Shooting from the lip/Dec. 14
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
For 50 minutes, it was a lousy game to call, but I've never been a big fan of the two Fox analysts who called Sunday's Bucs-Redskins game — Daryl "Moose'' Johnston, top, and Tony "Goose'' Siragusa. Occasionally, they offer insight, but it's almost as if they stumble upon it by accident because both talk so much. When they are talking, it's usually scratch-the-surface, obvious stuff, even though both know more about the game than practically everyone listening. And why did they both act so stunned that the Redskins were able to run the ball? Didn't their game notes show that the Bucs came into the game ranked 26th in the NFL against the run?
And, what the heck was going on during the final Redskins drive? The graphics on the screen did not match the sideline marker, though it appeared that Fox had it right. The graphic was never fixed and viewers were under the impression that the Redskins were given a fifth down. Whether it was all right or wrong, Fox never addressed the confusion, even though the broadcasters were confused, too. It's something Fox should have jumped all over, even if it was done in a postgame show, especially because it has a full-time rules analyst.
The Heisman Trophy show has become tedious to watch because it takes 50 minutes to get to the actual announcement. It feels like going to a restaurant and having to wait an hour to get a table. Nevertheless, ESPN did a decent job filling time and, best of all, did not shy away from the controversy that surrounded ultimate winner Cam Newton of Auburn. Host Chris Fowler mentioned early in the broadcast that Newton's father was not at the ceremony, and ESPN aired a short interview asking Newton about allegations that he or his father asked for money to play college football. There was no need to dwell on it, but it couldn't be ignored, and ESPN handled it just right.
It didn't take long for Bright House Sports Network to get bitten for its decision to air a special "Prep Edition'' of the Sports Connection on Saturday nights. Just two weeks into the new show, the Gators on Saturday night announced Will Muschamp as their new football coach, one of the biggest local sports stories of the year. Instead of having the time to cover this major story -- the one thing that gives BHSN the leg up on the other local stations -- the Sports Connection was showing highlights from high school games played more than 24 hours earlier.
Most poignant moment
It might have been seen as hokey by some, but it was actually quite touching to hear Fox NFL Sunday analyst Terry Bradshaw close out the show by singing Turn Out the Lights, the Party's Over to honor the passing last week of former NFL quarterback and broadcaster "Dandy'' Don Meredith. That's the song Meredith used to sing when he called games on Monday Night Football in the 1970s and the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Best documentary, Part I
ESPN’s "30 for 30'' documentary series featured a fascinating look back at the rise and fall (and rise again) of the Southern Methodist University football program in Pony Excess. The title spins off the "Pony Express'' nickname the Mustangs earned in the early 1980s when running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James helped SMU rise to become one of the top programs in the country. But, it was soon learned that there was rampant cheating, with players being paid. The NCAA ultimately gave SMU the death penalty, shutting down the program for one season. The school added another year to that.
It was one of the most thoroughly researched and reported installments in the "30 for 30'' series. The most interesting part was just how severe the punishment crushed the program. It would, effectively, take 30 years for the program to get back on track. In the piece, longtime CBS broadcaster Verne Lundquist said, "My belief is the NCAA realizes what it had done to the SMU athletic program and will never administer the death penalty ever again.''
Best documentary, Part II
Packers coach Vince Lombardi has been an American sports legend for more than five decades, yet there were still new nuggets of information in HBO's outstanding documentary Lombardi, which made its debut Saturday night. More insightful than what Lombardi accomplished on the field was the look at his troubling personal life, including a frosty relationship with his two children and a wife who turned to alcohol. It was respectful, yet brutal in its honesty, and included a very touching ending.
Why does the NFL, CBS and the local CBS affiliate, Ch. 10, insist on showing us the Dolphins week after week when there are better games to bring us? On Sunday, instead of watching the much-anticipated Patriots-Bears showdown, we got Dolphins-Jets. Are they all under the impression that this is 1975 when the area was full of Dolphins fans? Most around here are Bucs fans. And of those who aren't, there are probably as many Steelers, Eagles, Bears and Giants fans as there are Dolphins fans. Maybe more. My guess is Tampa Bay has more people moving here from the north than from Miami. So why do we keep getting Dolphins games?
If you stayed up late to watch the Lightning-Canucks game Saturday night, you heard Sun Sports announcers Rick Peckham and Bobby "The Chief'' Taylor predicting the Lightning was in trouble despite leading 4-2 in the third period. Peckham even forewarned that the Lightning's "rope-a-dope'' style could spell trouble. Sure enough, the Canucks scored twice to send the game to overtime. I don't mention Peckham and Taylor enough in this column, mostly because both of them are consistently so good that you take them for granted.
Three things that popped into my head
1. NCAA football teams really need to think twice about this "coach-in-waiting'' position. Florida State did it, and it ended uncomfortably when longtime coach Bobby Bowden was pushed out of the door in favor of Jimbo Fisher. Now Texas is all in a tizzy because its coach-in-waiting, Will Muschamp, has left to take over for Urban Meyer at Florida. How about this idea? You have a coach and when he leaves or is fired, you go out and get another coach. That formula seemed to work well for the previous 100 years.
2. The Lightning and NHL old-timers are making too big of a deal about Oilers rookie Linus Omark doing a spin-o-rama on a shootout goal Friday. First, Omark did it before he took his shot, so it's not like he was showboating after a goal. And, second, the whole thing would've been moot if Lightning goalie Dan Ellis had stopped Omark's shot.
3. Best hustle of the weekend award goes to Fox, which had its cameras running inside Minnesota's Metrodome when the roof collapsed because of snow.