Shooting from the lip/Dec. 28
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Regardless of what one thinks of ESPN -- and the network does have its detractors -- no one can deny how well it covers a big story. Its execution of the developments surrounding Gators football coach Urban Meyer throughout the weekend was unrivaled and to be respected by all.
As soon as word broke Saturday night that Meyer was resigning, ESPN went into fifth gear. ESPNews' nonstop coverage, featuring analysis and interviews from all corners of college football, was must-see TV, as was SportsCenter throughout the weekend. While the media had to make due Saturday night with a statement from Meyer released by the school, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit was talking to Meyer, then relaying that conversation on the air. On Sunday, it was ESPN's Chris Mortensen who first broke the story that Meyer was not resigning but taking a leave of absence.
More outstanding commentary could be seen before and after Meyer's news conference Sunday. The weekend again proved that if there is a major breaking story, sports fans' first instinct should be, and usually is, turning on ESPN.
Here's why Lightning analyst Bobby "The Chief'' Taylor is so good: With the Lightning leading Atlanta 4-2 late in the third period Saturday night, Taylor warned that Tampa Bay couldn't afford to make any of those cute, fancy passes near the Atlanta blue line. Sure enough, within seconds, the Lightning's Marty St. Louis turned the puck over at the Atlanta blue line with a soft pass, and the result was a Thrashers goal.
"That's exactly what I was talking about!'' Taylor said. And he was exactly right. Any analyst can tell you what just happened. The good ones tell you something before it happens.
Each year, HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel does a year-in-review show. Last year was an example of how not to do it as Gumbel and his correspondents spent a nauseating hour patting themselves on the back and talking about how good the show is and how important they are. This year, they did it the right way. They simply reviewed their stories, showed highlights and let viewers see for themselves just how good the show is.
Real Sports is a little full of itself, which is probably what allows it to shoot so high and be so consistently good. However, it's more enjoyable when the show simply lets the outstanding work speak for itself.
Best walk down memory lane
Remember that show Greatest Sports Legends? The syndicated half-hour show aired from 1973 to 1993, usually on a Saturday afternoon, and featured, well, the greatest legends in sports with a review of their careers and insightful interviews usually conducted while the athletes were doing something active, such as shooting baskets or playing catch. Over the weekend, a "best-of'' show aired, bringing back memories of hosts such as Tom Seaver, George Plimpton, Ken Howard and Jayne Kennedy and countless athletes, including memorable episodes about Pele, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The most interesting bit of the retrospective was an emotional Kennedy revealing how Celtics star Bill Russell, who had refused to do the show for years, agreed to an interview with her because he felt it was important for Kennedy to succeed in broadcasting.
-- Jimmy Johnson, Fox NFL analyst, talking about the Vikings quarterback's disagreement with coach Brad Childress over coming out of a game last week.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had some provocative comments about the NBA playing games on Christmas Day. He suggested that the league take a holiday break because people should be doing other things on Christmas instead of watching sports. And Van Gundy has a point. No one feels sorry for millionaire athletes working over the holidays, but think of all the front-office folks, arena workers and media people who have to work on Christmas because the NBA is playing.
But having said all that, it's actually smart business by the NBA to play on Christmas. The NHL shuts down Dec. 24 and 25, there is only one college bowl game, and the NFL doesn't play unless Christmas falls on a Sunday. (There was one NFL game Friday night.)
So it's a perfect opportunity for the NBA to get some of the exposure it misses out on in the fall because sports fans are engrossed in pro and college football. The day is loaded with marquee match-ups, and I must admit that after the presents were opened Friday, I spent much of the day checking in and out on the five NBA games that were televised. It's hard to argue with Van Gundy, but just like football on Thanksgiving, the NBA on Christmas is becoming a tradition.
The last we saw, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was being cheered in the Bronx, while former major-leaguers such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to be vilified. Isn't it funny that we have actual proof that A-Rod cheated, and yet A-Rod's use of performance-enhancing drugs seems to be, as ESPN Sports Reporters' host John Saunders said, "forgotten and forgiven.''
Saunders had the most interesting comments of the show, adding: "The faces of the steroid era continue to be Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. Why? Because voluntary or not, their careers are over -- careers that seemed automatic for the Hall of Fame now destined to be punished. So why does A-Rod receive a pass? Because he's still playing. He's still giving fans reasons to cheer. The moral of this story is if you’re going to cheat, do it while you can still produce.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. So Urban Meyer was the Gators coach yesterday and he is the coach today and thinks he will be the coach tomorrow and next season. So, what exactly happened over the weekend?
2. You know, he doesn’t get the attention he used to get, but CBS's Dan Dierdorf is still a darn good broadcaster.
3. Hey, two weeks in a row and no mention of Tiger Woods.