Shooting from the lip/June 3rd edition

The latest from the world of sports ...

lightning.Popular team of the day
It looks as if Tampa Bay jumped on the Lightning bandwagon this spring. Earlier in the NHL playoffs, the Rays were routinely outdrawing the Lightning on TV. But the No. 1 television program in all of Tampa Bay on May 27 was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final between the Lightning and Bruins.

Versus scored a 7.8 rating for the market, meaning 7.8 percent of households in Tampa Bay watched the game. It marked the best rating ever for Versus in the Tampa Bay market. Meantime, 2.55 million viewed the game nationally, the highest for a conference final game since 2002 and Versus’ best non-Stanley Cup final rating since it began carrying the NHL during the 2005-06 season.

evert.Hire of the day
ESPN announced Thursday that tennis legend Chris Evert will join the network's coverage of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Evert, who won three Wimbledons and six U.S. Opens, will work both in the studio and at courtside calling matches.

"I am really excited about working again in tennis as an analyst,'' Evert, 56, said. "I've been away from TV for 10 years because my priority was raising my three boys. And now that they are older, it is the right time to join the exceptional tennis team at ESPN. I have many friends there and enjoy watching their coverage. So I look forward to getting back behind the microphone.''

shaq.Analyst of the day
Now that the always-entertaining Shaquille O’Neal is retired, might his next move be to the broadcast booth? It seems like a natural jump for an outspoken player with Shaq's sense of humor. Then again, O'Neal has long held dreams of being in law enforcement after his playing days.

When asked during Thursday's online chat with readers about whether ABC/ESPN might be interested in bringing O'Neal aboard, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor John Walsh wrote, "If Shaq, independent of his proclaimed career as a man of the law, would entertain the possibility of a career in broadcasting, we certainly would be interested in having a conversation.''

Speaking of O’Neal, where, exactly, would he rank on the all-time list of centers? His resume is impressive with four NBA titles, three NBA Finals MVP awards, one regular-season MVP award and 15 All-Star selections. But he still doesn't crack the top three among centers with Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar no-brainer picks. Older generations would insist on including 1940s and 1950s legend George Mikan among the big three. After that, you could start making an argument for O'Neal.

The ratings game
NBC earned an overnight Nielsen rating of 3.2 for Wednesday's night Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final between the Canucks and Bruins. That means 3.2 percent of all U.S. households with televisions tuned in, about 4.6 million viewers. That is the best Game 1 rating the league has had since Dallas and Buffalo met in 1999 on Fox despite having only one U.S. team in the series. (Vancouver's viewers aren't counted.) It's also a 14.3 percent increase from last year's Game 1 between Chicago and Philadelphia, which aired on a Saturday night. Boston led all U.S. markets with a 25.5 local rating, meaning about a quarter of the Boston area tuned in.

But those numbers don't come close to the NBA. Tuesday night's Game 1 of the Finals between the Heat and Mavs delivered a 9.0 rating on ABC. About 15.1 million people tuned in to make it the most-viewed Game 1 of the Finals since the Lakers and Pistons met in 2004. And it was a 3 percent jump from a season ago, when the Lakers and Celtics met.  Miami-Fort Lauderdale led all U.S. markets with a 31.9 local rating; Dallas-Fort Worth was second at 29.9.

shanahan.Best decision of the day
Kudos to the NHL for naming former NHL player Brendan Shanahan as the league's dean of discipline. Shanahan will handle league suspensions, taking over for Colin Campbell, who will concentrate on his other duties in the NHL office.

Campbell handled the league's supplemental discipline cases for 13 years and, by all accounts, is a man of integrity and honor. And yes, it is a thankless job full of second-guessing. However, things became complicated when Campbell's son Gregory became an NHL player. He now plays for the Bruins after five seasons with the Panthers.

Campbell excused himself from handling discipline on games involving his son's teams. But the appearance of a conflict of interest, regardless of how much you believed in Campbell's integrity, was always going to be an issue as long as Campbell's son played in the league. The league didn’t make the change because of the conflict, but it just never seemed worth it for the league to have to defend itself constantly from such questions.

Okay, so Campbell didn't rule on something that happened in a Bruins game, but what about this scenario: An elite player such as Alex Ovechkin of the Caps does something that warrants a suspension. In three games, the Caps play the Bruins. So does Campbell's ruling include a suspension that keeps him out of playing against the Bruins? Even if Campbell never considered something such as that, the league still was forced to deal with the question of bias.

Late last year, several leaked e-mails from Campbell to league officials indicated he has issues with certain referees and even questioned penalty calls against his son. That surely must have been on the mind of every official who ever called a game involving his son.

It just never made sense to me why the NHL just didn't get someone different to do the job. The move is a few years too late, but at least it was finally made.

And Shanahan is the perfect choice. He played as recently as 2009. He was a skilled player. He was a tough player. He played with a bit of an edge and dropped the gloves if he had to. So he understands the modern game, how all types of players think and behave, and what goes on in all situations.

duemig.Three thumbs-up
1. To 620-AM afternoon host Steve Duemig for an absolutely classic 15-minute insulting, angry and hysterically funny rant on Wednesday, tearing into Rays catchers John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. Regardless of whether you like him or not, that's how talk radio is done, folks.
2. To 1010-AM afternoon host J.P. Peterson for dubbing Jaso and Shoppach "The Deadliest Catchers.''
3. To NBC for its Game 1 Stanley Cup final coverage, especially replays and analysis of Vancouver's Alex Burrows biting the finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron. Although, funny, the NHL claims it can't prove Burrows bit Bergeron and didn't suspend him. Maybe someone at the NHL should have watched NBC’s broadcast.
 

[Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 12:51pm]

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