Shooting from the Lip/Monday edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
NBC's coverage of the Preakness on Saturday was first-rate. Sure, horse racing fanatics will watch a two-hour lead-in show to a horse race, but it's not easy to capture the attention of the casual or even nonfan for more than a few minutes. Even with the Rays playing on Fox's Game of the Week, I couldn't pull away from NBC's Preakness preview. And I fall into the "nonfan'' category.
Instead of cramming a bunch of features and interviews into its two-hour time slot, NBC wisely took its time and focused on the best stories, giving each of them room to breath. Dedicating 30 minutes to a single topic in a pregame show is something you don't even see for a Super Bowl, when the coverage lasts all day. Yet NBC used the first half-hour of Saturday's coverage with a masterful and comprehensive look at Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, telling a complete story of the horse, its owners and jockey Calvin Borel. There wasn't a second of wasted footage. The feature became even more impressive when you consider it was reported, written, taped, edited, narrated and scored in less than two weeks.
Coverage of the race -- helped, like the Kentucky Derby, by a dramatic winner -- was superb. There is plenty of bad sports coverage on television, and that's why it is so refreshing to see real pros do their jobs like NBC's horse racing team did Saturday. It has set the bar quite high for ABC to match when it shows the Belmont on June 6.
Line of the day
NBC track reporter Donna Brothers had the best line of Saturday's Preakness coverage: "I like (filly) Rachel Alexandra because she runs like a girl.''
Can you think of the last time you couldn't wait for the Belmont Stakes in a year when there was no possibility of a Triple Crown winner?
The M&M Boys
It's interesting how many times over the past two Saturdays Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver and Rays manager Joe Maddon disagreed on strategy. Seems like every time McCarver said the Rays would steal or hit-and-run, nothing happened. And every time he predicted the Rays would not run or bunt, they did. That's not to say McCarver was right or wrong or Maddon was right or wrong. It was just striking to see how often they were on different pages.
McCarver, by the way, out-and-out blamed shortstop Jason Bartlett for missing a hit-and-run sign on Saturday when he squared to bunt with runners on first and second stealing. Bartlett took the pitch, and both runners moved up. But after the game, Maddon said it was a planned play. One could see why McCarver would suggest Bartlett missed a sign because faking a bunt with runners stealing is something you usually see in Little League, not the majors. But if you're going to be so sure a guy missed a sign, you just have to be right. After all, McCarver’s comments made Bartlett look bad.
But having said all that, McCarver and Fox's crew made the Rays’ back-to-back weeks on the big network entertaining. And it's always interesting to hear what the national folks have to say about the local club. And did you notice? Announcer Dick Stockton consistently said the game was in "St. Petersburg'' and not "Tampa.''
Last week, I wrote a piece about sports figures Tampa Bay fans like to dislike. The list included Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon and former Red Sox players Coco Crisp and Curt Schilling. Anyway, not everyone agreed with the list. Here's a letter from David M. Childress Sr. of Palm Harbor:
“I imagine Tom is frustrated these days. So naturally, he vents his spleen onto the Boston Red Sox. What a sportsman. What a buffoon. The Rays beat the Sox in the League Championship Series last year; congratulations, they deserved it. More importantly, they (unlike Jones) aren't taking cheap shots at a rival team because of their current poor performance (not publicly, anyway). Papelbon struck out three quality batters to win a closely contested game and all this (supposed) sports writer can think to write about is a pitcher's way of celebrating his accomplishment. What a dweeb. Then, on to Coco Crisp and Curt Schilling. Rip 'em up, Jones; yeah, that's the ticket. If that’s what it takes to satisfy your frustration, I'm relieved. Wouldn't want you going around the office whacking co-workers upside the head (or worse). Your mug, on page 1C Wednesday, says it all. What a sport you are.''
Best place to play
Why is it that NBA teams play so well at home, especially in the playoffs? Of the four Game 7s this postseason, only the Magic won on the road. There's no explanation for it because there is no inherent advantage other than the crowd. The court is the same everywhere. The rules are the same everywhere. It's not like baseball, where the home team bats last. It's not like hockey, where the home team has the advantage of the last line change. The homecourt advantage in the NBA is inexplicable. On the other side, you look at hockey. There were three Game 7s in the last round alone, and the visiting team won two as Carolina beat Boston and Pittsburgh beat Washington. Only Detroit won at home against Anaheim.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Joe Maddon is one of the best managers in baseball, but messing up the lineup card on Sunday and losing the designated hitter just cannot happen.
2. Can we just skip the rest of the NBA playoffs and give the trophy to LeBron James and the Cavaliers?
3. Isn't it bothersome to see that all it takes is a couple of big homers and suddenly Alex Rodriguez seems to be forgiven like nothing ever happened?