Shooting from the lip/Feb. 20th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Have you ever been clicking around aimlessly on your television when you suddenly see something on the screen and think, "Oh, cool, I didn't know this was on.''
I get that rush of excitement when I flip on Fox and see a NASCAR race. And I don't even consider myself a NASCAR fan. But Fox's NASCAR coverage is so good, you can't help but watch. It's right up there with NBC's NFL and NHL coverage, HBO's boxing broadcasts and ABC/ESPN's college football coverage as the finest in sports broadcasting.
Okay, so Fox's NASCAR analysts are a little too pro-NASCAR. But they are enthusiastic, and the production is exceptional, especially if you are watching on a high-definition TV. Take Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. The camera work on the crash that ended Jeff Gordon's night as well as the thrilling photo finish was as good as anything you're going to see on sports TV. Fox has added a bunch of bells and whistles to a broadcast that was already as good as it gets. See for yourself at Sunday's Daytona 500.
The Lightning got some national air time Sunday during NBC's Hockey Day in America. A feature on 14-year-old sled-hockey player Declan Farmer of Tampa highlighted the pregame show. Not only did viewers across the nation see Farmer's incredible skills and courage, but they saw the support of the Lightning. In fact, the national audience heard lots of nice things about hockey in Tampa Bay, even from the mouth of usual sourpuss Mike Milbury.
Radio news of the day
Don't be surprised if you hear radio personality Justin Pawlowski more and more on 1010-AM. He made a cameo appearance on the station Friday and could see more air time in the future. Pawlowski spent the past few years with 620-AM.
By the way, speaking of talk radio, here's something to keep an eye on: There is more and more talk lately that an FM all-sports station could be coming to Tampa Bay. If it does, it could signal a seismic shift in local sports talk. And you know what? Local sports talk could use a major shakeup.
I hadn't thought of this, but there's a school of thought that with Monday Night Football dropping Ron Jaworski and going with Jon Gruden as the lone analyst, there's now a spot open for Peyton Manning should he retire this year or even next.
Worst rush to judgment
During Saturday's Florida State-North Carolina State game in Raleigh, N.C., referee Karl Hess had security eject two fans, who turned out to be former N.C. State stars Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani. Without having the slightest clue of what the two said, ESPN studio analyst Doug Gottlieb rushed to judgment and jumped on Hess, saying, "You can’t have rabbit ears.''
Corchiani said the two "never used profanity or crossed the line. We were just on him about some of the calls he made.'' He also said, "We're not denying we were all over (the official), but I've been doing that every game I've been at since I retired.''
Actually, that last quote is pretty pathetic. It would have been refreshing if Gottlieb thought so, too, and said something such as, "Look, I don't know what those guys were saying, but maybe they need to get a life.''
Having said all of that, I'm a fan of Gottlieb. He might be ESPN's best studio analyst. Yep, even better than Jay Bilas. (Photo at left: Deadspin.com)
Excellent hustle by CBS to catch golfer Phil Mickelson sharing a secret with his daughter during Sunday afternoon's final round of the Northern Trust Open. That's a camera person who was on the ball. Kudos.
And, really, after having railed on CBS last week for its nauseating, fawning over Tiger Woods and the course at Pebble Beach, I must say the network rallied nicely Sunday. Host Jim Nantz, who also gets his share of criticism on this page, was as good as I've heard him in some time as he perfectly captured the thrilling moments when Mickelson and Keegan Bradley made long birdie putts on No. 18 to force a playoff with Bill Haas. Nantz took two special putts and made them even more dramatic. That's what a good host does. Meantime, lead analyst Nick Faldo offered excellent insight during the playoff, taking viewers inside the minds of the golfers.
By the way, how cool was it to watch Mickelson and Bradley fist-bumping and giving each other high fives after each made those tying putts?
ESPN's Outside the Lines went to Hazleton, Pa., the hometown of Rays manager Joe Maddon to do a feature on Maddon's attempts to unite a town split on the issue of immigration. Reporter Jeremy Schaap did his usual bang-up job. But the star was Maddon. Every time this guy says or does anything -- inside or outside the stadium -- you can-t help but have more and more respect for him.
What to watch
Don't miss the new Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, which debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday on HBO. In particular, be sure to check out Armen Keteyian's piece on sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who was the inspiration for the movie Jerry Maguire. At one point, Steinberg represented about 90 NFL players, including quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon. But a drinking problem, bad investments and a divorce left Steinberg empty. In the story, he estimates he was drinking a half-gallon of vodka a day. Steinberg, 62, went through rehab and says he is clean.
"If my story is a cautionary note to anyone out there who's struggling with any kind of substance abuse, there is help,'' Steinberg tells HBO. "It is possible, but you need to put everything else in your life aside and focus on it. So in an unwanted way, I hopefully still can … ease the pain of other people.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. Former Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina is one of the good guys. So it's a shame to see him leave Tampa Bay for the Flyers, but at least he has a shot at another Stanley Cup.
2. The women lose for the first time at home in 99 games, and the men are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. Not a great year for UConn basketball. By the way, Saturday was the first time since Feb. 27, 1993, both Huskies teams lost at home on the same day.
3. The third game Sunday of NBC’s Hockey Day in America tripleheader was New Jersey at Montreal? Why not feature two U.S. teams, seeing as how it was Hockey Day in America? A perfect alternative would have been Ducks-Panthers, which started at the same time and featured teams from nontraditional U.S. markets.