Shooting from the lip/May 10th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
What an outstanding job turned in by Sun Sports in covering Sunday's Rays-A’s game, when Oakland's Dallas Braden threw the 19th perfect game in major-league history. While Rays fans might have been rooting for someone to get a hit, the Rays' television crew (especially announcers Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy) realized a perfect game is bigger than the Rays and it needed to be treated with reverence and, when it was over, jubilance. Just like last season when the White Sox's Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Rays, Staats understood we were watching history and dignified the final few outs with the appreciation and awe it deserved. When the last out was recorded on Mother's Day, Sun Sports stayed with Braden, and viewers were able to witness a special moment between Braden and his grandmother, who helped raise him after his mother died while he was in high school.
Before signing off, Sun Sports showed each of the 27 outs again. Kennedy was right. Braden's performance and reaction was awesome. It was "pretty special.'' So was Sun Sports' coverage.
Rays analyst Kevin Kennedy made a solid point in wrapping up Dallas Braden’s perfect game Sunday. The final Rays hitter, Gabe Kapler, worked the count to 3-and-1 and easily could have taken a pitch to force Braden to throw a 3-and-2 strike for a chance at his perfect game. "But he got a pitch he could hit, and he swung at it,'' Kennedy said. "And that's the thing to do.''
Former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis has been let go by HBO as a boxing analyst. HBO released a statement attributed to Lewis' people saying he was leaving to dedicate more time to his international boxing academy, but several outlets are reporting HBO did not renew Lewis' contract. That's too bad, really. Lewis was criticized for his style, but I always found his analysis to be extremely insightful especially because he was the only member of HBO's cast of analysts who actually boxed at a high level. Word is trainer Freddie Roach will replace Lewis, and he will be a nice addition. HBO's boxing coverage is outstanding and will continue to be without Lewis. But it would be nice if the network can bring in another elite boxer as part of its broadcast team.
Fox did a neat thing Saturday to honor the passings of legendary Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell and former Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts. They held a moment of silence in the top of the third of the Red Sox-Yankees game. Announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver turned off their microphones, and viewers heard the sounds of the game and watched the action with no announcing for five minutes. Buck and McCarver do an outstanding job, but it was surprisingly enjoyable to watch a few minutes with no announcing.
Meantime, Buck perfectly described the heartache felt by baseball fans who lose a longtime hometown announcer. For years, Harry Kalas called games in Philadelphia. You had Harry Caray in St. Louis and Chicago, Mel Allen in New York, Jack Buck in St. Louis, Bob Prince in Pittsburgh and the list goes on. Harwell, who died last week, called Tigers games for the better part of 42 years.
"It's a unique bond that a radio play-by-play announcer has with a listening audience,'' Buck said. "It's almost like, for some, a member of the family passing away. Because those men who have done it -- they provide the sound track for the spring, summer and sometime into fall for decades.''
Best featured team
Usually the national sports shows concentrate on the New Yorks and Bostons of the world, but now Tampa Bay is getting some major play thanks to the Rays' hot start. The Rays were the topic of one of the segments during Sunday's Sports Reporters on ESPN. Not only did the panel, which included Mike Lupica of New York's Daily News and Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, heap loads of praise on the Rays' start, they thought the Rays will be a World Series contender. In fact, there was even talk they might have the edge over the Yankees.
Lupica, hinting at the Yankees’ injury issues, said, "The only question I have when I look at these two teams -- and I think they're going to be there all summer -- is how much the youth of the Rays will be a strength as the season goes on and how much the age of the Yankees come into play?''
Most surprising news
Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reported the Red Sox could release slugger David Ortiz by the end of the month. Hard to believe that just a season after he hit 28 homers with 99 RBIs -- and only four years after blasting 54 homers with 137 RBIs -- that Ortiz, only 34, has fallen so far that the Red Sox would just let him go. Almost as interesting is a graphic Fox showed Saturday about how the big three in the American League East -- Boston, New York and Tampa Bay -- are getting very little production from the players who were supposed to be their main designated hitters. When the graphic ran Saturday, Ortiz was hitting .179 with four homers and nine RBIs, Tampa Bay's Pat Burrell was hitting .229 with two homers and 13 RBIs and New York's Nick Johnson was on the disabled list with a .162 average, two homers and eight RBIs.
"These are guys that are just paid to hit,'' announcer Joe Buck said. "They're not.''
ESPN's Outside the Lines had a chilling report on USA Swimming and instances of swimmers, sometimes as young as 10 or 11, being sexually abused by their coaches. Because of the nature of the crime, there is no way to tell how prevalent the problem might be. But reporter T.J. Quinn grilled USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus on whether USA Swimming has done enough to prevent the abuse. Recently, USA Swimming installed a seven-point plan to attack the issue.
Three things that popped into my head
1. How cool was it that Dallas Braden -- the same guy who is in a feud with the Yankees- Alex Rodriguez -- threw a perfect game just days after A-Rod said he didn't want to talk about Braden and extend his "15 minutes of fame''?
2. If ESPN's coverage of the World Cup is half as good as its promo ads featuring U2, it should be the highlight of the summer.
3. Sure, the Players Championship is not a run-of-the-mill tournament, but it's not a major championship either. It was annoying that NBC treated it like it was all weekend long.