Shooting from the lip/May 30th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 set the gold standard for the weekend, especially the last half-hour of the race. Analysts were spot-on in deciphering how much fuel each driver had left and which cars had the best chance to win. Even when Danica Patrick held the lead with fewer than 10 laps left, ABC's crew pointed out that her chances of winning were slim at best because she would have to pit before the race was over. By looking at lap speeds and previous pit stops, the ABC crew kept viewers well informed as to who was still in the hunt and who wasn't, regardless of where they were running at that moment.
Then, like any good production team, ABC seemed to expect the unexpected and was totally prepared when JR Hildebrand's last-turn crash gave the 500 to Dan Wheldon. A good day for ABC.
Most disappointing coverage
Fox's coverage of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United was a mixed bag. The actual match was solid, especially with veteran announcers Martin Tyler and Alan Smith calling the action. But everything else was so watered down that it was an insult to soccer fans.
The pregame show with host Curt Menefee and analysts Eric Wynalda and Brad Friedel was a mess. All three appeared uncomfortable, although Wynalda and Friedel were better at halftime. But the whole pregame show seemed slapped together. The first feature revealed Fox's attitude toward the event as Fox NFL analyst Michael Strahan had a taped piece on the difference between football and futbol. Really? The biggest soccer match in the world and you're still telling Americans how soccer works? And you're using Strahan to do it? It wasn't funny, informative or entertaining.
Later, American soccer star Landon Donovan had a feature on the world's best player, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. All viewers learned was, well, he's the world's best player.
The whole thing was Soccer For Dummies.
It's always best for networks to cater to the avid fan because the casual fan will catch up. But the worst thing a network can do is insult the diehards by gearing its coverage to people who probably aren't watching anyway. I'm not a soccer fan and I found Fox's coverage embarrassingly simplified. It's a shame because soccer fans deserved better and, based on how it covers every other sport, Fox was certainly capable of delivering better.
Three interviews over the weekend showed the world of sports is still full of classy figures.
First, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was respectful of his good friend, Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis moments after the Bruins eliminated the Lightning. He told Versus' Pierre McGuire how much he loved St. Louis and how difficult it was to play against his close friend. Even Lightning fans had to feel good for Thomas, who has more than paid his dues to reach the Stanley Cup final.
Then there was the Lightning's Guy Boucher, who was nothing but insightful and cooperative with the media throughout the playoffs. The second question after his Lightning was eliminated Friday night was from some pinhead reporter from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, who had the gall to ask Boucher how the Bruins matched up against Vancouver. Remember, this is like 10 minutes after the most devastating loss of his NHL career and no one would've blamed Boucher for snapping at the reporter for such a lousy and disrespectful question. Instead, Boucher answered the question in detail.
Finally, 23-year-old Indianapolis 500 rookie JR Hildebrand was seconds away from winning the race when he drove his car into the wall on the final turn. Yet he articulately answered every question thrown at him after the race.
One of the things that makes Rays TV announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson so good is they occasionally drive off-road to tackle a topical subject. On Saturday, it was Major League Baseball's use of maple bats. A broken bat nearly struck Rays pitcher David Price in the head on Friday. Sun Sports dialed up the replays of the play while Staats and Anderson lambasted MLB for allowing the use of maple bats.
"Nothing will get done,'' Anderson said, "until a David Price gets impaled on the mound.’''
Strong stuff. Good stuff.
Worst double standard
Two years ago, Rangers and former Lightning coach John Tortorella was suspended for one playoff game for squirting water on a Capitals fan and then throwing a water bottle into the stands. At the time, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell said, "While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot -- and will not -- tolerate any physical contact with fans.''
Reportedly, the Bruins’ Nathan Horton also hurled a water bottle into the stands at the St. Pete Times Forum after Game 6 on Wednesday. He was fined (believed to be $2,500), but not suspended. I'm not sure either Tortorella or Horton deserved to miss a key playoff game, but why the double standard? It also has to sting the Lightning a bit knowing that Horton scored the only goal in Boston’s 1-0 victory in Game 7. Having said all that, Boston was the better team in Game 7 and deserved to win.
NBC's Jimmy Roberts had an outstanding piece on senior golfer Ken Green during Saturday's broadcast of the Senior PGA Championship. Green continues to play despite his right leg being amputated from the knee down after a horrific traffic accident two years ago that claimed the lives of his girlfriend and brother. Roberts looked at Green gutting his way through 30 holes on Friday only to miss the cut.
Said Roberts in conclusion: "This story isn't new but it sort of redefines the whole concept of battling adversity and makes you wonder just how much can one man take.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. Doesn't it seem strange that there is no Lightning game to get ready for until October?
2. Speaking of the Lightning, who knows how it would have done against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup final, but maybe losing a classic 1-0 game to Boston in the East final was not the worst way for the season to end. Could Lightning fans be any prouder?
3. It doesn't matter who is playing and what they are playing for, if NBC's John McEnroe and Mary Carillo are calling a tennis match, I'll stop to watch.