Shooting from the lip/March 14th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Two documentaries about college basketball teams from the past debuted over the weekend: Runnin' Rebels of UNLV, HBO's effort about the UNLV team under controversial coach Jerry Tarkanian, and The Fab Five, ESPN's "30 for 30'' film about the University of Michigan team of the early 1990s.
Just about everything HBO Sports does is first-rate and Runnin' Rebels is a fun trip down memory lane, but there was nothing really new revealed in the documentary. The best part was learning how Las Vegas, America's party host, drew a sense of community from the Rebels.
Michigan's "Fab Five'' were known as outstanding basketball players, but also for their trash talk, baggy shorts and black socks and shoes. This outstanding documentary about this polarizing team was intriguing and,at times, disturbing as these young men became the targets of racism. Not only did the doc show America's view of the Michigan players, but the players' view of America. The most controversial quotes came from former Wolverine Jalen Rose, who revealed his hatred for Duke, which beat Michigan in the 1992 title game.
"For me, Duke was personal. I hated Duke and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for,'' Rose said in the film. "Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.''
Wow, that's strong. Recently, Rose amplified his comments about Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski to USA Today: "This is the reality: As a 38-year-old man, I respect the kind of athlete they recruit. They like to recruit well-to-do black guys that come from well-accomplished families that they understand are going to represent their program a certain way. They’re not interested necessarily in developing a kid from an urban area to try to teach how to be a young man.''
He added: "It's not because I don't respect Coach K: I think he's a fantastic coach. It's just that everybody know there's a stigma to where you sign to go to school. In the early 1990s, if you signed to go play at the University of Miami, University of Michigan, or the (UNLV) Runnin' Rebels, you were considered, I would say, on the 'B' side. If you went to Notre Dame, Indiana, Duke, you were on the 'A' side."
You can debate Rose's comments, but Rose comes off as a very likable, smart and charismatic personality in this film, one that goes under the category of "must-see.''
Here's a perfect example of how maniacal college sports fans can be. Kirk Herbstreit, the ESPN college football analyst and former Ohio State quarterback, and his family have moved from central Ohio, where he has lived his whole life, to Nashville. Why? Because of the vocal minority of Buckeyes fans who didn't like his occasional criticism of Ohio State. "Nobody loves Ohio State more than me,'' Herbstreit told the Columbus Dispatch. "And nobody will do more than I do for the university behind the scenes. But I've got a job to do, and I'm going to continue to be fair and objective. To continue to have to defend myself and my family in regards to my love and devotion to Ohio State is unfair.''
Worst sucking up
While ESPN's analysts were creaming the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee for some of its decisions, CBS's Jim Nantz was hosting a lovefest with selection committee chair Gene Smith. On camera, Nantz shook hands twice with Smith and congratulated him and the committee for its efforts. What, exactly, is Nantz congratulating Smith for? And why is he doing it on camera?
Nantz and partner Clark Kellog tossed out a couple of softballs about why Colorado and Alabama were left out, but they didn't follow up with any serious questions. This is pretty much how Nantz handles this interview every year. It has become a waste of air time because Nantz is more interested in patting the committee on the back than pressing it for answers. Really, what's the point? If you're not going to ask the hard questions and press for answers, why do it? (ESPN's George Smith was a little stronger in his questioning of Gene Smith, and did not feel the need to shake his hand.)
Meantime, ESPN analysts Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis, Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale and Doug Gottlieb were blasting away at how schools such as Colorado, Virginia Tech and Alabama were left out, while teams such as Clemson and Virginia Commonwealth got in. It was as vicious as the crew has ever been. Vitale said his wife "doesn't know diddly'' about it, but would have done better than the committee. Meantime, Bilas, again, called for more basketball people on the committee and even questioned if some of the members even knew "that a basketball is round.''
But, hey, according to Nantz, the committee needs to be congratulated. Let's all go shake their hands.
Three favorite broadcasters of the weekend
1. Jay Bilas. ESPN’s analyst has become as good at college basketball analysis as Kirk Herbstreit is with college football analysis. That's to say, there's no one better. And, like Herbstreit, Bilas is equally good in the studio or at a game.
2. Bill Raftery. The CBS and ESPN college hoops analyst isn't as high-profile as Dick Vitale but is as enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
3. Harold Lederman. HBO Boxing's unofficial ringside judge is about 2 percent of HBO's coverage, but 100 percent of what he says is gold.
Three people who need to quiet down
1. Billy Packer. The former CBS announcer has turned into a bitter curmudgeon, and he shot off his mouth last week about how TNT shouldn't be doing NCAA Tournament games. TNT's Charles Barkley did everyone a favor by saying Packer needs to "shut the hell up.''
2. Bob Knight. I like Knight on ESPN's basketball coverage, but making excuses and backing Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning radio show made Knight look foolish. Tressel not coming forth with illegal activity of his players is indefensible. An Ohio State alum such as Knight should be more offended than most.
3. I seem to be in the minority on this one, but I'm already dreading listening to CBS's Gus Johnson and his guttural screams every time someone makes a basket. Let's hope he saves his inaudible yelling for the truly thrilling moments.
Three things I liked on TV this weekend
1. ESPN's Bracketology show breaking down the NCAA basketball tournament with news, analysis and interviews was thorough, entertaining and incredibly accomplished television, especially when you realize it was put together on the fly.
2. NBC, as always, deserves an A for its NHL Game of the Week (Caps-Blackhawks) coverage.
3. This is simple and silly, but it's fun to watch college basketball teams jumping up and down when they learn they've made the tournament on CBS's selection show.
Three things I didn't like on TV this weekend
1. It was annoying that Tampa Bay viewers were forced to watch Raycom's coverage of the ACC tournament instead of ESPN's coverage. Raycom is fine, but it's not ESPN.
2. I constantly rave about Charles Barkley, but he had a rough college hoops debut on CBS's selection show. Apparently, he is the only person in the country who doesn't think the Big East is a great conference.
3. I wanted to jump out a window each and every time this weekend that I had to hear that sappy piano music and: "A tradition unlike any other … The Masters.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. Something you need to know: No one cares about your NCAA bracket. No one cares which teams you have in the Final Four or who your Cinderella is. Seriously, when you start telling someone about your bracket and you think you're sounding intelligent or cool, the person you're talking to is not listening. Because they don't care!
2. The Lightning can forget about winning the Southeast Division. The Caps have pulled away for good.
3. Speaking of the Lightning, it's annoying it has a game tonight at Toronto and it's not on local television.