Shooting from the lip/June 21 edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Tiger story? What Tiger story?
It remains painfully clear that broadcasters still aren't sure they should -- or absolutely refuse to -- talk about Tiger Woods' personal scandals. Look, Woods' golf game (not his personal life) was the story of the weekend, but it's impossible to dissect Woods' golf game and his resurgence Saturday without at least talking about what has happened to him off the course. Let's not pretend that Woods' personal life has not had an effect on his game or on the sports world. Obviously, the past six months prove that it has. So why ignore that storyline? If Woods were coming back from an injury or an illness, that would be discussed. So why not this?
The worst part was that NBC's announcers during the weekend’s U.S. Open coverage skirted around the issue and talked a lot about Woods being "back.'' But the network took great pains to never really delve into what he was coming "back'' from. NBC's crew alluded to it, hinted at it, sort of winked its eye about it, but frustratingly never approached the topic head on. At one point, host Dan Hicks said, "Think what you want about Tiger Woods off the course … ''
Well, darn it, tell us what you think about Tiger Woods off the course and the impact it has had on him as a golfer. Ask someone with a microphone what he or she thinks. Ask Johnny Miller what he thinks. (Miller's big contribution to the topic was to say Woods has "gone through a lot of problems.'' Wow, thanks for the insight, Johnny.) Geez, just talk about it! Sadly, this is fairly typical of golf coverage. Let's not offend anyone. Let's not make Tiger mad. Let's sacrifice integrity for harmony.
On the flip side, Fox spent much of the baseball game of the week Saturday talking about the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez returning to Boston to play the Red Sox. Announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver addressed Ramirez's stay in Boston, good and bad, in detail. They praised and criticized, but mostly they addressed it in full. Why? Because it was the story. To ignore it would have been absurd.
Just like NBC looked when talking about Woods over the weekend.
Best coverage, but worst comment
Just because NBC didn't handle the Tiger Woods story well doesn't mean it didn't do an otherwise outstanding job covering the U.S. Open. Again, NBC showed its golf coverage is the best of any network. And Johnny Miller again showed why he is the most interesting commentator in golf, spending more time predicting what is about to happen as opposed to telling us something we have already seen. But one wisecrack -- "Looking at the field right now, I don't know who's leaking more oil, the field or British Petroleum'' -- was completely unfunny and distasteful. Dottie Pepper, Curtis Strange and host Dan Hicks all were solid, Golf World's Tim Rosaforte was terrific (and, sadly, underused), and, of course, it didn' hurt that Sunday was your typical U.S. Open Sunday full of twists, turns and drama.
You can have your screamers like Gus Johnson and your friendly voices like Jim Nantz, but if I can pick any announcer to call a sporting event, give me Martin Tyler, who is ABC/ESPN's voice for the World Cup. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ethan Skolnick wrote on Twitter last week: "The only American announcer who can come close to these soccer guys currently on ESPN -- in terms of poetry and vocabulary -- is Vin Scully.''
How true. Listening to Tyler truly is as entertaining as the match he is calling. His advanced vocabulary actually makes you feel less guilty about watching sports instead of, oh, reading a book or visiting a museum. You at least feel as if you're being educated when Tyler is calling a game. And his analogies are perfect. During Saturday's wide-open Denmark-Cameroon match, Tyler said, "Terrible defense at both ends of the pitch. Who thought up the defensive strategy for tonight? Evel Knievel?'' How awesome is that?
Saturday night's Rays game took an interesting turn in the ninth inning when the Marlins were busted for batting out of order. Nice job and smart thinking by Sun Sports to show closeups of the lineup cards posted on each dugout wall during the controversy. The Marlins' card showed that Brian Barden was batting ninth, while the Rays' card said Wes Helms. Even after 31/2 hours, the folks at Sun Sports were on top of their game.
Alexi Lalas, studio analyst on ABC/ESPN's World Cup coverage, is walking a thin line. He's outspoken, knowledgeable, well-spoken and entertaining, but his unabashed homerism for the United States does a little damage to his credibility. I'm not sure I totally trust him when he talks about matches and stories involving the United States.
Yes, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is the best player in basketball right now. But let's not get carried away with these Michael Jordan comparisons just because Bryant now has five NBA titles, one fewer than Jordan had. If Jordan hadn't walked away for two years, he likely would've won eight consecutive NBA titles. Comparing Kobe to Jordan is laughable.
On ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday, the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, "(Bryant) is not Michael Jordan, and Michael Jordan remains supreme as the greatest individual player in the history of basketball.'' Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News added, "He's not Michael. He's not going to be Michael.''
Man, I don’t know what the rules are for French television, but it sounds a bit more descriptive than American TV. During Sunday morning's World Cup coverage on ESPN, host Bob Ley was interviewing Erik Bielderman of the French newspaper L'Equipe about French striker Nicolas Anelka being kicked off the team. Bielderman, who was being interviewed by telephone, was asked what Anelka said to his coach to get kicked off the team. That's when Bielderman repeated exactly what Anelka said, and it included two curse words, including the trump card of all curse words. Ley, always cool and collected, apologized to viewers for Bielderman's "frankness,'' and, knowing that Bielderman probably didn't realize he couldn't drop a bomb like he did on American television, thanked Bielderman for "being direct in the quotation.'' You gotta love Bob Ley.
Three things that popped into my head
1. It doesn't matter what the tradition is, something is terribly wrong when an official in a sport doesn't have to explain a foul or whom it was called on as happened in the U.S.-Slovenia World Cup match.
2. Whom would you rather have sitting behind you, someone with a vuvuzela or someone with a cowbell?
3. Back on April 5, I predicted the Rays would win 83 games this season. That meant a third-place finish in the American League East. I'm going to miss on the 83 victories. I don't think I'm going to miss on the third-place finish.