Shooting from the lip/Dec. 3rd edition
Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports ...
Announcers of the day
Dan Shulman is about to become the signature voice of ESPN. The Toronto native already calls the marquee college basketball games on the network with Dick Vitale, and he has been doing baseball during the week since 2002, in addition to NBA games. Now, as expected, he has been named as the replacement for Jon Miller as the play-by-play announcer on Sunday Night Baseball. Analyst Joe Morgan, like Miller, is out after 21 years on Sunday Night Baseball. Orel Hershiser, who was the third man in the Sunday night booth last season, and Bobby Valentine will make up the rest of the announcing team on Sunday nights.
Shulman was the logical choice, and a good one, although I hope ESPN gave serious consideration to Sean McDonough, one of the more underrated broadcasters in sports. And Shulman should work well in a crowded booth with Hershiser and Valentine. By working with the talkative and excitable Vitale, Shulman has proven that he can get out of the way of his analysts and give them room to do what they do.
Speaking of his new partners, Shulman said, "If there are two smarter people in baseball, I don't know who they are.''
Actually, the two smartest analysts in baseball now work for TBS: Ron Darling and John Smoltz. But Hershiser and Valentine are welcome additions after 21 years of Morgan, who came off as a know-it-all about the sport but seemed unprepared for the actual teams he was watching. Maybe familiarity bred contempt with the viewers, but Morgan actually became dislikable. Hershiser and Valentine know their stuff, and the guess is they won't try to one-up each other. Look for a little more light-heartedness than Miller and Morgan provided. And, best of all, Hershiser and Valentine are likable. They seem like guys you won’t mind listening to three hours at a time.
Meantime, ESPN's radio booth for Sunday Night Baseball has a change, as well. Chris Singleton, who played for the Rays in 2005, will be the new analyst, replacing Dave Campbell. That's too bad because Campbell is one of the better baseball analysts out there. Jon Sciambi returns as the play-by-play announcer.
Show of the day
Bright House Sports Network is shaking things up. Instead of airing the usual Sports Connection show at 11 p.m. Saturday , it will debut a new weekly show that features high school sports, with Drew Fellios as host and former Olympic swimmer Brooke Bennett on analysis. It technically still will be the Sports Connection, but the Saturday editions will focus only on high schools. The show will repeat at 11:30 p.m. The decision to take the network's signature show and turn it, essentially, into a completely different show once a week seems odd, especially on a Saturday night when college and professional sports are so prevalent. This Saturday, for example, viewers watching Sports Connection will not see highlights from the day in college football, including the USF regular-season finale and FSU's appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Viewers also will not see a preview of Sunday's Bucs-Falcons showdown or highlights from the Lightning game. Instead, they will see features, highlights and reports on just preps. Perhaps Saturday’s ratings for the Sports Connection were low enough that it's worth trying something new. BHSN's latest slogan, "Keeping It Local,'' indicates a shift to concentrating more on local sports, especially at the high school level. The next sign of that shift can be seen Saturday nights.
Line of the day
"He must have been playing basketball against a Republican. You can't hurt the president. It was either a Republican or one of those Tea Party idiots.''
— TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley, on Lopez Tonight, talking about President Barack Obama recently getting 12 stitches after being injured in a pickup basketball game.
Coverage of the day
Good news for those in desperate need of a baseball fix. The MLB Network will offer live coverage from the winter meetings in Orlando next week. Special live editions of the Hot Stove show will run off and on beginning at 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. The shows will be anchored by Greg Amsinger and Chris Rose with analysis from Peter Gammons, Kevin Millar, Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams. Throughout the three days, the show also will air segments on the history of the winter meetings and, of course, the main event: trades and free agent signings.
Good guy of the day
E. Gordon Gee, the Ohio State president who slammed Boise State and TCU for not playing strong enough schedules to compete for a national championship, turned the tables on himself Thursday. He essentially told himself to shut up. Maybe his comments came after he learned that Boise, according to Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings, has played the 62nd toughest schedule in the country while Ohio State has played the 64th.
But Gee did a pretty good (and funny) job of knocking himself. He told the Columbus Dispatch, "I need to keep my mouth closed. … What do I know about college football? I look like Orville Redenbacher. I have no business talking about college football.''
* CBS lead NFL analyst Phil Simms is on injured reserve this week. He is recovering from back surgery and won't be able to call the Raiders-Chargers game. Dan Fouts will join Jim Nantz for the call. Simms is expected to be back on Dec. 12.
* Interesting special on the SMU football team is coming to ESPN. Back in the early 1980s, SMU was known for its "Pony Express'' backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James, but then it became known for a massive scandal that ended with the program getting the death penalty. The story of the rise, fall and, ultimately, rebirth of the SMU football program airs Dec. 11 at 9 p.m.
* CBS is believed to be making progress on renewing its broadcast deal with the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The current deal runs out after next year's Open. CBS has broadcast the U.S. Open since 1968.
Three things that popped into my head
1. American soccer fans are disappointed that the 2022 FIFA World Cup is not coming here, but really, can you blame FIFA for not giving the World Cup to a country that has never really embraced soccer?
2. Know what I'm sick of? Throwback uniforms. Teams do it to make money, of course, because fans will buy up replicas. But it has gone from being a once-in-a-great-while cool idea to a too-frequent, annoying gimmick.
3. Who wishes more that Dominique Jones stayed for another year of college: USF or Jones, who is now playing in the NBA D-League?