Shooting from the lip/Feb. 15 edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Most controversial coverage
The death of Georgia luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run early Friday cast a somber mood over NBC's coverage of the Winter Games opening ceremony, but the network opened its broadcast Friday night with exceptional coverage of the tragedy. The network made the controversial decision to show the accident. It was more newsworthy than gratuitous as it showed viewers how the accident occurred and gave viewers a sense of what went wrong. NBC did warn viewers before airing the footage.
NBC bobsled analyst John Morgan, who watched his brother die in a bobsled accident in 1981, talked about Kumaritashvili's age (21) and inexperience as if that was the reason he crashed and died. Morgan went on to say that he worried about the lugers not ranked among the top 13 in the world. But the NBC report pointed out how dangerous the track was and that even the top lugers had crashed in training runs. Some lugers suggested the track was a disaster waiting to happen and that they felt they were "crash-test dummies.'' While Morgan is an authority and has a unique perspective, talking about Kumaritashvili's inexperience made it seem as if he was blaming the victim and not holding the track or International Olympic Committee responsible at all. It should be noted that the IOC also blamed Kumaritashvili for the crash and wrote that there "was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.''
But as Mike Lupica pointed out on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday, "If the track was okay, how come they had to build a new wall and how come they got the men starting from where the women are starting?''
All Olympic opening ceremonies are a mixed bag. Some stuff is cool. Some is boring. All depends on your taste. Often the commentary comes off sounding like a holiday parade with corny jokes and schmaltzy remarks. But NBC's solid booth of Bob Costas and Matt Lauer wisely stuck to a mission statement that "less is better.'' When they did talk, their comments were informative and/or entertaining without being saccharine. Good job, too, by Costas to quickly recognize and remark that there was a malfunction with the Olympic torch. The only nit was that Cris Collinsworth and Dan Patrick seemed a little too giddy and chummy when talking to U.S. athletes before the ceremony started, but to their defense, talking to athletes before the competition even started isn't easy.
NBC news icon Tom Brokow did a feature Saturday on U.S. skier Bode Miller. When it was over, he was asked if he thought Miller was capable of ending up on the medal podium. Brokow literally crossed his fingers and said: "I've got my fingers crossed. I hope we’ll see him there.''
Whaaat?! Since when is it okay for a journalist covering games to become a cheerleader? Could you imagine him going on television and saying, "I've got my fingers crossed that Barack Obama can take Pennsylvania and Ohio and become President?''
It's not uncommon for news journalists to cover a sporting event and suddenly forget that they're supposed to be objective. It only adds to the public's perception that all journalists, especially sports journalists, have a rooting interest in the games they cover. Brokow should've known better.
Best and worst coverage
It's never easy when a network has to fill large chunks of time because of unexpected delays in the action. Fox certainly had an unforeseen interruption when the Daytona 500 went into two lengthy delays because of holes in the track. Fox adapted smoothly and kept the programming interesting as it killed time with analysis, reports and driver interviews.
Then again, it dropped the ball with its kiss-up interview of NASCAR CEO Brian France during the first delay. Someone should have asked France why the track hasn't been paved since 1978. As Sports Illustrated's Bruce Martin wrote, "Since that time, new grandstands, towers, a Daytona Club and other amenities have been added for the spectators, as well as a new media center and press box. Perhaps some attention should have been given to the actual racing surface.''
Instead of questioning how this could happen at NASCAR’s premier event and why track officials were not better prepared, Fox spent too much time singing NASCAR's praises. It's the one knock against Fox's otherwise good NASCAR coverage -- that it is a NASCAR apologist. Unfortunately, Fox only added to that reputation Sunday.
Rays fans surely enjoyed ESPN's special Baseball Tonight episode on Sunday dedicated entirely to Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford and his offseason workout routine. Buster Olney, the reporter on the piece, said, "He is one of the most driven athletes I've ever met.''
Olney even mentioned how veteran players told Crawford in the past not to work out so hard in the offseason because it made them look bad. Hmm, wonder if that included former Rays players?
The NBA All-Star stuff Saturday night (slam dunk, 3-point, skills, etc.) dragged so much it was painful to watch. The action itself wasn't that bad, but it was like eating one bite of delicious steak, then having to wait 20 minutes before taking another bite.
Chris Kennedy, a reader from Land O' Lakes, wrote in with this excellent suggestion: "We get to see the Olympics every four years and that seems to work just fine. If I have to watch Presidential commercials every four years, then surely I can endure curling. But why does the NBA need to hold the dunk contest every year? Isn't it time to ground this event? Can the NFL and NBA agree to alternate years to 'showcase' their All-Star weekends?''
How can a team look so good and so bad in such a short span of time? The Lightning's four-game win streak has now given way to a three-game losing streak. If the Lightning misses the playoffs by a couple of points, one could look back at the past five days as the reason why. It gave up five goals Thursday in a 5-4 loss to a Bruins team that hadn't scored five goals in a game since Dec. 23. Then it lost 5-4 Saturday to an Islanders team that had won once in its previous nine games and hadn't won a game in regulation in its previous 11. Then it blew a 2-0 lead Sunday and lost 5-2 to a Rangers team that had won three of its previous 11 games. The Lightning looks lost in its own end, the goaltending has suddenly become leaky and it seems that unless Steven Stamkos or Marty St. Louis are on the ice, the Lightning has virtually no chance at scoring. For a while, it seemed like the Olympic break was going to interrupt the Lightning's playoff charge. Now it couldn't come at a better time.
Three things that popped into my head
1. How is it that in a market that loves NASCAR and has three all-sports radio stations, one could not listen to the Daytona 500 on the radio in the Tampa Bay area?
2. The USF men's basketball team (15-9) might have to win its last six games and one in the Big East tourney to get into the NCAA Tournament. Seeing as USF still must play at Villanova, that may be too much to ask.
3. This week, we hear one of the best phrases in the English language: "Pitchers and catchers report.''