Shooting from the lip/April 4th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
The Rays are off to a horrible start, but Sun Sports' Brian Anderson had a smashing weekend in his debut as the full-time television analyst.
Anderson has called 100 or so Rays games over the past three seasons and always has sounded comfortable in the booth. But now that the full-time gig is his, he sounds even more confident and relaxed. For starters, the camaraderie he has with play-by-play announcer Dewayne Staats is even better than Staats had with original Rays analyst Joe Magrane. Staats is a meat-and-potatoes announcer. (That's meant as a compliment.) But you can feel Staats hanging a bit looser with Anderson by his side. The two often crack up one another but not in a way that's annoying to the viewer because the audience is in on the jokes.
Meantime, Anderson educates while he entertains. He took no cheap shots. But he wasn't afraid to be critical of Rays players, showing he realizes his allegiance is to those of us watching at home, not the players on the field. Anderson criticized B.J. Upton for getting picked off second base Friday night with the Rays down four runs. Many analysts would have spent that moment whining about the umpires for failing to call what appeared to be obstruction when Upton became tangled with Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. Anderson did question the call but repeated that Upton cannot get picked off in that situation. That led to an interesting conversation with Staats on Saturday as the two debated the difference between being aggressive and being reckless.
Then Saturday, Anderson has his best moment when he wondered if Rays reliever Jake McGee wasn't going all-out when he gave up a three-run homer to Baltimore's Brian Roberts.
"This is a lesson learned for Jake McGee,'' Anderson said. "He was only going to face two batters, but he looked like he was pacing himself as if he was a starting pitcher. If you're only facing two batters, that's maybe 10 pitches. You've got to let it all hang out.''
Anderson pointed out that McGee is still just a kid who is learning how to pitch in the bigs. He was critical without embarrassing anyone.
Best of all, Anderson and Staats are enjoyable to listen to, and that's a good thing considering they are coming into our living rooms pretty much every day for the next five months.
Speaking of the humor provided by Rays announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson, a story came up Sunday, which was Family Fun Day at Tropicana Field, about pitcher Hippo Vaughn, who pitched during the early 1900s. Staats and Anderson giggled their way through a story about how Vaughn was once stabbed by his father-in-law. Staats then cracked, "Just a story for Family Fun Day.''
Interesting to watch the commercials promoting the upcoming Masters golf tournament. CBS's ads have that sappy piano music with a shot of the magnolias swaying in the breeze and the hushed tone of Jim Nantz saying, "A tradition unlike any other … the Masters.'' Meantime, ESPN's ads feature rapid-fire edits with golfers hitting shots and pumping fists and crowds going crazy. Think that says something about the target audiences of CBS and ESPN?
Steve Kerr has been a welcome voice on CBS's Final Four coverage. In the past, Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg have handled the Final Four alone, but Kerr joined them Saturday and will be alongside the two for tonight's championship game. Kerr has taken half the load off Kellogg, who is a decent announcer but often struggles to carry the analyst job by himself. Kerr not only gives Kellogg a break, but the two seem to play well off one another. It also didn't hurt that both games Saturday remained close until the final moments.
Most touching story
Sarah Rinaldi is one of the finest sports producers in the business, and her work highlighted the weekend. Rinaldi produced a heartbreaking yet inspiring piece for CBS's Final Four preview show on Saturday about the bond among college basketball coaches Billy Donovan of the Gators and former assistants Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey. The three, along with their wives, each lost children in childbirth. The three children are buried next to each other at a cemetery in Gainesville. While tragic, the story showed how much support and strength the couples have gained from one another. And it showed there are far more important matters in this world than the outcome of a basketball game. Outstanding storytelling by Rinaldi.
Nick Charles, best known for his sports anchor work in the early days of CNN, has Stage 4 bladder cancer and doesn't expect to live much longer. Recently, Charles, 64, gave an interview in Sports Illustrated saying he only wished he could call one more boxing match before he died. Even though Charles used to call boxing on Showtime, it was HBO that granted the wish. Rick Bernstein, executive producer for HBO boxing, saw the SI interview and invited Charles to call a fight last weekend on HBO's Boxing After Dark. Classy move by HBO.
Three more TV thoughts
1. Sun Sports' Rays productions are first-rate, especially the replays, graphics and camera angles. (The overhead camera is superb.) Although it might be nice if Sun Sports added a pitch count like many regional networks such as YES (Yankees) and NESN (Red Sox) have.
2. Golf Channel does a good job with event coverage, but it's a shame a women’s major such as this past weekend's Kraft Nabisco Championship gets no major network air time.
3. ESPN's coverage of the women's Final Four -- studio, game and postgame -- might have been even more impressive and comprehensive than CBS's coverage of the men's Final Four.
Three things that popped into my head
1. While March Madness has been totally mad and fun, tonight's final between a No. 8 seed, Butler, and a No. 3 seed, UConn, which went 9-9 in the Big East, as well as a No. 11 seed, Virginia Commonwealth, making the Final Four just goes to show you college basketball's regular season is somewhat insignificant.
2. Not too long ago, it looked as if the Lightning's Steven Stamkos might be the MVP of the NHL. Now you could make a case that he isn't even the best player on his team. That's not a knock on Stamkos, but an acknowledgement of just how good Marty St. Louis has been. In fact, St. Louis should pick up a few MVP votes.
3. Kentucky coach John Calipari has forgotten more basketball than I know. But here's a suggestion: Spend a few minutes each day having your team practice free throws. If Coach Cal's teams could make them, he might be going for his third national title tonight instead of sitting at home with none.