Shooting from the lip/March 22 edition

21

March

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

Tiger The Tiger interviews
Tiger Woods didn't have to speak at all, but even in giving his first interviews Sunday, he continued to display the entitlement he says led him down a path to destructive behavior. Woods, once again playing by his own rules, limited ESPN and Golf Channel to a mere five minutes of questions, barely enough time to scratch the surface of all that has been discovered since Woods crashed his car last Thanksgiving.

ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman did the best they could under the heavy time constraints, but neither were able to ask thorough follow-up questions to evasive or generic answers -- something Woods likely knew full well when he put a shot-clock on the interview. Rinaldi and Tilghman, instead, were forced to stay on script and keep the interviews moving forward, unable to press Woods on any of his answers. To Woods' credit, he didn't ramble as a way of chewing up time. His answers, for the most part, were short and addressed the questions, even when he gave a version of "no comment'' by saying something was a "private matter.''

After the interview, Rinaldi addressed the time constraints and said the interview was "not conclusive nor is it comprehensive.'' Tilghman also made mention of how short the interview was.

Tilghman, frustratingly, veered off track with her third question just 70 seconds into the interview when she started asking about Woods playing in the Masters and how his therapy would affect his 2010 golf schedule, as if anyone cares whether he will play the John Deere Classic. But she soon found her footing again and asked Woods intriguing questions, such as what Woods' father would have thought of his behavior, what Woods will tell his children in the future and Woods' feelings on becoming a "punch line.''

Rinaldi, meantime, was masterful. His questions came rapid fire, even cutting off Woods a couple of times to get as much out of Woods as he could in the precious time he had. Rinaldi's best questions were asking Woods about the low point of this ordeal (Woods said facing his wife and mother) and asking Woods why he married (Woods said because he loved his wife). And, give Rinaldi credit for trying, at least, to get Woods to talk about just how many affairs he had.

The only question neither asked that seems pertinent is just how far back Woods' indiscretions go? Are we talking a year or two? Five years? Was it before he was married? Before he met Elin? Before or after he had children? What, exactly, sparked this behavior? But it's hard to blame either Rinaldi or Tilghman for not asking everything. After all, they only had five minutes.

So what happens now? You can see Woods' PR strategy. He has now given a 12-minute statement and two interviews where the interviewers could ask anything they wanted. In his mind, he has accepted responsibility, apologized for his actions and answered questions from the media. What else is left?

Plenty. This story is not over, regardless of what Woods thinks or wants. Woods has remained the puppet-master throughout this story. He didn't take questions after his prepared statement last month. He limited the interviews Sunday to a ridiculous five minutes. You wonder if Woods' hope is the public grows tired of the story and turns on the media for continuing to pursue it. It's interesting -- a poll currently on TampaBay.com asks readers which athlete they are most tired of reading about with the choices being Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Tim Tebow and Brett Favre. Woods, by far, is the leader with more 54 percent.

Give Woods credit for talking at all Sunday, but let's not act as if he was an open book. As Rinaldi said, the interviews were not conclusive nor comprehensive. Woods isn't done talking about this. He can't just go back to being a normal golfer again, no matter what he thinks he's entitled to.

Bubba Best analysts
NBC is my favorite network when it comes to covering golf, so it was nice that the weekend's Transitions Championship at Innisbrook was on NBC. What sets NBC apart from the other networks are the analysts, specifically Johnny Miller, Dottie Pepper and Gary Koch. Host Dan Hicks is a real pro and the other analysts are fine, but I'd be perfectly content if Miller, Pepper and Koch did all the talking. No other network can match NBC's star analysts.

One could compliment practically everything that comes out of their mouths, but here's just a snapshot from Saturday that exemplifies how good they are. Bubba Watson was about to tee off on the par-3 eighth hole when Koch said, "No telling what kind of shot this will be.'' Pepper chimed in with, "High, low, left, right, you never know what's coming (with Watson).'' Sure enough, Watson's drive veered left and struck a tree, the ball landing just 61 yards from where Watson teed off. It's one thing to talk about what happened after a shot, but it's another to hint about it before the shot. NBC's crew does that better than anyone.

Highest praise
Innisbrook's Copperhead Course, which hosted the Transitions Championship, is getting quite the reputation. Some are even suggesting it's about time it hosts a major, such as the PGA Championship.
NBC's Dan Hicks said the course has "quickly become one of the most respected tracks on the Tour.''
NBC's Johnny Miller said, "It's a course the guys like to play.''

Duke Most missed games
In this day and age, it seems ridiculous that the average television viewer with standard cable cannot watch every single game of the NCAA basketball tournament. During the first weekend of the tournament, viewers are at the whim of CBS and the local affiliate, forced to watch whatever game the network has chosen. Take Sunday afternoon. Local viewers watched the first five minutes of the Pitt-Xavier game and then were switched to Duke-California. That's just one example of about a dozen over the first four days.

True, one can watch games online or get a satellite dish or go to a sports bar, and while CBS has gotten better about switching from blowouts to close games, it dropped the ball badly Sunday by shuffling around and missing the last second of  Pitt-Xavier, when Pitt had a chance to tie the score. Overall, it's not a fulfilling experience for the viewer to be unable to watch any game from beginning to tend.

The only solution? The tournament eventually is going to have to work its way to ESPN/ABC, which has a slew of stations to show every game of the tournament. The feeling is that ESPN eventually will acquire the rights, and that could happen this summer. CBS has the rights through the 2013 tournament, but the NCAA can opt out after this year. That would be great, but there is a potential caveat: if ESPN does acquire the rights, it is believed it will push to expand the tournament from 64 to 96 teams. The only good thing about that is at least we would be able to watch all the games.

Best audio
When the Sports Emmy Award nominations were announced last week, there were a bunch of technical awards that most people don't care about, including "Outstanding Live Event Audio/Sound.'' Then, after watching NBC's coverage of the Transitions Championship, it made perfect sense that NBC's golf coverage was nominated for an Emmy in audio/sound even though we're talking about a sport where silence is golden. NBC's audio work, especially hearing the caddies and golfers talk to one another, made the tournament that much more enjoyable and certainly is Emmy-worthy.

Ron Worst decision
We are a forgiving society and I'm all for people getting second chances, even numbskulls such as Tiger Woods. But how in the world does Rangers manager Ron Washington keep his job after using cocaine last season? What makes it especially grotesque, as Miami Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez pointed out, is Washington supposedly experimented with cocaine while managing -- and, when you think about it, mentoring -- Josh Hamilton, a recovering drug abuser. Doesn't that say something about Washington’s decision-making skills?

Love-and-hate relationships
I love listening to CBS basketball analyst Bill Raftery because he's so genuinely excitable. I don't love listening to CBS basketball announcer Gus Johnson, who seems too excitable and I'm never sure how much of it is genuine and how much is schtick.

Best point
We always seemed so shocked when high seeds are bounced out of the NCAA Tournament by so-called little schools. But each year, it seems to happen with more frequency and you have to wonder just how big these upsets really are. "The gap between the best and the rest has shrunk,'' CBS’s Greg Anthony said. ESPN's Hannah Storm might have broken it down best: "Maybe the lesson we learned is some of these mid majors should be seeded a little higher.''

Tony Three things that popped into my head
1. Good to see Rays catcher Dioner Navarro getting in regular-season mode by playing hard Saturday against the Twins and blocking home plate. But it's spring training, dude. You got the job. Save that stuff for the regular season, when the games count. Navarro is lucky he wasn't injured worse than he was when Minnesota's Jacque Jones slid him to him. He should be ready for opening day.
2. First he ripped into the wardrobe of ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm. Then he suggested cars should run over bicyclists and drew the ire of cyclist Lance Armstrong. So maybe ESPN's Tony Kornheiser spoke before he thought. But come on, let's not lose our minds here. He wasn't seriously suggesting that cyclists should be killed. And is the length of Storm’s skirt really that big of a deal? Everyone needs to lighten up.
3. So, with its playoff life in the balance, the Lightning has lost five in a row and 12 of its past 14. It is 2-9 since the Olympic break. Hmm, if I didn't know better, I would think that the players are playing like they don't really care if the coach and/or general manager gets fired.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 3:43pm]

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