Shooting from the lip/Jan. 4 edition
Looking back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports ...
The NHL's Winter Classic has become one of the year's most entertaining sporting events, and NBC's coverage keeps getting better. The New Year's Day coverage from Fenway Park was NBC's best effort yet in the outdoor game's three years. It made the game truly special, though the only difference between it and every other regular-season game is the absence of a roof. NBC and the NHL celebrated the sport, the teams involved and host city Boston. Pregame and intermissions are usually times for fans to take bathroom breaks and load up on refreshments, but Friday, those moments were as entertaining as the hockey.
The game itself was just average until the Bruins scored late in the third and then in overtime for the victory, but the entire broadcast was carried by the outstanding announcing of Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk and Darren Pang. The highlight came after the game when USA Hockey used an innovative way to unveil its Olympic team: It had kids on the ice wearing the jerseys of the players selected. The jersey of the final player announced was worn by a big kid: Bruins goalie Tim Thomas skated on to the ice wearing his Olympic jersey.
"The same athletic director who hired Bobby Knight to coach his basketball team has now fired Mike Leach from coaching his football team. So let's drop any talk of a minimum moral standard at Texas Tech.''
— Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday, talking about Leach being fired after being accused of mistreating a player who had a concussion.
Most critical remarks
During Fox's coverage of the Sugar Bowl on Friday, analyst Brian Billick said he was a fan of Gators quarterback Tim Tebow as a person and as a college quarterback. As an NFL quarterback? Not so much. Billick said Tebow "has lots of work to do'' if he wants to make it as a quarterback on Sundays.
Billick told the New York Times that he has spoken to five NFL teams and none has Tebow rated as a first-round draft pick.
"He scares me,'' Billick told the New York Times. "You love the kid. If there is a fair God above, (Tebow will) have a successful NFL career. I don't know how you take a kid in the first round who you are going to have to change absolutely everything he does, his drop, his delivery.''
Controversy surrounded the NFL's decision to move Sunday’s Jets-Bengals game from afternoon to prime time. Depending on the outcome of some games Sunday afternoon, it was possible the Bengals would have had nothing to play for and could have rested their starters, though the game still would have meant something to the Jets and other teams that needed the Bengals to win. Conspiracy theorists thought it was the NFL's way of helping the Jets so the league could get a New York team in the playoffs. That seems far-fetched. And really, any team that depends on other teams to make the playoffs has nothing but itself to blame. That being said, the NFL does need to be more cognizant of how scheduling changes such as Sunday's could alter the playoff picture.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed questions during halftime of the CBS game between the Steelers and Dolphins about teams resting players when playoff spots are still on the line.
"I think the integrity of our game is the most important thing we do,'' Goodell said. "We want our players to play and our teams to win. I think we have to do more structurally to incent people to win and to play. I don't blame the coaches in Indianapolis for what they did (resting starters the weekend before against the Jets). I understand exactly what they did, but we've got to create that incentive.''
What can the NFL do?
"Well, we're considering a lot of different things,'' Goodell said. "We've talked with our competition committee. We've talked with John Madden's (NFL) committee. … I don’t think you can punish people for not playing. The other thing that has to happen is, you have to make it clear to the public that you're not going to be playing somebody, just like we do with our injury reports.''
Poor CBS. Postgame interviews with coaches are almost always meaningless and rarely reveal anything. But CBS had the biggest postgame coach interview in recent memory, and we didn't initially hear it. After Florida State's victory over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Friday, CBS had the first interview with Bobby Bowden immediately after he coached his final game. And the microphone of reporter Tracy Wolfson went dead just as Bowden was talking about his emotions upon ending his legendary career.
CBS rallied to get another microphone, and even that one cut out a couple of times as Bowden spoke for the second time to Wolfson. It was a case of bad luck for CBS, but you just know everyone in the production truck was pulling their hair out, as were viewers.
Most controversial decision
The Colts' decision to pull their starters in what ended up being their first loss, Dec. 27 to the Jets, still was a hot topic as analysts argued whether Indy should have gone for a perfect season.
"They cheated us out of a chance of watching this team go for the missing piece, which was the perfect season,'' the NFL Network's Warren Sapp said. "There are only 10 players in the locker room who don't have a ring. Go for perfection.''
Ultimately, the end of the day, it hardly matters what I or you or even Sapp thinks. But did you see the look on Peyton Manning's face? Or the body language of his teammates, who appeared angry watching their perfect season end? The NFL Network's Marshall Faulk brought up the best point of all: "How do you not take it to your locker room and ask the players, 'What do you think?' At the end of the day, those are the guys that are winning the game.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. With Ohio State beating Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Penn State beating LSU in the Capital One Bowl and Wisconsin beating Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, maybe the Big Ten was a better conference than most thought. Let's see how Iowa does against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Tuesday.
2. After the way Florida destroyed Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, no one with the Bearcats should be whining about how they didn't get a shot at the national championship. You get the feeling that if Florida and Cincy played 10 times, the Gators would win in blowouts 10 times.
3. Fox does a heck of a job covering almost everything except college football. It just seems weird that some of the biggest games of the season are on a network that doesn't cover college football regularly.