Shooting from the lip/June 4th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Rays television analyst Brian Anderson was off this past weekend so Todd Kalas joined Dewayne Staats in the booth for Tampa Bay's series against the Orioles. It was of no surprise that the broadcasts were knowledgeable and enjoyable. Kalas is a pro and has no problem making the transition from sideline reporter to working in the booth.
The reason is Kalas knows what he knows and knows what he doesn't know. He's not a former player, so his analysis is based on extensive homework and reporting. But he's also been around the game enough to know what he's watching.
For example, on Friday night, the Rays' Carlos Pena was surprisingly gunned down at home on a grounder to short. As the replay ran, Kalas smartly zeroed in on Pena and noticed that Pena froze just long enough to be unable to score on a play where he should have scored.
All in all, I still prefer the voice of a former player in the booth. Such an analyst lends a perspective that a non-player just can't provide, and Anderson does that very well. However, for a few times a year, it's good to hear Kalas in the booth. The Rays could've replaced Anderson with a former player, such as Orestes Destrade. But this way allows Kalas a chance to show his stuff and, perhaps, work his way into a booth, if not here than with another team, if that's what he wants to do.
ESPN's Outside the Lines aired a feature Sunday that almost surely will get nominated for a sports Emmy. It was about FC Start, a soccer team comprised of employees of a bakery who were former professional soccer players from Kiev. In 1942, they defeated a team of Nazis, 5-3, in a match despite orders from the Nazis to lose.
Ten players on the winning team then were sent to concentration camps and four were later executed. OTL's re-telling of the story was inspirational, heartbreaking, chilling and sad. The match was the basis for the 1981 film Victory, which starred Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Pele, although, unlike in real life, the players in the film all escaped capture.
The finals of this year's UEFA Euro 2012 tournament, which begins this week, will be held in Kiev.
The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix had to be shut down for a while Sunday when chunks of the track started coming up. There was plenty of bumpy racing even before the race was stopped. How bumpy? During a red-flag interview with ABC's Jamie Little, driver Oriol Servia held up his hand to the camera to show a nasty blister from trying to hold the shaky steering wheel.
Little laughed and said, "Thanks for turning my stomach with that blister.''
You know, along with hockey players, IndyCar drivers might be the most cooperative bunch of athletes around.
Fox is in a stretch of showing its Saturday baseball Game of the Week broadcasts in prime time. I don't like it.
Saturday Game of the Weeks are supposed to be played during the afternoon. That's the way it has always been. It's the way it always should be. Most baseball games are at night. TBS has a Sunday afternoon national game, but there's something special about Saturday afternoon baseball. It might be true that kids don't have early bedtimes on Saturdays, but let's look at this past Saturday's Fox game between the Yankees and Tigers.
It was a heck of game, so good that announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver correctly suggested that it wasn't quite like a post-season game, but it did feel more important than just another regular-season game in June. Know what time it ended? Close to midnight. How many 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds, even 10-year-olds are up at that time?
I'm not sure who was more excited about Tiger Woods winning the Memorial -- Tiger himself, CBS’s broadcasters, the PGA or the fans? The roar Tiger received as he walked up the 18th fairway and then after he won was deafening, even through the television.
I'm all for forgiveness and second chances, but I still am puzzled by the depth of the support for Woods. Many fans overwhelmingly embrace him even as he continues to keep everyone at arm's length with his standoffish behavior. It leads me to believe that some folks just love someone who wins, no matter what they have done away from the playing field and how they act on it sometimes.
I fully expected to spend a good portion of this column talking about the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals and what a great job NBC's Mike Emrick, Pierre McGuire and Ed Olczyk were doing. Instead, despite a couple of 2-1 overtime Kings victories, the series has been kind of boring. NBC is doing a good job, but you could only make so much lemonade out of two lemons. Emrick, the play-by-play guy, has been the star so far, but that's mostly because the analysts haven't had much to analyze.
An official announcement is expected this week, but Dick Vitale's gala last month to raise money in the fight against pediatric cancer raised $2.1 million, a record for the seven-year event. Think about that. More than $2 million in one night. The college basketball world gets credit, of course, but most of this is due to Vitale's tireless work and commitment. He's one of the good guys, folks.
Best yet worst moment
If you're a Mets fan, you certainly rejoiced in Johan Santana throwing the first no-hitter in the 51-year history of the Mets. But for the rest of us, didn't you kind of enjoy that no-hitter drought? Not because it was the Mets, but because it was one of those interesting peculiarities in sports, and sports seems just ever-so-slightly less interesting now. It's not unlike the Bucs going all those years without returning a kickoff for a touchdown.
It was always fun, just before a kickoff, for someone to say, "You know, the Bucs have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown.'' The same with the Mets. Every time someone took a no-hitter to even the fifth or sixth inning, an announcer would bring up the fact that the Mets had never had a no-hitter. Now it's gone. Sigh.
Three things that popped into my head
1. The Red Wings' Nick Lidstrom retired last week. After Bobby Orr, we're talking about the best defenseman who ever lived. And, even if he came back next season at age 42, he'd still be among the top 10 defensemen in the NHL right now.
2. Kurt Busch needs some serious anger-management counseling. Until then, he needs to do two things: shut up and go away.
3. In years past, it used to be stunning when the Rays made an error. Now it's a shocker when they go through an entire game without making an error.