Shooting from the lip/Aug. 16th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports, including the Bucs preseason opener, CBS insisting that Tiger was in contention and why Little League baseball should NOT be on television ...
August is the worst month for sports on television. There's no NBA or NHL. Baseball’s pennants races are sorta, kinda heating up, but there are no must-win games or really critical series until September. The NFL has preseason football, but every preseason football game is fun for about five minutes and then turns into watching grass grow.
And, finally, the worst part is we're exposed to the Little League World Series, which has no business being on television. For every hero hitting a game-winning homer, there's a 12-year-old little boy who gave up the homer and is having the worst moment of his life on national television. It's exploitive and heartbreaking. These kids are under enough pressure that we shouldn't add to it by putting them on TV just for our entertainment. Then we wonder why athletes today showboat and act like prima donnas. Well, part of it is we put them on television when they are 12.
Oh, speaking of the Little League World Series, ESPN is running an ad from Dr. James Andrews, the arm surgeon, who talks about how he pushed for pitch-count limits for pitchers in the Little League and how to protect young arms and so forth. Then moments after the commercial, we go back to the game and see kids throwing curveball after curveball. Any coach who permits a 12-year-old to throw curveballs -- and I've personally seen it in this area -- is a horrible coach and an even worst parent. Shame on you.
Channel 8 produced a good broadcast for the Bucs' preseason opener in Miami on Saturday night. The best part was analyst John Lynch. You can tell he does his homework, talks to people and reads all the notes. Lynch didn't start strong, going a tad overboard talking about Bucs second-year quarterback Josh Freeman in the opening. Lynch said, "Amist all the turmoil of that 3-13 season last year, the Buccaneers found a franchise quarterback. The found an elite quarterback in this league for the next 15 years.''
Whoa, easy, big guy. Freeman has shown flashes and had a nice start Saturday, but Freeman's resume isn’t long enough to use words like "franchise'' and "elite'' just yet. But that aside, Lynch offered plenty of interesting analysis Saturday. Meantime, I'm not a fan of play-by-play announcer Chris Myers, whom shouldn't have been brought back because of his disparaging comments about New Orleans earlier this summer. Still, Myers was okay Saturday, and better than last year. If he can lose those painfully awful puns — "here’s mud in your eye'' and "kicking up a storm'' — then the rest of the Bucs' preseason should be watchable.
CBS opened its Saturday broadcast of the PGA Championship with a shot of Tiger Woods and host Jim Nantz saying, "Look who's in the mix.''
In the mix? Woods was tied for 21st at the time, seven shots out of the lead. Then came a shot of Phil Mickelson as Nantz said, "Mickelson also right there.'' Right there? He wasn't even in the top 25 at the time. In fact, three golfers were mentioned before viewers heard the name of Matt Kuchar, who was actually leading the tournament. Then, moments later, when Nantz and lead analyst Nick Faldo appeared on camera, they talked specifically about only two players -- Woods and Mickelson. It just goes to show you how much the networks desperately need Woods to be competitive. Even when he isn't, they make it sound like he is because they know that's what the viewers are most interested in.
Game of the week
There used to be a time when baseball's Game of the Week truly was a game of the week. It was one game shown on Saturday afternoon to 100 percent of the country. Nowadays, in an effort to boost ratings, Fox regionalizes its weekly "game.'' For example, Fox had three games on Saturday. The Cubs-Cards went out to 51 percent of the country, while the Rays-Orioles went out to 26 percent and Padres-Giants went out to 22 percent. It's always fun to see the local team on national television, but I'd rather have one Game of the Week with the network's best broadcasters and best technical crews and if isn't the local team, so what? I'll watch the local team on local television.
With Rays announcer Dewayne Staats teamed with analyst Mark Grace, Fox did a respectable job Saturday with only one nit: it would've been nice to see a replay of B.J. Upton being thrown out at home by Orioles' centerfield Adam Jones while tagging up on a fly ball. If nothing else, a runner being thrown out at home is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. However, kudos to Fox, Staats and Grace for breaking down through several replays how Upton pulled a rock on the bases when he missed third-base coach Tom Foley's stop sign and forced Gabe Kapler to keep running and be thrown out at home.
The Storm had a big playoff game Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum against the Orlando Predators. Problem was, the game was at the same time as the Bucs preseason opener on television from Miami. The Storm attendance was announced at 10,104. Wouldn't you assume that many people who watch Storm games are general football fans? And that most football fans around here are Bucs fans? And that many of those fans would be interested in seeing the Bucs' preseason opener? So why wouldn't the Storm move its game to the afternoon to avoid the conflict and, perhaps, draw a few more families with kids, too?
There are already enough stats and graphic boxes clogging up the TV screen during sporting events, but if you caught Saturday's NESN (New England Sports Network) broadcast of the Red Sox-Rangers game on MLB Network, there was one cool graphic that all networks (read: Sun Sports) should add. Crammed into the little box along with the score, inning, balls, strikes and outs, NESN adds number of pitches for the pitcher in the game. It gives viewers a great tool to see just how effective a pitcher is and, better yet, how much fuel he has left in his tank.
ESPN's Outside the Lines did such a simple piece that you wonder why no one had thought of it before. The show took two week's worth of Major League Baseball games and, excluding balls and strikes, found 230 incidents that were "close calls'' for the umpires. Of those 230, OTL determined that the umpires got the call right 66 percent of the time and got the call wrong 20 percent of the time. While many will focus on that 20 percent number, the most interesting number was this: despite all the camera technology, including super slo-mo and the ability to go frame-by-frame, 14 percent of the calls were "inconclusive.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. If I ate a cookie every time Sun Sports' Kevin Kennedy said the word "cookie'' during a Rays broadcast, I'd weigh about five bills right now. But, having said that, my respect and enjoyment of Kennedy's analysis have increased 10-fold over a season ago to the point where I think he's a good analyst.
2. With the way Jeremy Hellickson is pitching, there is no way you can take him out of the Rays rotation even when Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann return, can you?
3. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is calling first-round pick Patrick Robinson from FSU his "whipping boy.'' Anyone else out there think it's time to retire the phrase "whipping boy'' permanently from our vernacular?