Shooting from the lip/April 26th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Best (and worst) reporting
The NFL draft is always one of the more entertaining sports shows of the year, but the reporting has ruined all the drama. Because of the excellent work by reporters at ESPN and NFL Network, we find out who teams are picking before the picks are announced. Cameras cut to draft prospects as they are on the telephone with the team on the clock, while the analysts announce that this particular player will be the pick. Don't you miss the good old days when the commissioner stepped to the podium and dramatically announced the pick? Then fans would go crazy, either cheering or, in the case of Jets fans, booing? Now it's like finding out who won the Oscar for Best Actor a few seconds before it's announced. What's the fun in that?
Best (and worst) analyst
Some complain that Bucs coach-turned-ESPN analyst Jon Gruden likes everybody, that every team made a great pick in the draft, that every move by every team is the right move. Still, if there's one analyst on any of the networks that makes you stop and listen, it's Gruden, who is interesting, funny, and honest (sometimes all at the same time) whenever he speaks. He and NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock were the stars of the draft coverage. Meantime, ESPN analyst Steve Young has fallen in love with his own voice. After Thursday’s first round, the Buffalo News described it perfectly, saying Young conducts "filibusters'' that overwhelm his partners. Perhaps Young heard some of the comments because he toned it down on Friday. Still, it’s a flaw Young has had ever since becoming a TV analyst.
Here's why I like Rays radio broadcaster Dave Wills. In a matter of seconds between pitches Sunday, Wills gave a brief tutorial about leading off from third base. A runner should lead off as far as the third baseman is from the base. Then Wills described how and why a runner leads off in foul territory and goes back to the bag in fair territory. Those who know baseball know such things, but it makes those listeners feel smart and doesn't chew up a big chunk of time. Those who didn't know these things learned something. It's simple, quick and really good stuff.
It wasn't all that long ago that baseball teams only televised their road games. Home games were never on TV. But now we're spoiled to the point that we complain any time the local team isn't on -- like Saturday. The Rays game was not on, and it seems so stupid as to why. The Rays game started at 6 p.m. because there was a postgame concert. The Fox national game was blocked out for 4 to 7 p.m., and the rule is a team cannot televise its game if any part is played during Fox's national window.
Would allowing the Rays to televise Saturday’s game really affect Fox's national numbers that much, if at all? It just seems short-sighted that Major League Baseball and one of its partners would deny one of its teams a chance to promote the product to local fans.
ESPN's Outside the Lines did a story Sunday about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It was more sizzle than steak, not really revealing anything new other than Roethlisberger is not always the greatest teammat. It talked to a couple of former teammates of Roethlisberger who basically said what all of us know: that Roethlisberger needs to grow up. But the most interesting point came in the postpiece interviews, when ESPN's Howard Bryant talked about how the culture of sports has changed. No longer can athletes win over the media or the fans because they seem like good guys and know how to make a jumper or a birdie or hit a slider. After all, as Bryant pointed out, we watch these athletes, but we don't go home with them. We have no idea what kind of people they are.
"This wink-wink, nudge-nudge stuff where you can sweep things under the rug is gone,'' Bryant said. "It doesn't exist anymore. This is not a Kobe Bryant situation where you can look at the public and say, 'You guys know me.'''
Speaking of Bryant, he has become one of the sports media's most intelligent voices, and ESPN should use him more. His reactions are measured and never impulsive. When he speaks, you find yourself either nodding along or, at the very least, seeing his point because it's so intelligent and rational without a hint of favoritism.
Most annoying graphic
Does anyone else hate ESPN new baseball game tracker graphic? You know, the box in the corner of the screen that tells you the score, inning, number of outs and the count? It's set up like a mini-electronic scoreboard with little circles lit up for balls, strikes and outs. On smaller televisions, you have to squint to figure out the count. What was wrong with showing the actual numbers instead of forcing us to count? Seems like it was a change just for the sake of change and not an improvement.
Sort of lost in the shuffle of the NCAA basketball tournament expanding to 68 teams and signing a new 14-year deal with CBS and Turner is that ESPN did not get the TV deal. In the past few years, ESPN has acquired the television rights to some major events. It already televises Major League Baseball, NFL and college football, NBA and college basketball, plus loads of tennis, golf, auto and horse racing. More recently, it has added such events as Wimbledon, the Masters and, starting next season, all the BCS football games. It seemed ESPN was trying to take over everything. So it was a surprise it didn't open up the checkbook for the NCAA basketball tournament, but it now means it has money, if it chooses, to make solid bids for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.
On ESPN's Sports Reporters, host John Saunders said: "Sidney Crosby has the Stanley Cup ring, the gold medal and currently leads the playoffs in scoring. But I truly believe Alex Ovechkin has done more to lift the profile of the NHL than any player since Wayne Gretzky.''
Saunders' reasoning is this: like Gretzky did in Los Angeles, Ovechkin has raised the profile of hockey in one city -- in this case, Washington, D.C. And, Saunders went on to explain, when the profile of a sport is raised in a big market, it brings more profile to the entire league. Based on that, it's hard to argue that Ovechkin has not had more impact than anyone playing right now. Still, until Ovechkin wins a Stanley Cup, rightly or wrongly, he will not be considered on the same level as Crosby.
Three questions that popped into my head
1. Who would've ever thought USF would have three players selected in an NFL draft before the first player from the University of Miami was selected?
2. Who would've ever thought USF would have five players drafted and that four Bulls would be taken before George Selvie. above?
3. Hey, Rays fans, who would you rather have starting at catcher, Dioner Navarro or John Jaso?