Shooting from the lip/April 30th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Every time I write something nice about Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver, I get a bunch of emails and phone calls telling me I'm full of beans. I don't get it. I think McCarver is really good. His worst flaw is when he says something and turns out to be right, he likes to remind us he was right. But, heck, we all have a little bit of that in us.
But let's go back to Saturday's Fox coverage of the Brewers and Cardinals. The Cardinals had just walked in a run in the top of the sixth to tie the score at 3 and Milwaukee starting pitcher Marco Estrada came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. Immediately, McCarver and partner Joe Buck questioned Brewers manager Ron Roenicke for not pinch-hitting, and both men turned out to be exactly right. Estrada struck out and then gave up two runs in the bottom of the inning. The Cardinals went on to win 7-3.
Hey, anyone can second-guess a manager after the fact. Give McCarver and Buck credit for doing it before they knew how things would turn out.
Oh, one other thing about McCarver. During Saturday's game, a couple of Cardinals baserunners were wearing a protective pad that looked like an oversized oven mitt. Nice job by McCarver to point out that the gloves were much bigger than the normal hand and might give the runner an advantage of a couple of inches when diving hand-first on a bang-bang play on the bases.
People love to criticize ESPN. Viewers like to do it. Other networks like to do it. Media critics love to do it. And, yeah sure, the network occasionally blurs the lines of integrity, and they do love to promote themselves.
But, doggone it, how can you watch the NFL draft and not appreciate simply how much work the network puts into such an event? It's quite staggering even to imagine how many people must put in endless time to produce hour upon hour of first-rate TV. Within seconds of hundreds of picks, ESPN dials up highlight packages and a bevy of graphics. Meantime, the countless analysts add expert breakdowns of the strengths and weaknesses of each player, as well as why the teams selected that player. The coverage is seamless and complete. And astonishingly so.
You know, if ESPN wants to promote itself, I'd rather see a behind-the-scenes look at exactly how the draft shows are put together rather than some silly promotion of one of its personalities. It would be way more interesting. And impressive, for that matter.
News of the season-ending and playoff-altering injury to Bulls guard Derrick Rose was barely an hour old when ESPN analyst Jalen Rose made a point that other analysts echoed for the rest of the weekend.
"I call this the lockout fallout,'' said Rose, referring to a compacted NBA schedule because of the lockout before the season. Many teams played 66 games in 123 days, and Rose pointed out how several players, including Derrick Rose, Orlando's Dwight Howard, Atlanta's Al Horford and Minnesota's Ricky Rubio, all suffered major injuries.
"These players,'' Rose continued, "had a compressed season and now their bodies are breaking down.''
At first, I didn't care for ABC's NBA studio setup this season with a roundtable of analysts, including Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jon Barry and Chris Broussard. There was no real host, and the conversation seemed to ramble and meander with no point guard, so to speak.
But the show has found its stride. Wilbon seems to have taken over as the host, although he isn't a traditional host. He gives more opinions than most hosts, but that's fine because his opinions are interesting. Now the show has a steady rhythm and each segment appears to have a purpose, and that has turned the show into solid TV.
See, here's why I like ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy so much. Here's what he said during Sunday’s Lakers-Nuggets game: "I think ESPN should create a documentary on Kobe Bryant's footwork. It wouldn't be well-received by the masses, but I sure would enjoy it.''
It was a great way to grab the attention of the viewer and then he went on to explain what was so good about Bryant's footwork. That's outstanding, people.
Speaking of outstanding in the Lakers-Nuggets game, there was an interesting moment late in the third quarter with the Nuggets down by 14. Wired for sound, Denver coach George Karl was heard scolding his team to try harder, not for Sunday's game, but to see if his game plan even had a chance of working later in the series. What a moment of insight.
Check it out
This sounds good: NBC will air a documentary in June featuring Jack Nicklaus' first major championship 50 years ago at the 1962 U.S. Open. Jack's First Major is expected to air June 17 on NBC before the network's final-round coverage of the U.S. Open. Ross Greenburg, the former head of HBO Sports who is now at NBC, is in charge of the one-hour film. Nicklaus was only 22 when he beat Arnold Palmer on Palmer's "home'' course at Oakmont outside of Pittsburgh. Next month, Greenburg, Nicklaus and Palmer will return to Oakmont and walk the course for interviews that will run during the documentary.
Predictions of the day
The Sports Emmys, recognizing the best in television sports broadcasting, will be held Monday night in New York. Here are my personal picks:
NBC's Bob Costas should win best sports host. NBC hockey announcer Mike Emrick should win for best play-by-play announcer. (What a joy listening to him call Sunday's OT thriller between the Devils and Flyers.)
ESPN College GameDay's Kirk Herbstreit should be named best studio analyst, although I wouldn't mind seeing ESPN's Trent Dilfer win it. And top game analyst? Well, personally I think this category is a farce because ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is not even nominated, even though there's no better game analyst out there. Of those who are nominated, NBC NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth would be my choice.
In all, 33 Emmy awards will be handed out. In addition, the legendary Jack Whitaker, 87, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Three thing that popped into my head
1. How cool is it that the Rays are so consistently good these days that it's no longer a big deal when they're on national television, as they were Sunday night when they visited the Rangers for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball?
2. If I'm the Lightning, I'm definitely interested in trying to get Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. But if I'm the Bruins, I'm not sure I'm interested in helping another Eastern Conference team such as the Lightning improve itself.
3. Now that the Bulls will be without Derrick Rose for the rest of the season, the Heat should win the NBA title. But, oddly enough, the one team that seems to give the Heat fits is Boston, which also won't have deal with Rose this postseason, provided it can get past the Hawks.