Shooting from the Lip/Monday edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
After tragedies in the past few years (Barbaro, Eight Belles) and a general bad taste left by doping questions and training methods, horse racing could not have asked for a better Kentucky Derby than Saturday's edition. Having 50-1 shot Mine That Bird pull off the second-largest upset in Kentucky Derby history was just what horse racing needed and, frankly, just what NBC needed.
NBC could have been thrown for a real loop considering no one figured Mine That Bird would win. With little compelling information on the horse (other than he was once bought for $9,500), NBC focused on a story that kept viewers riveted and that was jockey Calvin Borel and his masterful ride. Almost as masterful was NBC's direction, which kept a camera on Borel as he took what amounted to a five-minute victory lap around Churchill Downs before then cutting to replays and interviews. Best of all, commentators knew to shut up and let viewers listen to Borel, and he whooped it up around the track.
Just as we're able to start eating solid food again after surviving two days of the NFL draft, now the NFL is talking about making the draft three days? It's true. Commissioner Roger Goodell is talking about holding the first round in prime time on a Thursday night. Then Friday night would feature the second and third rounds. The rest of the draft would be held on a Saturday.
"We elect a president in a single day,'' Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said on ESPN's Sports Reporters. "We need three days to shop for football players?''
NBC and Versus execs must have been doing backflips when they got a Penguins-Capitals matchup in the NHL's second round because it gave the networks a chance to feature the game’s two biggest stars -- Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. It could not have started any better for NBC when both players scored in the very first period of the series Saturday.
What makes this rivalry so compelling is the two stars don't like each other and they have different personalities. Crosby is old-school, reserved, respectful. Ovechkin is loud, excitable and brash. Some think Ovechkin's over-the-top celebrations are just fine and maybe even good for the game. And that's fine. But if you like what Ovechkin does after scoring a goal then you cannot have a problem with Terrell Owens when he pulls out a Sharpie after a touchdown or any basketball player who thumps his chest and roars at the crowd after a dunk. It's the exact same thing.
Ovechkin thinks Crosby whines too much. Crosby thinks Ovechkin disrespects the game and his opponents when he jumps around like a circus seal, and I happen to agree with Crosby. Having said that, if I were starting an NHL team, my first pick would be Ovechkin.
Has there ever been a worse seven-game series in any sport than the Hawks-Heat in the NBA? Atlanta won its games by the scores of 90-64, 81-71, 106-91 and 91-78. Miami won its games by scores of 108-93, 107-78 and 98-72.
Best use of numbers
Carl Crawford's six stolen bases Sunday made ESPN's "Top 10 Plays.'' What number did Crawford's feat finish on the list? Six, of course. Speaking of Crawford and ESPN, Baseball Tonight led its Sunday evening show breaking down the record and talking to Crawford.
Best use of replay
The Rays television broadcast has been excellent of late showing replays of close calls at Tropicana Field. This past weekend, there were several close calls on the bases, especially at third, and more than a couple of borderline pitches. But viewers got to see whether the umpires got it right with the production staff’s stellar replays, including the use of a Dome Cam over home plate. (Umpires, by the way, seemed to get most calls right.) The one drawback is it sometimes lets players off the hook. For example, on Saturday night the Rays' Pat Burrell took a pitch for strike three that replays showed was just off the plate. Was it technically a ball? Yes. But with two strikes, was it a pitch Burrell could afford to take? No. That is probably something one of the announcers should’ve pointed out instead of simply blaming the umpire.
ESPN's SportsCenter had a "Where Are They Now'' feature on former Red Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov. You might remember that Konstantinov was permanently disabled in an auto accident just days after the Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup in 42 years in 1997. While Konstantinov still needs 24-hour care and will never fully recover, it was inspirational to see that he can now walk with a walker, communicate with family and friends and comprehend what is going on around him.
Maybe Bulls fans shouldn't get too excited about extending the defending-champion Celtics to seven games in what might have been the most dramatic seven-game series in NBA history, at least for a non-Finals. True, the teams put on a heck of a show, but let's not act as if the Bulls nearly knocked off the real defending champs. The Celtics played without Kevin Garnett. There were seven games, four went to overtime and there were seven overtime periods in all. Of those four overtime games, the Bulls won three of them, including one in triple OT and another in double OT. It' hard to imagine that Garnett, still one of the top 10 players in the game, wouldn't have made at least a point difference in those games.
The New York Post's Phil Mushnick asked an appropriate question: How many more strikes does Matt Vasgersian get? Vasgersian is a host on the MLB Network and had to apologize last week after he picked an awful time to make a wisecrack. After a replay, he forced the production crew to show the replay again so he could make a joke about someone looking like Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. Not so bad until you learn the replay was of Rockies OF Brad Hawpe being helped off the field after getting hit in the head with a baseball. This came after Vasgersian, who didn't know he was live on the air, blurted out an expletive (in fact, the ace of expletives) back in January. One has to guess that Vasgersian is now 0-and-2 in the count.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Can we please ban the use of fan signs that spoof the MasterCard commercials? You know, the ones that tell you how much everything costs then end with this word: Priceless. Bringing a sign like that has gone from clever to lame.
2. Thanks to the Ducks and Red Wings because there is nothing better than overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
3. After what Manny Pacquiao did the Ricky Hatton on Saturday night, the only guy who might have a shot at him is Floyd Mayweather Jr., and even that seems unlikely at the moment.