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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Shooting from the Lip/Monday morning edition



Looking back at a weekend of televised sports.

Phil Most overdone
Was CBS covering the Masters on Sunday or match play between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?

True, golf's two biggest names made charges, but they ultimately finished fifth and tied for sixth. And though no one can question keeping close tabs on Tiger and Phil as they made their runs, CBS did so at the expense of showing those actually leading the tournament. We could've watched everyone play. Instead, we saw Phil walking up the fairways. We saw Tiger lining up his putts. We saw Phil and Tiger pacing the greens. And all the while, CBS's announcers gushed over Tiger and Phil, calling them "gladiators'' and, in a particularly embarrassing analogy, comparing them with Ali vs. Frazier. At one point, the question was raised about where this tournament ranked among the most dramatic Masters ever because of what was going on between two players who spent most of the afternoon two shots or more out of the lead.

As long as Mickelson and Woods were on the course, everyone else was an afterthought.

Did you know that Shingo Katayama shot 68 (the same as Tiger) and finished two shots ahead of Tiger and a shot ahead of Mickelson? John Merrick shot 66. Steve Flesch shot 67. Both finished tied with Tiger. But CBS glossed over all of them.

Kenny Perry was either the leader or co-leader the entire day, yet as long as Woods and Mickelson were on the course, we saw many of his shots either on tape or seconds after he struck the ball. (And CBS rarely told us when the shot was not live.) Same with Chad Campbell and Angel Cabrera. It wasn’t until Woods and Mickelson were done that CBS turned a serious eye to the others. CBS then caught a break when the tournament ended with a three-man playoff, allowing it to give full attention to the players who deserved it.

Look, golf fans love Tiger and Phil. All networks know that. Any chance they have to show them, especially when they're even remotely playing each other for a title, TV will take full advantage of it. But the downside is what happens when those two aren't in the running. We saw what happened the second half of last year when Tiger was out with an injury. Golf ratings fell on the floor. The networks will live by Tiger and Phil. And as long as they react like CBS did Sunday -- forcing the story to be exclusively about those two -- they can't complain when they die by Tiger and Phil as well.

Ali Best documentary
HBO makes the best sports documentaries in the business. Thrilla in Manila, which can be seen often over the next month and on HBO On Demand, might be the best one it has done. The doc looks back at the legendary third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975 and tells the story from Frazier's point of view. Frazier remains bitter to this day over how Ali treated him leading up to each of their fights. Frazier helped Ali regain his boxing license after Ali was stripped of it for, in part, refusing to fight in Vietnam. While Ali was out of boxing, Frazier even loaned him money. Yet, before their fights, Ali portrayed Frazier in the media as a "gorilla'' and an Joe "Uncle Tom,'' and as ignorant and stupid, which still stings Frazier.

Even those who remember the last fight might be stunned to see again how savage it was. But the part that resonates is the aftermath and Frazier's chilling disregard for how Ali's life and health have turned out, even suggesting it is God's way of punishing Ali for his actions. Yet, somehow, you come away respectinig Frazier as proud, dignified and everything Ali said he wasn't. Don't miss this documentary.

Wright Worst fight
St. Petersburg boxing fans who stayed up late Saturday to watch hometown hero Winky Wright fight on HBO were disappointed as Wright was dominated by Paul Williams. It was hard to tell whether Wright is done or if he just picked the wrong guy to fight. The HBO crew questioned whether we've seen the last of Wright, 37, who is 1-2-1 in his past four fights. Wright told HBO's Larry Merchant that he was not retiring. HBO's Emmanuel Steward said in a nice way about Wright: "He's one of the most unusual fighters I've ever seen in my lifetime. He throws all these punches from so many different angles and fights inside, outside. … And he also has good mental concentration and mental stamina. He doesn't tire and lose his concentration.'' Unfortunately, he can't help getting old.

Best announcing
During Sunday's Rays-Orioles game, Rays announcer Dewayne Staats talked about the pop Baltimore's Nick Markakis has in his bat and then noticed how Rays centerfield Ben Zobristwas shaded a tad the opposite way against the left-handed hitter. Sure enough, Markakis hit a fly that Zobrist barely had to move to catch. It showed how accurate MLB scouting reports are, but it also showed that Staats knows how to call a ballgame.

Shortest pregame
Fox's baseball game of the week made its season debut Saturday minus the usual 20-minute pregame studio show, which Fox decided to eliminate this season. No great loss. The pregame now lasts about two minutes, with host Chris Rose live on the field with a quick report by underrated and underused reporter Ken Rosenthal, who always is full of juicy rumors and tidbits. Rosenthal's best nugget was that the tough economic times could force the Blue Jays to deal ace pitcher Roy Halladay.

Worst programming
Isn't it enough that we see, like, a billion college football games a year that we now have to watch spring games? Georgia's spring game was on ESPN. USF's spring game was on BHSN. When you find yourself watching a spring practice game, it might be time to renew your library card and pick up a book.

Melrose Best and worst analyst
Former Lightning coach Barry Melrose is perfect for television because of his quick wit and easygoing personality. So you don't exactly roll your eyes when he shows up at the Frozen Four, as he did on ESPN over the weekend. But when you are reminded that this is a guy who said Steven Stamkos, who set a Lightning rookie record with 23 goals this season, wasn't ready for the NHL, you have to question his credibility, don't you?

Best rumor
During Saturday's "Satellite Hotstove'' segment on Hockey Night in Canada, the rumor was the Lightning is leaning toward trading captain Vinny Lecavalier and that either the Kings or the Rangers would be his destination. Hmm, the Rangers with coach John Tortorella? Interesting.

Best show
Maybe you have to be a bit of a boxing buff to appreciate it, but HBO Boxing's 24/7shows are mesmerizing. The weekly half-hour show follows two fighters leading up to a bout between them. The latest, which debuted Saturday and will continue for the next four weeks, is for the May 2 showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton.

Favorite line
"Please, America, tell me you don’t have that much time on your hands.''
-- Jay Posner, San Diego Union-Tribune writer, on the NFL Network and ESPN airing shows Tuesday night for the release of the NFL schedule.

Best bluff
Have you seen that great TV ad for the MLB 09 The Show video game that claims Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia can't hit a high inside fastball? After he doubled on that pitch against the Rays last week, ESPN's Dave O’Brien said, "In the video game commercial, he's not supposed to be able to hit that pitch.''

ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe said, "That's all a setup. He told me before the game that’s by design. He wants people to pitch him there. He said, 'That’s my hot zone.'''

Lemaire Three things that popped into my head
1. Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire resigned over the weekend, yet he still wants to coach. I covered Lemaire for three years as the Wild beat writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and he has by far the most intelligent hockey mind I've encountered. It shows you how smart he is that he realized it was time to step away from a team he was no longer reaching. He will show up again somewhere. And win again.
2. Watching those World's Strongest Man marathons on ESPN might be mindless, but it sure is fun. Hey, watching guys pull airplanes, lift truck tires and throw kegs is better than watching spring football games.
3. The Cavs’ 31-point victory against Boston on Sunday sent a clear message: The road to the NBA title now goes through Cleveland, not Boston.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 2:42pm]


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