Shooting from the lip/June 11th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
While most of us were sleeping Friday night/Saturday morning, the sports folks at NBC worked through the night to, essentially, rebuild the Belmont coverage that was destroyed when Triple Crown candidate I'll Have Another was scratched Friday afternoon. NBC's two-hour pregame, which began at 4:30 p.m., was originally dedicated to I'll Have Another’s quest for the first Triple Crown since 1978. NBC tried to salvage some of that original show, and for the most part, it succeeded.
A feature on Steve Cauthen, who was 18 when he rode Affirmed to the Triple Crown in 1978, was interesting but did seem slightly out of place without a Triple Crown at stake. A piece on horses that failed to win the Triple Crown after winning the first two legs held up.
NBC had to scrap Bob Costas' taped interview with controversial I'll Have Another trainer Doug O'Neill but replaced it with a live Costas interview with O'Neill and I’ll Have Another owner Paul Reddam. Costas got in some hard-hitting questions for O'Neill, and the interview was solid.
In the end, NBC did a splendid job covering the Belmont. It wasn't as exciting as a potential Triple Crown. But considering the circumstances, NBC should be proud of its effort -- especially knowing it was put together on no sleep.
There were a slew of huge sporting events on TV over the weekend -- NBA, NHL, horse racing, boxing -- but best coverage goes to NBC for its work at the French Open. Reasons No. 1 and 2 for that: analysts John McEnroe and Mary Carillo.
Here's a little thing Carillo did Saturday that shows how good she is. During the women's final between Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani, there was a crowd shot of tennis legend Martina Navratilova. Carillo immediately dialed up a story about how Navratilova predicted Sharapova would be a star when Sharapova was 6 years old and recommended that Sharapova's parents move her to America.
"That's how she got to Bollettieri's (tennis academy in Bradenton),'' Carillo said.
And how did Navratilova know Sharapova would be so good? According to Carillo, Navratilova said, "I liked the way she walked.''
What a fascinating story, and one viewers had never heard. Carillo dropped it in quickly and without notice. That's first-rate broadcasting.
I don't want to hear Floyd Mayweather Jr. or anyone associated with him whining about missing out on a big payday with Manny Pacquiao now that Pacquiao's career is up in the air after losing Saturday to some guy named Timothy something or other. Same with the Pacquiao camp.
A Mayweather-Pacquiao fight should have happened long ago. Now is there anyone who even wants to see that fight? Whether Pacquiao was robbed Saturday night doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the fight was close enough for Pacquiao to risk losing on the scorecards, meaning he's not the boxer he used to be.
Meantime, most of the public already believes boxing is corrupt, and gasoline was added to that fire with the controversial decision Saturday night. Check out these explosive comments by ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas:
"Boxing is a corrupt sport. Bottom line is if you're an honest man, if you're a confident person who knows what he's watching, only one man won that fight, and he doesn't get the decision. It's an injustice to the sport, an injustice to the fighters, an injustice to the fan base. It's one of the problems with the sport of boxing right now: The wrong guy wins sometime. So the criminals get rewarded, once again, for the incompetence and the corruption of the sport.''
If a boxing insider thinks that way, how are the rest of us supposed to think?
For the second time this season, Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson joined Dick Stockton on Fox's Game of the Week regional coverage, this time for the Rays-Marlins game on Saturday. Stockton had a few bumbles and stumbles but nothing too bad.
Anderson, meantime, shined once again. And it's mildly surprising how comfortable he seemed with Stockton. That leads you to believe he could be comfortable with anyone. And that leads you to believe the guy is a flat-out good announcer.
His best moments Saturday were talking about struggling Marlins pitcher Carlos Zambrano. Anderson knows the Rays, but his sharp commentary about Zambrano -- a guy who pitches in the other league and rarely against the Rays -- shows how prepared Anderson was.
NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire does his work between the benches. A couple of weeks back, he was roundly criticized for not reporting exactly what he heard during a shouting match between Devils coach Peter DeBoer and Rangers coach John Tortorella even though he was literally standing between the two.
No such criticism could be made Saturday during Game 5 of the Devils-Kings Stanley Cup final, when the Devils' Patrik Elias limped to the bench and was insulted by several Kings players. McGuire reported Elias looked over at Los Angeles' Justin Williams and said, "When did you become a tough guy?''
That's funny, and McGuire made the right call to pass along that info.
Soccer fans surely are digging ESPN's Euro 2012 Tonight, which previews and reviews all the action from the European soccer tournament.
The reason? This isn't soccer for dummies. It's in-depth analysis and soccer talk. Host Bob Ley is masterful at leading his capable analysts, former U.S. star Alexi Lalas and former German captain Michael Ballack.
ESPN has smartly figured out the only people likely watching the show are soccer diehards. So it makes the show for them, not the casual viewer.
Did you notice the Celtics' Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo walked off the court without congratulating the Heat after Game 7 on Saturday night? I don't have a problem with that, necessarily. But New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica made a good point during Sunday morning's edition of The Sports Reporters on ESPN.
"You know why Kevin Garnett has been such a great player for such a long time?'' Lupica said. "Here's one reason: He didn't want to hang around after he lost (Saturday) night and hug it out with the Heat. But can you imagine if LeBron (James) had done the same thing in defeat?''
Lupica's right. James would have been slaughtered in the media.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Did you hear the Heat fans boo when Alonzo Mourning, who was presenting the Eastern Conference champion trophy, congratulated the Celtics for a great effort Saturday? Wait, you beat a team that played hard and gave you all you can handle and you boo? And you wonder why some folks don't like your team.
2. The good news about ABC carrying the NBA Finals is we get to listen to game analyst Jeff Van Gundy. The bad news is we don't get to hear TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley.
3. Speaking of the NBA Finals, with all due respect to the gritty Celtics, you have to know that, deep down, ABC was rooting hard for the Heat to win because the Heat and LeBron James, love 'em or hate 'em, are simply a better story.