Shooting from the lip/July 26th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports, including Rays TV numbers, a shocking Outside the Lines story and how Lane Kiffin will never be welcome back in Tennessee ...
Best TV numbers
Attendance may be disappointing for the Rays at Tropicana Field, but there is local interest in the team. Massive interest, judging by the television numbers on Sun Sports. Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer did a story on how the Reds viewership is up 49 percent on television. Indeed, that is a remarkable number. Well, how about this? Rays viewership is up an incredible 70 percent over last year. It's not uncommon for the Rays to have an average audience of more than 100,000. During one game against the Red Sox this month, an estimated 211,000 homes were tuned in. Now if the Rays can just figure out a way to get some of those people to put down the remote, pick up their car keys and drive over to the Trop, they'll be set.
ESPN's Outside the Lines produced a chilling and sickening report on just how unsafe the food might be at the concession stands at sports venues across the country. Truly, some of the stories were so gross that if you saw the piece you might never eat at a concession stand again. Most disturbing was how often Tropicana Field was mentioned in the piece. According to ESPN, Florida health officials cited every one of the Trop's food and drink outlets as having "critical violations'' in the past year. However, it should be noted that Florida officials also report the problems have been fixed since those violations and that all along the concession stands "met basic inspection standards to keep operating.'' The Rays did not comment for the story, instead passing along inquiries to Centerplate, which runs concessions at Tropicana Field. Click here to check out ESPN.com for its full report, including an interactive map of all the major sports venues across the country.
Favorite new analyst
Fox has a star in baseball analyst Eric Karros, who called the Mets-Dodgers game on Saturday. Karros, teaches as he broadcasts, pointing out what players have done well and, just as important, when players have made a mistake. He doesn't take cheap shots, but he's not afraid to criticize players, something many newer analysts are afraid to do. Take new Fox analyst Kevin Millar, who struggles with just that. With Millar, every player is the best and everything they do is the greatest. But he has enthusiasm, and if he adds a little bite to his analysis, which should come with time, he will be fine. By all indications, Tim McCarver is not close to retiring, but if and when he does, Karros would make a good replacement as Fox’s lead analyst.
The return of Sweet Lou?
Could Lou Piniella end up as a broadcaster for the Rays? Anything is possible, but it doesn't make much sense. The Tampa native and former Rays skipper announced last week that he was retiring as a big-league manager after finishing this season with the Cubs. Piniella has done a little broadcasting and is pretty good at it. The Rays might have an opening after the season, but the Piniella angle just doesn't seem to fit. For starters, if Piniella is going to spend 162 nights a year at a ballpark, including 81 away from home, he likely would prefer to just stay in the dugout. And he and owner Stuart Sternberg didn't see eye-to-eye at the end, so it seems unlikely the Rays would invite him into the booth. Besides, not everyone is convinced Piniella, who turns 67 next month, is done managing. ESPN Sports Reporters host John Saunders said: "The biggest surprise for me is Lou Piniella is not going to be in a dugout. I still see that he's going to come back from retirement.''
Favorite Lou story
With Lou Piniella's impending retirement, everyone is recalling their favorite Lou stories. Here's mine: During his first season in Tampa Bay in 2003, the then-Devil Rays were still a mess and Piniella talked about how certain teams have advertising slogans, such as "Royals Fever … Catch It'' or "Pirates Baseball … Feel the Heat'' or whatever. During yet another slump, Piniella eased back in his chair and said: "You know what ours should be? Devil Rays baseball … My God!''
Former Cardinals and Royals manager Whitey Herzog was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday and he certainly is one of the greatest managers ever. However, my favorite Herzog story has nothing to do with managing. It was one of those I-can't-believe-that-just-happened moments. During an NBC pregame show in 1986, Herzog was being interviewed by Marv Albert. Yale University president A. Bartlett Giamatti had just been named president of the National League, a job in which Herzog had expressed interest. At the conclusion of the interview, Albert joked that Herzog could fill the opening as Yale president. Herzog's face turned sour and he snapped, "Well, you're trying to be funny, Marv, and I don't think that’s funny at all.''
Instead of losing his poise, Albert seemed amused by Herzog’s reaction. Turns out, Herzog was seriously angry. He refused to be interviewed again by Albert until Albert apologized. A few months after the incident, Albert told the New York Times: "There's nothing to apologize for. He just doesn't have a sense of humor. He took it all wrong.''
Yeesh, the more you hear about Southern Cal football coach Lane Kiffin, the more he comes off like a weasel. After skipping out on the University of Tennessee after just one season, now comes word that he raided the Tennessee Titans coaching staff without asking Titans coach Jeff Fisher. After Kiffin hired Titans running back coach Kennedy Pola to be USC's offensive coordinator, Fisher (a USC grad, by the way) was ticked . That's not how coaches operate. Fisher ripped Kiffin, then Kiffin said in a statement that he spoke to Fisher and now Fisher had "an accurate understanding of the timeline of events.''
Wait, what? Kiffin is pinning this on Fisher for not understanding the timeline? What a bunch of baloney. The timeline should have started with Kiffin calling Fisher. Instead Fisher heard about all this from Pola. How did Fisher mix up the timeline? So not only does Kiffin breach protocol, but then he isn't man enough to admit his mistake and apologize.
Jeff Miller, columnist for the Orange County Register in California wrote: "The more we learn about this guy the more we think (Raiders owner) Al Davis was sensible in cutting ties with him, and how scary is that? Al Davis making sense?''
Three things that popped into my head
1. Umpire Doug Harvey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday and he deserved it. Look, umpires have a tough job. But having said that, I'm not sure that there's one umpire in baseball right now who is Hall of Fame worthy.
2. Prediction: Rocco Baldelli will win a game with a ninth-inning hit for the Rays before the end of the season.
3. Has any franchise in the NHL had a better offseason than the Lightning, including the hiring of Steve Yzerman as GM?