entire NBA playoffs.
Upsets in the first round of the NBA playoffs are rare. In the NHL, they've become routine. Look at this season's Eastern Conference. The top seed Rangers are down 3-2 in their best-of-seven series with the Senators. The second seed and defending Cup champion Bruins barely stayed alive with a Game 6 overtime victory against the Capitals on Sunday. The fourth seed Penguins were eliminated by the Flyers on Sunday.
Speaking of the Penguins, since winning the Cup in 2009, they are 12-14 over the past three postseasons and have won only one of the four series they’ve played despite being the fourth seed all three seasons.
The NFL draft begins Thursday on ESPN. The draft used to be one of the cooler nongame sporting events of the year. The past few years, however, much of the drama has been stolen because ESPN often reports who is going to picked moments before the pick is announced. ESPN has folks stationed in the area of the players as they get their draft phone call from the teams.
Hey, you can't blame ESPN. It is in the news business, and it is the network's job to break news.
But don't you miss the days when the commissioner stepped up to the microphone and said, "With the fifth pick, the Tampa Bay Bucs select …'' and you heard the name for the first time?
ESPN has agreed not to show the players on the telephone prior to the pick for this year's first round, but don't be surprised if the network's reporters still announce the picks if they know them.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I hate to say it, but I don't think Seattle’s Brendan Ryan swung on the 3-and-2 pitch that gave the White Sox’s Phil Humber a perfect game Saturday.
2. It's a cliche, but the post-series handshake in the Stanley Cup playoffs really is one of the best traditions in sports, maybe the best.
3. The Angels' Albert Pujols comes to town this week with no homers in 16 games and 65 at-bats, the longest drought to start a season in his 12-year career. I don't know if that’s really good news or really bad news for the Rays.