Shooting from the lip/Jan. 18
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
What fun it was to watch Fox studio analysts Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw debate the Vikings tacking on a late score in Sunday’s victory against the Cowboys. The Vikings led 27-3 with two minutes left and had fourth and 3 on the Cowboys 11. The Vikings ran a play-action play that resulted in Brett Favre's fourth touchdown pass. The play so angered the Cowboys that linebacker Keith Brooking confronted the Vikings on their sideline, calling the play "totally classless and disrespectful.''
It was especially interesting to listen to Johnson for two reasons. One, he's a former Cowboys coach, but, two, he was infamous for running up the score when he coached, especially at the University of Miami. Johnson's take was simple: If you don’t want the opponent to run up the score, then stop them. "This is professional football!'' Johnson said while defending the Vikings.
Bradshaw said it was a case of running up the score and showed a lack of respect. "If I was playing … I would not have done that,''Bradshaw said.
Shame on Fox sideline reporter Chris Myers. Maybe if he wasn't slobbering all over Brett Favre during a postgame interview, he could’ve remembered why he was there in the first place -- to be a journalist. How could he not ask about Favre's controversial touchdown pass with two minutes left? Hey, maybe Favre would've had a good explanation for the Vikings piling it on. Maybe he would've apologized for it or defended it. But it's a question that must be asked and Myers dropped the ball. You get the feeling it didn't even cross his mind to ask and, if that's the case, that's inexcusable.
How in the world can CBS let NFL announcer Jim Nantz do a television commercial with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning? The two are in an ad for Sony televisions. Nantz calls games in which Manning plays and will call next weekend's AFC Championship Game in which Manning will play. Why should we trust anything Nantz has to say about Manning ever again? Even if Nantz has every right to defend Manning after a play, why should we believe him after assuming the two hung out together and socialized during a commercial shoot? It's a blatant conflict that CBS shouldn't have allowed and Nantz shouldn't have agreed to do.
Perhaps you didn't notice because you were busy watching the Cowboys and Vikings, but the NHL on NBC's Game of the Week made its debut Sunday and it picked up where it left off last season -- among the best sports coverage on television. The thrilling five-minute overtime between the Red Wings and Blackhawks -- which did not have one whistle but did have plenty of breakaways, two-on-ones and even a three-on-one in the final six seconds -- was breathtaking. Play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick's call in the extra session captured the excitement perfectly and should be played in every university sports broadcasting class in the world. Emrick's work was enthusiastic and rose to the level of what was taking place on the ice. That's how you call a game, folks.
It's startling just how wide the gap is between Fox's top NFL broadcasting team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman and the No. 2 crew of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. Buck and Aikman, who called Sunday's Cowboys-Vikings game, are among the best on TV, a notch behind ESPN's Monday night crew (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski) and two notches below NBC's best-in-the-biz duo of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.
But Fox’s No. 2 crew, which called Saturday's Cardinals-Saints game, is average at best. Don't blame Albert, who calls a solid and professional game. It's the analysis of Johnston and Siragusa, whose remarks are too often after-the-play second-guessing and scratch-the-surface opinion. Contrast that to CBS, whose second crew of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf might be as good if not better than their top crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
Worst Dierdorf moment
While I'm a fan of CBS's Dan Dierdorf, I didn't quite follow his line of thinking when he defended Colts coach Jim Caldwell in the final stages of Indianapolis' victory Saturday against Baltimore. Caldwell rested starters in the next-to-last game against the Jets, a loss that cost Indy a shot at a perfect season. Caldwell said the goal was not to have a perfect season, but to win the Super Bowl. As Saturday's game drew to a close, Dierdorf said, "Jim Caldwell can put everything to rest about the New York Jets game. It is now finally, totally in the rearview mirror! Non-issue! Non-story! Resting worked.''
Hold on a second. Caldwell's goal, we are led to believe, was not to just win one playoff game, but the whole shebang. It will be in the rearview mirror when the season is over and the Colts are holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Until then, it's clearly a major story line, especially now that the Colts will play the Jets.
Most boring game
Sometimes a team is just so good that it ruins the entire sport. Right now, that's the case with UConn and women's college basketball. The Huskies have won 56 straight. Not only don't they lose, they don't even come close to losing. They beat No. 3 Notre Dame on Saturday by 24 points. Earlier this season, they beat No. 2 Stanford by 12, the closest game they've had this season. ESPN's Dick Vitale and Doris Burke handled the color on Saturday’s UConn-Notre Dame game and while they both said that coaching across the country is getting better and the talent pool is getting deeper, right now UConn women are too good for the sport's own good.
ESPN's Outside the Lines is one of TV’s best shows, but the conversation Sunday got so out of whack that even one of the interview subjects questioned the point of the story. The piece was about college football coaches recently dismissed for allegedly abusing players, in particular USF's Jim Leavitt, Kansas' Mark Mangino and Texas Tech's Mike Leach. Yet the conversation was about whether these coaches were fired because their schools no longer wanted to pay them.
As viewers at home were probably scratching their heads, ESPN's Bob Davie, a member of the OTL panel, thankfully said, "It seems kind of odd to me that this whole conversation is what the contract was, what the school has to pay and what was the coach’s win-loss record at the end.''