Shooting from the lip/Jan. 24th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Most frustrating moments
Why do networks go to commercials when viewers are hungering for replays? True, networks have to pay the bills for the enormous amount of money they pay to acquire NFL rights. The way they pay bills is through advertising. But can't the networks chose better times for their commercials?
Twice, Fox went to commercials when critical plays were being reviewed by the replay booth in the Packers-Bears NFC Championship Game. On the first review of a Packers interception at the end of the first half, Fox, instead, went to three commercials. What made it so frustrating is that two of the commercials were to promote upcoming Fox programs. Later, in the third quarter, a Packers interception was overturned after replays, but we had to sit through more commercials before we saw the initial replay.
Just as annoying? Sticking with a script instead of following the story line of the game. The Packers punted near the end of the second quarter and the ball came dangerously close to hitting a Bears player. In fact, the Packers tried to convince the officials that the ball did hit one of the Bears on the leg. It would have been great to see a replay, but instead, Fox went to a package on the early season struggles of the Bears, with graphics that looked like newspapers. It's moments like this when you wish those in the booth would pay more attention to what the viewer is thinking at home instead of jamming in a planned graphic that could have run at another time.
Having said all that, Fox's camera work was as good Sunday as it has been all year, and announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were solid.
Nice work by Fox announcer Joe Buck when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the ball with just under two minutes left in the first half in the NFC Championship Game. A Bears running back picked up the ball and started to run with it, but officials blew the play dead for seemingly no reason. Buck, however, immediately reminded viewers that the only player who can advance a fumble in the last two minutes of a half is the player who fumbled it. Excellent and timely work by Buck to answer a question that viewers likely were asking at home.
Most interesting player
So, what is going to end up happening with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton? Will he be the next Steve Young or the next JaMarcus Russell? Is he a first-round draft pick? On Sunday's NFL Network pregame show, reporter Jason LaCanfora said two teams could be interested in taking Newton in the first round.
"You're going to start to hear about the Redskins with that No. 10 pick,'' LaConfora said. "In Mike Shanahan's offense, he loves to have mobile quarterbacks, whether it's John Elway, Jake the Snake (Plummer), Jay Cutler; it's really been a staple. Cam Newton, we know he's from Auburn, and the Redskins have taken first-round picks from Auburn. Jason Campbell didn't work out a few years back, but that was a different regime, so we'll have to see. With San Francisco in the top 10 as well, they're looking for a quarterback, I'm not sure if Newton slips out of the top 10.''
Perhaps the best analysts of the NFL games on Sunday weren't on television, but on the radio. Randy Cross doesn't do as much TV as he used to, and you have to wonder why because he was really good at it. He and Mark Malone, who was on the sidelines, were excellent on Westwood One's coverage of the Packers-Bears game. Their best moment came when Malone said it was well known that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has some of the worst mechanics in the league and those poor habits often lead to an interception. Moments later, Cutler threw off his back foot and the result was an interception.
Most disappointing player
Andy Roddick certainly has had the misfortune of playing in an era with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but he still might be one of the most overrated tennis players of his era, too. The eighth seed in the Australian Open, Roddick was bounced in straight sets over the weekend by No. 19 seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. It has been seven (going on eight) years since Roddick won his only major -- the 2003 U.S. Open. Of the past 16 majors, Roddick has reached the finals once, the semifinals twice and has been knocked out before the quarters eight times.
Thank goodness! My vote for the best sports event coverage on television returned Sunday with the 2011 debut of the NHL on NBC. It's funny that the NHL went years without a presence on network television, yet when it returned to NBC in 2006, it has been so well done. Most of the credit for that goes to announcer Mike Emrick (the best sports broadcaster alive), Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire, who adds analysis from between the benches. Mike Milbury adds interesting thoughts between periods with McGuire as they tackle the topical issues and players of the moment. But it's not just the announcers. The production and direction are first-rate, too. Take Sunday when the truck dialed up a quick "Tale of the Tape'' graphic immediately after a fight between Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo and Chicago's Jake Dowell. Sunday's Flyers-Blackhawks game was kind of a dud contest, but it was reassuring to hockey fans to see their sport back on NBC.
Most interesting comments
Last week, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was seen on camera chewing out freshman Terence Jones in a profanity-laced outburst. The next day, Calipari publicly apologized. During ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday, analysts Hubert Davis, Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas all seemed to back Calipari, suggesting that this type of coaching is commonplace and, really, not out of line.
It was odd that CBS picked NFL Today analyst Shannon Sharpe to interview Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for Sunday's show rather than have former Steelers coach Bill Cowher handle the interview. Looking at the two pregame shows, Fox did its show live from Solider Field, while CBS held its show from the usual New York studios. Being at the stadium really didn't improve Fox's show and, actually, it was a bit distracting, especially with the analysts struggling to talk in the cold air.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Think other old Red Sox players such as Rico Petrocelli, Rick Burleson and Trot Nixon are sitting next to their phones waiting for a call from the Rays?
2. Unless something crazy happens, it appears as if Jon Gruden will not be coaching anywhere at the start of next season. Gruden said all along he enjoyed broadcasting, but did anyone really believe he would be away from coaching for two-plus seasons after being fired by the Bucs?
3. Strange as it sounds, the Lightning's 12-game homestand is not a good thing. If it can win seven of these games, it should be considered successful.