Shooting from the lip/Monday edition
A look back at a weekend of televised sports ...
The big event of the weekend, of course, was the Final Four and the games didn't do CBS any favors. There were no thrilling finishes and, really, neither game was all that close, particularly down the stretch. Yet, CBS analyst Clark Kellogg, who has been widely criticized for being a bit bland in his first season as lead analyst, stepped up his game and handled the semifinals with the right mixture of analysis, criticism and enthusiasm that was authentic and not overdone or ill-placed. It was his best work of the tournament.
Because the games did not inspire, the highlight of CBS’s Final Four coverage on Saturday was the highly-entertaining pregame show. There was a tear-jerking inspirational story of two high school basketball managers (one autistic and one with Down’s syndrome) who were inspired by Jason McElwain, who is autistic and became famous for hitting several 3-pointers in a high school game in 2006. Both kids profiled had the chance to play and score in games of their own. CBS also paid particular attention to how the economy is affecting host city Detroit, including a pep-talk essay by rapper and Detroit native Eminem that was actually more moving and less hokey than it sounds.
Was watching women’s golf ever more fun than it was Sunday? Of course, it helped that we had one of our own to pull for as Seminole's Brittany Lincicome hit one of the best shots you will ever see when she rolled her 210-yard second shot on the par-5 18th to within 4 feet. She then knocked down the putt for an incredible eagle to win her first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Down a shot and you eagle the 18th to win a major? That's so off-the-charts ridiculous that golfers don't even dream of that.
CBS's coverage, for the most part, was good as it honed on the last group of Lincicome, new Tampa resident Kristy McPherson and 12-year pro Cristie Kerr, showing practically every one of their shots on the final eight holes. Thankfully, for us, the tournament ended about 5:50 p.m., which gave viewers 10 minutes to watch an interview with Lincicome, 23, who adorably admitted she was surprised she "didn't have a heart attack.'' We also got to see the trophy presentation and the tradition of jumping into the pond at Rancho Mirage.
But as Clearwater reader Garth Kroitzsch pointed out, there was a major distraction in CBS's coverage: "My nomination for worst sound from a golf event goes to the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship. (It was) four days of constant background noise from the blimp. So irritating. Turn down the on-course microphones, please.''
St. Petersburg looked as beautiful as ever during Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, although I'm wondering how many casual fans kept watching after Danica Patrick had her car knocked out of the race. Versus had the broadcast and did just fine, as it does with hockey and cycling. Pit analyst Jack Arute was the star of the show. While Versus is one of those networks that viewers don't habitually pass while channel surfing, it might have been a smart move for IndyCar to turn to Versus. While there is more exposure on one of the major networks or ESPN, there is something to be said for having a package on a network where the product is a priority and it dedicates its best people to producing the best broadcast it can.
I have a new favorite athlete. That would be Oklahoma women's basketball player Courtney Paris, who showed grace and class by speaking with ESPN immediately after her Sooners were upset by Louisville Sunday in the Women's Final Four. And kudos to ESPN reporter Holly Rowe, who asked the question that could not have been easy to ask, but one that everyone was waiting to hear. Paris previously said she would repay her scholarship if Oklahoma did not win the national title, and Rowe asked her if she would keep the promise. Paris said she would as soon as she could. Good for Rowe for asking the tough question and great for Paris for answering it with honesty and dignity.
Best prediction for the local fans
On Sunday's Sports Reporters, panelists Michael Kay and Howard Bryant both picked the Red Sox and Yankees to make the playoffs, but ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said maybe it was the Red Sox's turn to have an off year. He picked the Yankees and the Rays to make the postseason. By the way, Smith had the best line of the weekend when he talked about whether the Bears giving up Kyle Orton, two first-round picks and a third-rounder was too much for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler and a fifth-round pick.
"You know what I find absolutely hysterical?'' Smith said. "The fact that people think there's an explanation needed as to why the Bears had to make this move. You had Rex Grossman (as your QB), for crying out loud!''
Worst mention of a local team
The good news is the Lightning was given prominent attention during NBC's hockey Game of the Week broadcast Sunday. The bad news is it was a segment on franchises that are on shaky ground. NBC analyst Mike Milbury mentioned the Lightning along with the Canadiens and Avalanche as teams that need to fix their organizations in the offseason. Milbury said the Lightning's first order of business is to figure out whether to keep or trade captain Vinny Lecavalier, and he seemed to hint that keeping Lecavalier was the best option.
The nominations for Sport Emmys came out late last week and the most disappointing aspect was there were no women nominated among the major broadcast categories, even though there are plenty of deserving women. Two that immediately come to mind are NBC golf analyst Dottie Pepper and tennis analyst Mary Carillo, who did another splendid job over the weekend on CBS's coverage of the Sony Ericsson Open. Maybe Carillo is consistently too good and she is taken for granted. Anyway, it would've been nice to see Pepper and/or Carillo on the list of nominees.
Although it didn't seem like it at the time, getting snubbed by the NCAA Tournament might have been the best thing that could've happened to the USF women's basketball team. Winning the WNIT title (and doing it on the road at Kansas) might have been a bigger deal for the program than making the NCAA Tournament and getting bounced in the first or second round.
Three things you should know
1. As of last week, Bright House digital cable now offers the YES Network, home of the Yankees. However, Major League Baseball rules prohibit Yankees games being shown in this market because it already is a major-league market. Still, Yankees fans can watch pregame and postgame shows as well as other Yankees and New York sports specials, including a simulcast of Mike Francesca's afternoon radio show. The YES Network is on Ch. 811 on your digital box and is part of the "Sports Package,'' which costs $3.99 a month and includes the NBA TV, the NHL Network, Fuel, the Tennis Channel, the Big Ten Network, the Outdoor channel and several Fox college sports channels.
2. ESPN debuts its new-look SportsCenter today, including a live 1 a.m. broadcast from its new Los Angeles studio with primary hosts Neil Everett and Stan Verrett. The debut of the L.A. show will feature an interview with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on the 30th anniversary of their 1979 NCAA championship game.
3. Kevin Kennedy makes his regular-season debut today as Rays TV analyst when the Rays play the Red Sox at 2 p.m. on FSN. He takes over for Joe Magrane, who is on the MLB Network.