Shooting from the lip/Feb. 1
Looking back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports ...
One of the most enjoyable annual events has become the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s "Hockey Day in Canada,'' which was covered Saturday on the NHL Network. The all-day event celebrates what hockey means to Canadians and has become practically a national holiday in the Great White North. This year's event was based in Stratford, Ontario, home of former Lightning player Tim Taylor, who was featured prominently in the broadcast. Besides showing three games featuring the six Canadian NHL teams, CBC aired interviews and features from all across Canada -- from little towns to big cities, from frozen ponds to state-of-the-art arenas, from youth and senior leagues to the NHL. CBC showed that hockey is more than a sport to Canadians. It's a way of life, something that unites Canadians of all ages, religions, classes and races. And every year, it dawns on me that someone in the United States should start such a day. Of course, Americans don't have the same passion for hockey, but they do have a passion for football and baseball.
How about "Football Day in America?'' ESPN, or even one of the major networks, could carve out a fall day in October or November and anchor its coverage with three games -- high school, college and NFL. Between games, the network could run features from places where football is practically a religion, such as Texas, western Pennsylvania and southern Georgia.
I'm not even Canadian and I could feel the sense of national pride Canadians must have felt Saturday during "Hockey Day in Canada.'' It would be great for Americans to have that same feeling watching something like "Football Day in America.''
Thumbs up to CBS. NBC and the Golf Channel started their golf coverage earlier this year by avoiding talk about Tiger Woods, but CBS hit the subject head on. Minutes into its first coverage of the year Saturday from Torrey Pines, hosts Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo discussed Woods' absence from the PGA Tour, when he might return and what kind of player he will be when he does. Faldo said what has long been known in the golf world but is rarely uttered on the air: Woods is rather thin-skinned.
"He's very sensitive to even just criticism,'' Faldo said. "No, more than criticism, even just comments. I think this is going to play a very important factor for him because he now has to get back on the golf course and be comfortable with himself with so much going on.''
Neither Nantz or Faldo said anything earth-shattering, but give them credit for at least talking about Woods.
More interesting golf coverage
Not only did CBS address the Tiger Woods controversy, it asked Phil Mickelson about fellow player Scott McCarron accusing him of cheating by using a wedge that was grandfathered in for a PGA Tour rule change that went into effect this year. Mickelson responded by saying he felt "slandered'' by McCarron and hinted he could seek legal action. One other thing about CBS's coverage: In its opening, it showed several stars -- Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim -- but it did not use a shot of Woods.
Mitch Albom, on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday: "One lousy pass may be all Brett Favre might think about for months. The question is, can he live with the world thinking about it forever?''
Kelly Naqi's piece about former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth's disabled son on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday drew tears, inspiration and outrage. Carruth is serving prison time for hiring someone to kill the woman who was pregnant with his child in November 1999. The woman died, but the child, a boy, was saved with an emergency Caesarean section. However, the boy, now 10, was born with cerebral palsy because of a lack of oxygen at the time of his birth, a result of the shooting. The piece was powerful, showing the worst of mankind and the best, in the boy's maternal grandmother, who is optimistically raising the child, and the child, who is working hard to walk and communicate.
ABC's Magic Johnson talking to Lakers coach Phil Jackson during the network's NBA coverage Sunday. It wasn't that Magic asked great questions (although he did a better job than usual), but that Jackson gave great answers. After all this time -- 19 seasons as a coach and 10 NBA titles -- Jackson said that what continues to drive him is helping players mature and develop, and watching teams grow and improve as the season progresses.
Thought of the day
Last week I had a chance to chat with former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who wrapped up his first season with ESPN on Sunday at the Pro Bowl. Gruden has signed a multiyear extension with ESPN, and though it's possible he had no intention of revealing to me what he really wants to do next, I got the feeling that Gruden is in no hurry to return to coaching. That's not to say he won’t coach again. Bet the mortgage that he will. It's just that he seems content for the time being and really isn't thinking about when or where he might coach again.
On Sunday's ESPN Sports Reporters, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica pulled out an interesting name when talking about Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and his apparent struggle to become an NFL quarterback, especially after Tebow struggled in Saturday's Senior Bowl. Lupica compared Tebow to former basketball player Christian Laettner. While at Duke in the early 1990s, Laettner often looked like one of the best college players ever. And though he played 13 seasons in the NBA, averaged 12 points a game and made an All-Star team, Laettner never turned into the NBA star many thought he could be.
Now, most seem to doubt that Tebow will be a star quarterback in the NFL and will have to either switch positions or become a hybrid wildcat formation player.
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, while reacting to Lupica’s comments, said, "You want Tim Tebow to make it because he has this attitude of 'I'll just outwork everybody.' But everybody is working hard in the NFL. It often isn't enough to just have that college attitude.''
NBC's Truth in Motion: The U.S. Ski Team's Road to Vancouver was a cool behind-the-curtain look that showed how frightening Olympic skiing can be and how close the competition is to make the team. The best moments were of Sarah Schleper, who returned to skiing after a two-year absence because of injury and having a baby that wasn't planned.