Shooting from the lip/Feb. 11 edition
The latest from the world of televised sports ...
Coverage of the day
If you have watched Versus' NHL coverage this week, you've seen some new things that, actually, look familiar. NBC, whose merger with Comcast last week means it now owns Versus, is bringing its hockey approach to Versus. Essentially, Versus' coverage now looks like NBC's critically acclaimed hockey coverage.
Besides having NBC announcers Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire calling games occasionally as well as having NBC studio analyst Mike Milbury in the studio, the most noticeable change is having an analyst located at ice level between the two benches. Brian Engblom, who had been a studio analyst for Versus, is moving to a new role between the benches and made his debut there Tuesday night for the Lightning-Sabres game in Tampa.
"I love the concept,'' Engblom said. "And it works perfectly for me because I've always been a 'feel' guy when it comes to calling a game, and there's no better place to get a feel of a game than at ice level.''
NBC introduced the ice-level analyst a few years ago, and the vantage point brings a whole new perspective, even for broadcasters who have been around the game a long time such as Engblom, who spent a dozen years playing and the past 18 as a broadcaster.
"It's great for all of us Monday morning quarterbacks,'' Engblom said. "The game looks so much slower and wide open when you're sitting up in the press box. But when you're down there, you're reminded of how quick everything is and how big the players are these days. We sit up top, and we rip a guy for making a bad pass. But when you're at ice level, you can sometimes understand why things like that happen. You say, 'How can a guy make that pass? Didn't he see that (opponent)?' At ice level, you realize, no, he couldn't see that (opponent). It really does give the analyst a great perspective, and he can pass that perspective along to the viewer.''
The NHL's cable contract with Versus and its network deal with NBC is up after the season, and it's believed other outlets are interested in the NHL. However, don't be surprised if the NHL extends its contracts with NBC and Versus, especially now that NBC has beefed up Versus' coverage while it negotiates with the NHL.
NBC and Versus are working on a deal that would allow them to keep the NHL for at least another four years. That looks to be a good thing for the NHL considering how much NBC seems dedicated to covering hockey.
Plans of the day
Good news for fans of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. CBS and Turner Sports unveiled their plans Thursday for covering it this season and announced every single game can be seen from start to finish. To make that happen, the games will be spread out over four channels: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS will carry 26 games (including all three Final Four games) while TBS will show 16, truTV 13 and TNT 12. Meanwhile, starting times will be staggered so fewer games overlap. There still could be several games being played at one time. But ideally, viewers will have a better opportunity to flip to the final few minutes of most games instead of choosing to watch just one.
In addition, look for later starting times on the weekends, especially the first Saturday and Sunday of the tournament.
Overreaction of the day
Did you see Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez being hand-fed popcorn by his actor-girlfriend Cameron Diaz while sitting in a suite during Fox's coverage of the Super Bowl? Well, apparently, A-Rod is ticked off at Fox, believing it was waiting for such a moment to show him on camera. Fox Sports spokesman Dan Bell told New York's Newsday he wasn’t aware Rodriguez was upset but added Fox did not intend to make him look bad.
"These shots are purely random and were just used to show the audience all of the unique personalities who were in attendance,'' Bell said. "Alex has been nothing but tremendously gracious and cooperative to us throughout the years on our (baseball) coverage, and we would never do anything to jeopardize that relationship.''
For starters, how does having Cameron Diaz feed you popcorn make you look … bad? Second, you're Alex Rodriguez. You're dating Cameron Diaz. You go to the Super Bowl. You're sitting in a luxury box. There's a pretty decent chance you're going to be on television at some point. If you're worried about how you're going to look on TV, maybe it's best to stay home.
Apology of the day
CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms apologized for his dustup Saturday with ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard. Simms and Howard had words at the Super Bowl because Simms was upset Howard made disparaging on-air remarks about Simms' son Matt, a quarterback at Tennessee. The story gained traction after Howard talked about the incident via Twitter.
"I'm sorry it happened,'' Simms told radio host Chris "Maddog'' Russo. "I really am. Even if it remained private, there's still nothing to be gained.''
Sport of the day
According to USA Today, TNT and ESPN are on track to make the 2010-11 NBA season cable's most-watched NBA season ever. TNT is averaging close to 2 million viewers a game while ESPN is averaging about 1.7 million viewers. Meantime, ABC is averaging 8.1 million viewers a game, a 33 percent increase over a year ago. Why are ratings up? The best guess is the Heat, with new addition LeBron James, has become a top draw for all of the networks. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Heat has become a team basketball fans want to see.
Comedian of the day
Stand-up comedian, actor and former Saturday Night Live cast member Norm MacDonald will host a new sports show on Comedy Central. The show, Sports Show With Norm MacDonald, will feature MacDonald cracking jokes and generally giving his opinion about sports in front of a live studio audience. Comedy Central has dialed up eight episodes for a show that is expected to debut in April.
Hall of Famer of the day
The World Golf Hall of Fame announced that former CBS Sports producer Frank Chirkinian will be inducted May 9 for lifetime achievement. Chirkinian was elected in an emergency vote when it was learned he is undergoing treatment for advanced lung cancer. Golf fans likely have never heard of Chirkinian, but they certainly know his work. A golf producer at CBS from 1969-96, Chirkinian is credited with placing microphones on the tee boxes and using blimp shots -- two standard features of any televised PGA Tour event these days.
Three things that popped into my head
1. The Cavaliers have lost 26 games in a row to tie the 1976-77 Bucs for the longest losing streak in North American pro sports. Their next two games are at home: tonight against the Clippers (20-32 and 4-18 on the road) and Sunday against the Wizards (14-37 and 0-25 on the road). If they can't win one of those two, you start wondering if they'll win again this season.
2. Penguins star Sidney Crosby says he's not sure he will be back again this season because of concussion problems. That's bad for the NHL and awful for the Penguins but not so bad for the rest of the Eastern Conference, including the Lightning. Still, even if you're a Lightning fan, you should hope he returns soon because of what he means to hockey.
3. Jerry Sloan stepped down Thursday after 23 seasons as the Jazz's coach. Think about that. Shaquille O'Neal was 15 when Sloan took over the Jazz. LeBron James was 3, and Kevin Durant wasn't even born.