Shooting from the lip/May 31st edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Okay, time for a rant. Here's what I’m sick and tired of out of broadcasters: Athletes who are praised for essentially doing their jobs. A catcher blocks a pitch in the dirt and it's almost as if the broadcasters have it written into their contracts that they have to tell viewers or listeners: "What a great job blocking that pitch.'' Isn't that was he's supposed to do? Isn't that what he has been trained to do? Isn't that why he is the majors? In fact, if I had a catcher who couldn't block pitches in the dirt, I wouldn't want him on my team.
It happens in all sports. A hockey goalie makes a tough save -- not a spectacular save, not an stand-on-your-head save, but a solid save on a pretty good shot. Or a shortstop goes into the hole, backhands a grounder and fires a strike to first. Or a basketball player takes a charge. Or a quarterback reads the blitz and hits a hot receiver. These are slightly-above-average plays, something that would rank maybe a "6'' on a scale of 1 to 10. And yet some announcers go bananas, trying to sell us that these are extraordinary plays. Sure they are, for you and me. But not for professionals playing at the highest levels.
If these guys can't make these plays, they wouldn't be playing. So let's save the hosannas for when they are truly deserved, not on plays that most professionals can -- and should -- make.
What an action-packed sports weekend it was. You had the Phillies' Roy Halladay throwing a perfect game. There were two bizarre baseball plays as the Angels' Kendry Morales fractured his leg while jumping on home plate after a walk-off grand slam and Indians pitcher David Huff was hit in the head with a screaming liner. The Celtics made the NBA Finals on Friday night and the Lakers joined them on Saturday. Then you had the Indy 500, NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 and the French Open.
And yet, through all of this, ESPN actually did a respectable job paying attention to the Stanley Cup final -- something it has been criticized for not doing in the past. The theory, and it hasn't always been without merit, is that ESPN ignores the NHL because it doesn't have a contract to carry its games. But even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has noticed. Bettman told reporters at the Stanley Cup final in Chicago that ESPN is "doing a good job increasingly of covering us in SportsCenter.''
Bettman added, "People have been commenting to me, and it may be a function of how good the playoffs have been, that even though they don't have us, they feel compelled to cover us because the stories are that good and that important. … (When ESPN did carry us), I always felt we should have gotten more coverage than we did. But I have no complaints with ESPN.''
NBC added a nice touch Saturday night by having Sabres and U.S. Olympic goalie Ryan Miller sit in as an analyst during the intermissions of Saturday's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. It worked out especially well because goaltending (or lack of it) was a focal point during the Blackhawks' 6-5 victory over the Flyers. Miller looked nervous at the start, but fellow analysts Mike Milbury and Pierre Maguire did a nice job of throwing him a rope whenever it appeared Miller was stumped for something to say. Soon, Miller relaxed and added solid analysis. It was just a one-and-done deal for Miller. Former NHL player Jeremy Roenick, who has an entertaining playful rivalry with Milbury on air, will join the broadcast for the rest of the series.
Biggest pet peeve
Anyone else get annoyed by Rays manager Joe Maddon referring to runs as "points'' from time to time? You know he knows better and it's just his slang, but it still sounds goofy every time he says it. He's even got Sun Sports analyst Kevin Kennedy saying it.
Cleveland's LeBron James might be the two-time defending NBA most valuable player, but anyone who doesn't think the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player in the world is either crazy or lives in Ohio. In fact, it's baffling that Bryant has won as many MVP awards as the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki -- one.
Is it a conflict?
To be fair, Doug Collins did a good job as an NBA game analyst for TNT, but should TNT have kept him on the air after he was named the new coach of the Philadelphia 76ers on May 21? The league is paranoid about tampering and Collins knows that. So was Collins ever holding his tongue when talking about LeBron James or other players that he might coach or coach against next season? Were there any topics Collins avoided because he was no longer an analyst, but a coach-in-waiting? And do you really want an analyst who cannot or will not speak freely? Speaking of tampering, that whole deal is silly. The NBA has already fined Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Suns president Steve Kerr for commenting on James because, officially, James does not become a free agent until July 1. It has been pointed out that teams can't comment on James, but it's okay for NBA commissioner David Stern to say publicly that he hopes James stays in Cleveland.
"(Magic coach Stan) Van Gundy has only taken the Magic to consecutive Eastern Conference finals and an NBA Final last year. So firing the coach isn't the answer. Do you want to get better? Fire Vince Carter.'' — Howard Bryant, on ESPN's Sports Reporters
Here's what NBC hockey analyst Pierre Maguire said after Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi had his mask knocked off for a second time in Saturday's Game 1 of the Cup final: "The last time the Hawks won the Cup (in 1961), they weren't wearing masks.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. Even if you have a favorite NBA team, no one is ambivalent when it comes to Celtics-Lakers. You either like one or the other, making it another perfect finals match-up for the NBA.
2. Forget the standings, aren't you a little nervous about the Rays' chances in the AL East right now?
3. Wouldn't Jay Feaster, whose specialty is contracts and the salary cap, make a perfect assistant GM for the Lightning's Steve Yzerman?