Shooting from the lip/May 14th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
NBC again gets the nod for best sporting event coverage of the weekend. Some weekends, it's because of its stellar hockey coverage. Last week, it was because of its must-see Kentucky Derby broadcast. This past weekend, it was its work on golf's Players Championship.
NBC can just hand Johnny Miller a microphone, let him talk and you have the best golf coverage on TV, as far as I'm concerned. Sprinkle in a little Dottie Pepper from the course, add a dose of contributor Tim Rosaforte and you can just lose your remote for the afternoon because there is no reason to change the channel.
Let's get back to Miller. Everything he says is of interest to me. He criticizes golfers and praises them, too. He questions them and compliments them. He scolds them, makes fun of them and cheers them on. All of those elements were on display over the weekend, and it's a sign of someone with absolutely no agenda. His mission appears to be to say what’s on his mind. Hmm, I would say that also is the mission of a top analyst.
It pays to pay attention. Just 80 seconds into Saturday's Game 7 of the NHL playoff series between the Rangers and Capitals, NBC Sports Network analyst Pierre McGuire pointed out to viewers that Rangers stars Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik already were double-shifting.
"Look who's back on the ice,'' McGuire said.
Within 10 seconds, Richards blasted a slap shot into the net for the critical first goal of the game.
An analyst is never better than when he points out something that a viewer should look for and then have that something happen. That's what McGuire did. Outstanding.
Let's say that the average Rays game broadcast is three hours. Let's say there will be 150 Rays games on Sun Sports this year. That comes out to 450 hours, or the equivalent of nearly 19 days. Imagine talking for 19 days straight and keeping the broadcasts fresh and fun. That's the task given to Rays announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson. Many who don't like Anderson criticize him for talking too much about pitching.
While it's clear that Anderson does talk about pitching more than any other aspect, who can blame him? After all, Anderson was a pitcher. That's his area of expertise. He does, in fact, talk about other things -- hitting, fielding, managing -- but his best commentary is about pitching. Sometimes it's about mechanics, sometimes it's about philosophy. But it's always interesting.
Take Saturday, when Anderson pointed out that Rays pitcher Matt Moore couldn’t put away the Orioles' Wilson Betemit because he kept throwing the same fastball in the same spot. At the major-league level, even 97-mph fastballs are going to be fouled off.
"He needs to mix it up,'' Anderson said.
On the next pitch, Moore threw an 81-mph changeup and what happened? Betemit swung and missed.
Rays TV announcer Brian Anderson recalling how he called umpire Richie Garcia "blue'' in his major-league debut in 1993. Anderson said, "Richie told me, 'Son, we go by first names in this league.' ''
Most thrilling moments
Manchester City scoring twice in stoppage time for a 3-2 victory over Queens Park Rangers to win England's Premier League was as dramatic as anything you'll ever see in sports. The final goal gave Manchester City the championship over Manchester United in a chain of events similar to last fall when the Rays won the wild card over the Red Sox on one crazy night. The best part of Sunday's coverage on ESPN2 might have been cutting to the Man U game to show the real-time despair of its fans. Brilliant stuff.
How cool was it for longtime Lightning fans to see Roman Hamrlik scoring a goal for the Capitals on Saturday night? Hamrlik really has had a remarkable NHL career. He was the first player ever selected by the Lightning in the 1992 entry draft. He just completed his 19th season. (It would have been 20 if not for the 2004-05 lockout.) He has played 1,379 games with six teams and appeared in three All-Star games. And there he was Saturday night, at age 38, playing more than 21 minutes and scoring his team's lone goal.
Give credit to Lightning founder and original GM Phil Esposito for taking a guy who has had a splendid and long NHL career. Hamrlik spent 5 1/2 seasons with the Lightning before being traded to Edmonton along with Paul Comrie for Jason Bonsignore, Bryan Marchment and Steve Kelly in a deal that Esposito still counts among the worst trades of his career, even though ownership pressured Espo into the deal to save money.
Oh, speaking of Esposito and good draft picks, let’s not ignore that he took Daymond Langkow with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft. Langkow, 35 and in his 16th NHL season, is a key member of a Coyotes team playing in the Western Conference final.
Saturday's Game 7 of the Rangers-Capitals NHL playoff series could have had high-profile exposure had it been shown during the afternoon on NBC. But because the network was committed to showing golf's Players Championship on Saturday, Game 7 was pushed to Saturday night on NBC Sports Network. One could hardly blame NBC. The Players Championship is almost as big as a major, and golf typically gets stronger viewership numbers than hockey. But it's too bad one of the biggest NHL games of the season was not on a major network.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I'm in favor of a constitutional amendment that states if you yell "Get in the hole!'' at a golf tournament, you must watch Caddyshack II every day for the rest of your life.
2. I don't think they’ll stay in first place, but the Orioles sure look like a fun team to watch.
3. If you dislike the Heat, I got bad news. I don't see a team that can beat Miami in a seven-game series.