Shooting from the lip/Feb. 18th edition
The latest from the world of televised sports ...
Controversy of the day
Tony Kornheiser stirred up trouble on his ESPN show, Pardon the Interruption, when he mentioned maybe NASCAR rigged it so Dale Earnhardt Jr. would win the pole position for Sunday's Daytona 500, the 10-year anniversary of his father's death during the race. (Junior crashed at practice Wednesday and moves to the back.) It isn't clear whether Kornheiser was joking or serious, but NASCAR people are angry. Fox, which airs the race, held a conference call Thursday, and many unloaded on Kornheiser.
Analyst Darrell Waltrip said, "Kornheiser needs to learn to keep his mouth shut and people maybe wouldn't question how smart he is. He just blurted something out that shows how little he knows about this sport. I don't even know if he's been to a NASCAR race or not. I know in the NASCAR environment today, in that garage area, we are more transparent than ever. Dale Jr. needed to be congratulated and not convicted for winning the pole. I thought it was in really poor taste.''
Play-by-play man Mike Joy added, "We have too much at stake. The credibility of the sport is on the line. The great thing about conspiracy theories is that if you're looking for a conspiracy, you can find one whether one actually exists or not. It's kind of like if you're in love, all you hear on the radio are the love songs.''
Hockey Day in America
Sunday will be a good day to be a hockey fan as NBC and Versus celebrate the inaugural "Hockey Day in America'' with nine hours of coverage. The broadcast will include a tripleheader as well as features about the sport. The broadcast starts at noon on NBC with the Rangers-Flyers being televised at 12:30 and the Blackhawks-Penguins at 3:30. Then at 6, Versus will begin coverage of the outdoor game in Calgary between the Flames and Canadiens. Canada's CBC has been hosting "Hockey Day in Canada'' for the past 11 years, and Sunday's event will be similar with the networks celebrating hockey from the NHL level down to the grass roots.
"These parents across the country get in their car at 6 a.m., pull their little tykes out of bed, throw them in the backseat and drive them to the rink so they get to be part of the greatest game in the world,'' NBC executive producer Sam Flood said. "And that's what we're going to celebrate -- the hockey moms and the hockey dads who sacrifice so much to get their kids out to the rink. It's the ritual of hockey.''
Sport of the day
The LPGA season teed off Thursday with the LPGA Thailand, and it's a crossroads season for the tour. The U.S. television schedule is limited with one of the majors, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, being exclusively on the Golf Channel. Nothing against the Golf Channel, which does a fine job, but it doesn't have the footprint of a major network such as NBC.
What will it take to improve the LPGA's profile? Golfer Angela Stanford told the Palm Beach Post, "We need one player. It would help if it was an American … to win six or eight tournaments a year, one of them being a major; someone who is right there every week and dominates; someone to pound it at them and just keep winning.''
The golfer everyone is looking to is Michelle Wie. But even that might not matter. Golfer Stacy Lewis said, "We need to get better coverage on TV and get it live. Until we get there, it's going to be hard for anybody to become something other than just a 'golf star.' ''
Lewis is exactly right. Annika Sorenstam dominated the tour until her sudden retirement at age 38 in 2008. She wasn't American. (She's from Sweden.) But she was charismatic, likeable and approachable. And still, the LPGA had trouble attracting interest.
Model of the day
The LPGA is getting some publicity via golfer Blair O'Neal appearing in the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue wearing a bikini. Asked about it on the Golf Channel's Morning Drive show, retired star Annika Sorenstam had no issues with it.
"I've only seen a few photos of Blair, but the ones I've seen are very good,'' Sorenstam said. "I would be proud of them. She is very respectful. It's classy. I think sex sells. It brings attention to the tour, and a little femininity doesn't hurt the tour.''
Deal of the day
NBC has televised the past six Summer Olympics and the past three Winter Olympics but isn't sure about future Games. NBC Universal president and CEO Steve Burke indicated during the company's earnings call on Wednesday that NBC just won't fork over any amount to secure the rights of future Olympics.
"We're here to make money, and we're going to be disciplined,'' Burke said. "We’re going to concentrate on businesses that have good returns.''
Some reports estimate NBC lost more than $220 million on its broadcast of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. NBC still likely will make a bid on the upcoming 2014-16 package, but look for ESPN and Fox to make strong bids, too. Meantime, now that NBC has merged with Comcast, there's talk the network could put together something to rival ESPN as the top destination for sports television. But Comcast chair and CEO Brian Roberts said, "I don't really see that as a realistic thing.''
Roberts said, for now, NBC and Comcast will concentrate on the marriage among NBC Sports, Versus, Golf Channel and Comcast cable channels.
Mock draft of the day
Sports Illustrated has come out with its latest NFL mock draft, which has the Bucs taking Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn with the 20th pick. Clayborn, who is 6 feet 4, 285 pounds, had 11 1/2 sacks as a junior and 3 1/2 last season as a senior. As far as the Bucs possibly taking Clayborn, Sports Illustrated writes:
Clayborn could go higher than this, but if he's there, Tampa Bay could snatch him up and keep adding to its impressive young collection of talent on the defensive line. Clayborn wasn't great as a senior, but he has edge-rushing skills and great strength.''
Sports Illustrated has Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley going to Carolina with the first overall pick followed by Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers going second to Denver and Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert going third to Buffalo. Click here to read the entire mock draft.
Three things that popped into my head
1. The Lightning had no choice but to push Storm coach Tim Marcum out the door after Marcum reportedly forwarded racist e-mails from a work computer. And anyone who wants to point a finger at Ch. 10 reporter Mike Deeson, who broke the story, is dead wrong. Deeson didn't forward inappropriate e-mails. Marcum did. Tim Marcum is out of a job because of Tim Marcum.
2. Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has the right to veto any trade. But if he's not going to re-sign with the Cardinals and shut down negotiations immediately, he should not veto any trade the Cardinals can make so they can at least get something in return. The Cards say they aren't interested in trading their star. But if they do, accepting a trade would be the right thing for Pujols to do.
3. That idiot Alabama fan who likely killed the 130-year-old trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn should, as punishment, be forced to stand at that spot after every Auburn victory from now on until his death and let fans throw toilet paper on him.