Shooting from the lip/June 6th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Someone at NBC needs to give hockey analyst Mike Milbury a new contract with a significant raise. Then tear up that contract and give him another one with a raise on top of that.
Milbury has become the mouth that roars, America's version of Don Cherry. No other analyst on television has viewers saying, "Did you hear what he just said?'' as much as Milbury. His commentary is emotional, occasionally absurd and not always even logical. Half the time, viewers are probably rolling their eyes. But it's interesting. Even if you disagree with him, Milbury is worth listening to, especially because you can tell Milbury actually believes what he is saying. He's not like, say, ESPN's Skip Bayless. You get the feeling Bayless doesn't even buy what he's trying to sell and is only spewing out junk just to be outrageous.
The best part of Milbury is he doesn't care who he tweaks. He'll rip players, coaches and on Saturday night, he even blasted the NHL, something that surely didn't go over well in the league office as it is celebrating its signature event. Talking about Vancouver's Alex Burrows, who appeared to bite Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, Milbury jumped on the league just seconds into Saturday's Game 2 coverage for not suspending Burrows.
"If I had known in the late '70s that it was okay to pig out on human flesh, I would have eaten Guy Lafleur,'' Milbury said. "This is a disgraceful call by the league. This guy should have been suspended. They're impacting this series by a noncall. It was not very courageous.''
Then, as only the hockey gods could arrange, Burrows had an assist and two goals, including the winner 11 seconds into overtime in Vancouver's 3-2 victory. That only gave Milbury more ammunition after the game to attack the league. Vancouver fans probably laughed. Boston fans were seething. And for the rest of us, we sat back and watched awfully good television.
Most crowded booth
Let me start by saying I like NBC announcer Ted Robinson. Unlike so many broadcasters out there, Robinson, below, doesn't feel the need to be the star of the show. He doesn't try to be bigger than the event he is calling. And he's a solid tennis announcer. He knows the sport, and you can tell he likes calling it.
Still, his presence made the NBC three-person booth too crowded during Sunday's men's final of the French Open. As reader Mike Wilkinson so astutely wrote in an e-mail: "Why have three people in the booth for a game being played by two people?’''
If one sport out there doesn’t need a true play-by-play announcer, it's tennis. Viewers can see the action. The announcers don't speak during the points anyway. The scoreboard is on the screen. All the play-by-play guy can do then is set up the analysts and that's where the problem lies. NBC's John McEnroe and Mary Carillo are so good that they don't need setting up. They are both exceptional analysts who always have something interesting or informative or fun to say.
In tennis, there's precious little time for the broadcasters to speak and anytime Robinson is talking, that means McEnroe and Carillo are not. It just seems that letting McEnroe and Carillo handle the broadcast themselves would best serve the viewers.
In the wake of Giants catcher Buster Posey getting bowled over at home plate and suffering a broken leg, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane announced he has told his catchers not to block the plate. Beane's reasoning is that it's smarter to give up a run here and there than to potentially lose a valuable catcher for months at a time.
The subject came up during a Rays broadcast on Sun Sports last week and analyst Brian Anderson made a good point: Why announce something like that?
"Whether you agree with the practice of blocking the plate or not, why would you tell other teams your strategy?’'' Anderson said. "It's like saying, 'We're not going to steal bases with two outs.' It doesn't make sense.''
It's especially unusual considering teams go to great lengths to keep secrets from one another. So much so that pitchers actually cover their mouths with their gloves during meetings on the mound so no one can read their lips, as if MLB teams hire professional lip-readers just to uncover a catcher telling a pitcher to be extra careful pitching to Albert Pujols.
That has to be the silliest thing ever, doesn't it? And it's even sillier when you go to a youth game and see the same thing. There might not be anything more ridiculous than a 12-year-old covering his mouth with his glove while discussing "strategy''’ with his 11-year-old catcher.
Line of the day
Leave it to Phil Mushnick, acerbic sports media columnist at the New York Post, to come up with this beauty:
"I'm not sure how much ESPN pays Magic Johnson to say that teams 'have to execute on offense and play good defense,' but I'm guessing that such info doesn't come cheap.''
Most interesting player
Former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress is scheduled to be released from prison today after serving 21 months for attempted criminal possession of a weapon. Burress carried an unlicensed gun into a Manhattan nightclub and accidently shot himself in the leg. During ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday, NFL analyst Cris Carter suggested three teams might be interested in signing Burress, who turns 34 in August. Carter's three teams: 49ers, Rams and the Bucs.
Carter pointed out that coach Raheem Morris might be a good fit for Burress and the Bucs could use a veteran receiver to go with its young core. But, when you think about it, Tampa Bay really doesn't make sense. With all their recent arrests, the Bucs probably would be best served to avoid bringing in someone with that kind of baggage. Plus, the way the Bucs receivers were playing at the end of last season, they don't need a guy who hasn’t caught an NFL pass since Nov. 16, 2008.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Brian Sabean, the former Eckerd College player and University of Tampa coach, is out of line for his disparaging comments about the Marlins' Scott Cousins, who ran over Giants catcher Buster Posey and broke Posey's leg. Think Sabean would have such comments if one of his players had bowled over another team's catcher? In fact, several internet sites last week dialed up replays of Giants players running over opposing catchers and, funny, Sabean didn't say anything about those.
2. Rafael Nadal is only 25 and on Sunday won his 10th grand slam, only six fewer than Roger Federer. Might we be watching the best tennis player ever?
3. Have you ever seen another team so disliked by seemingly everyone other than its hometown fans than the Miami Heat?