Shooting from the lip/Aug. 20th edition
The latest from the world of televised sports ...
Sport of the day
Mixed martial arts remains an enigma on the sports landscape. Younger generations, particularly men, embrace it as the best sport ever, the ultimate contest of strength and individual competition. Older generations see it as a brutal sport too violent for public consumption, nothing more than human cockfighting. Mainstream newspapers and magazines for the most part have not covered it but also haven't ignored it, either. And mainstream television still doesn't know what to do with it.
Thats why Thursday's news of a contract between Fox and Ultimate Fighting Championship is so interesting. The seven-year deal includes four live events to be broadcast in prime time on Fox as well as four to six live events on Fox's cable network FX. FX also will carry extensive UFC programming, including live cards and highlight shows.
While other networks have tried MMA on for size, such as CBS's experiment with Strikeforce, this Fox-UFC deal should determine whether MMA can make it on network television (and be considered a major sport) or if it will be relegated to pay-per-view or deep-numbered cabled stations (and be considered a niche or cult sport). That's because Fox appears committed to giving MMA an honest chance, and UFC is the biggest and best of the MMA associations. In the past, Fox has shown innovation and commitment when carrying sports for the first time. Think the NHL. Think NASCAR. Think baseball. Expect the same with MMA. The question now is if mainstream sports fans are ready to accept MMA as they do, say, the NBA.
"I've always said that the UFC will be the biggest sport in the world,'' UFC president Dana White said. "And with this relationship, it will become a reality.''
By the way, just to put their money where their mouths are, Fox and UFC are coming out throwing a haymaker. The first card on Fox will be Nov. 12, the same night as the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manueal Marquez boxing match on pay-per-view.
Rant of the day
Time for my annual rant about the Little League World Series being on national television. Here's hoping the kids enjoy it and a good time is had by all, but don't expect me to watch it. I refuse. If it were up to me, it would be banned from television.
For every little hero, there's a goat who gives up that winning homer or makes the error that costs his team the game. The worst and most embarrassing moment in the life of a 12-year-old boy -- and let's remind ourselves again that these are children -- is on national television simply for our amusement. No one can convince me this isn't exploitative and disgusting.
I've heard all the rationalizations about how the kids enjoy being on TV and adversity teaching life lessons and so forth. But I've also seen stories about how kids -- even those who have had success -- have been negatively affected by putting these games on TV. If just one kid is affected negatively, that's one too many.
Shame on ABC and ESPN for showing it. Shame on Little League for allowing it. And shame on you if you watch it.
Advice of the day
CBS's coverage of last weekend's PGA Championship might have been the worst of a major golf tournament in recent memory.
Who knows what CBS -- those in charge of CBS Sports and those directly involved in the broadcast -- thought, but you would hope everyone involved sat down in the days following the tournament and watched and critiqued themselves. The guess is that didn't happen. The guess also is it never occurred to anyone involved with the broadcast that it might have been subpar.
The production was fine, but the broadcasters were on autopilot, rarely offering anything the viewer couldn't see for himself. It was too much looking back and not enough looking forward. That brings us specifically to Gary McCord and David Feherty.
Let's get something straight first: They are good announcers. Having said that, both have reputations for being highly opinionated, extremely funny and outrageously irreverent, reputations I'm not sure are entirely deserved. Lately you get the feeling McCord and Feherty have bought into what people say about them and spend too much time on the air trying to be nutty or glib. What you end up finding is way more insight from analysts such as CBS's Nick Faldo or, the best of them all, NBC's Johnny Miller, while McCord and Feherty are trying out one-liners.
I want to like McCord and Feherty because, after all, they are willing to stick their necks out more often than most sports analysts. They don't mind ruffling feathers. They put the viewer ahead of everyone else, and that's the key to being a good broadcaster. But you can't help but wonder if they've gotten a tad lazy in their approach because they believe they have this broadcasting thing licked.
Here’s hoping both take a moment to look back at last weekend’s work and rededicate themselves starting with this weekend’s tournament. Both have too much talent to let it go to waste because of hubris.
The University of Miami scandal has many wondering if the NCAA will institute the "death penalty'' and shut down the football program for a year. Football's only death penalty has been Southern Methodist being shut down in 1987 and 1988. The SMU case was the subject of last year's ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Pony Excess, and it's worth remembering something said in that film in the wake of the Miami allegations. It took about 30 years for SMU to become competitive again, which led CBS broadcaster Verne Lundquist to say, "My belief is the NCAA realizes what it had done to the SMU athletic program and will never administer the death penalty ever again.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. Have you noticed that every major college sports scandal seems to be broken by Yahoo Sports? If I was a major college football program and a Yahoo guy showed up on my campus, I think I might start popping Tums.
2. The Rays aren't going to make the postseason. But with their pitching, they are one team no one, especially the Red Sox, would want to face in a seven-game series.
3. I'm not saying the Brewers are pulling any funny business at home. But it is kind of odd they are 47-16 at home and 26-36 on the road.