Shooting from the lip/March 5th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Far too many basketball commentators, especially in the college game, are too quick to blindly defend officials. You see it all the time: A referee calls a foul and before any of us, including the analyst, have seen a replay, the analyst says, "That's a good call.''
That's why it was so refreshing to hear ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla rip the officials at the end of Murray State's two-point victory over Tennessee State in Saturday's final of Ohio Valley tournament. Most viewers probably didn't even notice that the winning bucket came on what should have been a charging call, but Fraschilla went out of his way to point out the missed call.
It turned out to be a critical noncall. Murray State was going to the NCAA Tournament no matter what. But the loss cost Tennessee State an automatic bid and it likely won’t get an at-large invitation. That's actually good news for major conference bubble teams, such as USF. By the way, Tennessee State coach John Cooper had a right to bellyache about the blown call, but he showed class by telling reporters after the game that he didn't have a problem with the noncall and that the game was well officiated.
Unless you're a Gators fan, you probably don't know much about Mark Wise. He has been the radio color analyst on Florida basketball for the past 14 years alongside Mick Hubert. But on Saturday, USF fans got a chance to hear Wise. He handled the color on ESPN3's broadcast of the USF-West Virginia game, which was picked up by Bright House Sports Network. Wise was outstanding. He offered good analysis, criticism and humor. Wise was quick to question why USF, which was trailing, was waiting so long to foul in the final minute. USF coach Stan Heath admitted after the game that the Bulls should have fouled sooner.
A former USF assistant under coach Lee Rose, Wise calls a similar game on Gators radio, just as quick to question and criticize coach Billy Donovan and the play of the Gators as he is to praise them. Isn't that what a good analyst does?
The hockey and sports media world is all abuzz over on an on-air argument Wednesday night between NBC Sports Network's Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick. The debate was over whether a hit delivered by the Stars' Eric Nystrom on Pens defenseman Kris Letang was dirty. Milbury thought it was and that Nystrom should be suspended. Roenick thought the hit was clean, and he made his point by calling Milbury "soft'' and offering to buy him a Shirley Temple after the broadcast.
The argument got loud, heated and personal, but, honestly, I didn't buy it. It came off as contrived to me, a big act, a segment orchestrated to get people talking. This isn't to say that Milbury and Roenick didn't have differing opinions, but all the yelling and name-calling seemed like a way to drum up interest for a network that is struggling in the ratings.
Roenick, by the way, is a likeable fellow, but he seems to try just a little too hard to be outrageous and controversial. It's like he wants to be known as the outspoken one, America's version of Don Cherry. The thing is, I believe Cherry believes everything he says, including the far-out stuff. I'm not sure I believe that Roenick believes everything he says on the air.
It is no coincidence that ESPN's Sports Reporters rebounded with a strong show Sunday on the same day that New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica returned to his usual seat on the panel. The show has been sluggish in recent weeks as Lupica's appearances have been hit and miss. Lupica, Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan and Miami Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez were thought-provoking and captivating as they chewed over such topics at the Saints' bounty scandal, crazy baseball salaries and the NBA.
Too bad that the two best broadcasts of the weekend were on at the same time Sunday and involved teams from the same two cities. Boston and New York sports fans had to keep the remote in their hands to hop back and forth between the Bruins-Rangers game on NBC and the Celtics-Knicks game on ABC.
I could listen to ABC's NBA analyst Hubie Brown all day. His style never gets old, and I feel smarter about basketball after listening to him. Meantime, NBC's NHL team of Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyk and Pierre Maguire is so in tune with one another that they are incapable of anything less than a superb broadcast.
Three random thoughts about TV this weekend
1. CBS college hoops analyst Clark Kellogg was so good and right-down-the-middle during his call of Sunday's dramatic Big Ten showdown game between Ohio State and Michigan State that, if you watched, I bet you forgot Kellogg played for Ohio State from 1979-82. Never even dawned on me until after the game.
2. Normally, I like ESPN NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty, but his style seems to have turned a little more arrogant and stubborn the past couple of weeks, especially this past Saturday when he seemed harsher than he needed to be about Danica Patrick's NASCAR learning curve.
3. Good for NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury. He admitted Sunday night he was wrong to bury the Lightning a couple of weeks ago. "Good for them,'' said Milbury, who then took a shot at himself by adding: "It's good when teams come back like that and make people look silly.''
It seemed ridiculous that ESPN's ticker on the bottom of the screen Saturday afternoon included a "Tiger Watch.'' It reported that Tiger Woods was five shots behind the leaders. It seemed just as ridiculous later in the day when the ticker reported that Woods was tied for 22nd place. Uh, it didn't seem so ridiculous Sunday when Woods charged to a second-place finish with an 8-under 62.
I have to admit that it does make sense that ESPN has a "Tiger Alert'' on the ticker. Be honest. If you're watching the ticker at the bottom of the screen and you see the PGA tournament leaderboard, don't you immediately say to yourself, "Hmm, I wonder how Tiger is doing?''
Check it out
The MLB Network will put microphones on a dozen players and coaches for Wednesday’s 3 p.m. spring training game between the Indians and Diamondbacks. In addition, microphones will be set up at each base, down the first- and third-base lines and on the outfield wall. Don't worry, there will be a slight delay to assure no R-rated words get on the air.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Here's hoping USF gets into the NCAA Tournament, but if the Bulls don't win more than one game in the Big East Tournament, I still believe there will be those on the selection committee who will say, "Wait, USF's best win this season was against a Louisville team that finished seventh in the Big East?''
2. How fun would it be to see the Lightning sneak into the playoffs and play John Tortorella's Rangers in the first round?
3. Speaking of the Lightning, if it makes the playoffs, isn't Steven Stamkos the league MVP?