Shooting from the lip/Jan. 2nd edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Poor John Lynch. The Fox analyst and former Bucs standout was put in the unenviable position of watching his former team sink about as low as this franchise has been since, arguably, the mid 1980s. Not only did he have to watch it. He had to talk about it Sunday during Fox's coverage of the Bucs-Falcons.
"That's the Bad News Bucs right there,'' Lynch said at one point.
"That's not good football,'' he said another time.
And: "That's hard to watch.''
Lynch is a good analyst and, you would think, knows the Bucs organization as well as any broadcaster. He needed to be a little more vocal Sunday about the future of the organization, and, specifically, which people should be in charge of that future. He was too wishy-washy on coach Raheem Morris' future, saying it was essentially up to the Glazers. That wasn't good enough.
It's not easy not easy to talk about firing someone you used to play for, as Lynch did with the Bucs when Morris was an assistant. I realize that. But having a strong opinion, especially when it's not easy, is what makes a great NFL analyst.
Dana Jacobson has been pulled from her co-anchor duties on ESPN2's First Take weekday morning show. Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch reports that show is being redesigned around gas bag Skip Bayless and will be solely hosted by former Tampa Bay sports anchor Jay Crawford.
This is bad news. For starters, the talented and likeable Jacobson is being reassigned and will get lost in ESPN's large stable of anchors. It also means that ESPN will continue to force Bayless on us, as well as a format that encourages yelling for yelling's sake. Who's to blame for this? You and I. After all, ESPN is making these decisions based on ratings and, apparently, Bayless and all that yelling and screaming generates ratings.
Yet another reason to like ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy: During a recent game and after partner Mike Breen read a promo for the NBA League Pass (the TV package), Van Gundy asked a reasonable question and managed to poke the NBA in the eye.
"I haven't ordered mine, but I'm interested -- are they going to cut down the price because there's less games?'' Van Gundy said, referring that the 2011-12 season was shortened by a lockout. "That's what I want to know as a customer before I order.''
HBO’s 24/7 previewing Monday's Winter Classic hockey game has been mesmerizing, although for different reasons than last year's show that featured the Penguins and Capitals. Last year's show was interesting for the personalities and stories off the ice. This year's show is interesting for the action on the ice and in the locker rooms.
The big stars of this year's show have been Rangers coach John Tortorella and my new favorite player -- Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. There were also cool moments involving the Flyers' Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux and the Rangers’ Brad Richards. The only guy who came away looking like a bit of a jerk was Flyers coach Peter Laviolette for his classless move of pushing and swearing at Stars' forward Steve Ott. Laviolette was in the wrong for trying to leave the ice through the Stars' pathway. Then he didn't own up to his actions, instead choosing to act like he didn't remember the incident. Weak.
Still, it made for great television. HBO and the NHL certainly will want to do it again next season. In fact, the show is so good that it's a shame that we only get to watch it four times a year instead of all season long. The final show, featuring the actual Winter Classic game, debuts Thursday at 10 p.m.
Most sensible statement
Most people believe Jim Harbaugh will be the NFL coach of the year for taking over a 49ers team that went 6-10 last season and turning them into a Super Bowl contender this season. Then again, there are some who think Packers coach Mike McCarthy should get some consideration even though the Packers are the defending champs. Fox NFL Sunday analyst Jimmy Johnson was having none of it Sunday. Johnson said it's much more difficult to turn a lousy team into a winner than to keep a good team motivated. He should know. He has done both.
I'm not a big fan of Fox's Michael Strahan as a broadcaster, but he showed a great deal of class Sunday as the Vikings' Jared Allen came one sack short of breaking Strahan's season record of 22 1/2 set in 2002. No one would blame Strahan for wanting to keep the record, but when asked about it during Sunday's Vikings-Bears game, Strahan spoke glowingly of Allen and sounded as if he wouldn't have minded if Allen set a new record. For years, many broadcasters (CBS's Dan Marino quickly comes to mind) have shown grace when their records are broken and it's a very appealing trait. Nice to see Strahan join that club.
Best morning show
Readers often ask how I watch all the NFL morning shows when they air at the same time. I set my DVR to record as much as I can. I wear out a couple of remote controls a season with all my flipping back and forth. But mostly I watch one show until a commercial and then I flip to the next show. When that show becomes boring, I flip to another. Around and around I go.
But recently, I've noticed that while I'm quick to flip away from Fox NFL Sunday or ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, I almost never turn away from CBS's NFL Today. I even find myself constantly checking on commercial breaks to make sure I don't miss any of the CBS pregame show.
The NFL Today has finally found its stride with this winning formula: have outstanding host (James Brown) introduce a topic and let the four analysts (Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher and Boomer Esiason) go at it. Everyone gets a chance to talk. They don't talk over one another. There is no horsing around or needless yelling. It's all just good solid football talk. The best part is all four analysts speak with authority, intelligence and credibility.
It has been a stunningly good season for the CBS show and quite the turnaround from just a year or two ago.
Three things that popped into my head
1. There are reports that Jon Gruden will leave the broadcast booth at ESPN to take over the Rams, but I'm not convinced. Based on nothing but my gut instinct, I think that at the start of next season, Gruden still will be with ESPN.
2. Taking into account Steven Stamkos' age and talent, I don't think I would trade him straight up for any other skater in the NHL.
3. After watching last Wednesday's USF-UConn game, I can't tell if USF is better than expected or UConn is worse than expected.