Shooting from the lip/Nov. 7th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Most mediocre broadcast
This pains me to say because I'm a huge fan of the CBS broadcasting team of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, but the two had a rough night calling the latest "Game of the Century,'' on Saturday when No. 1 LSU defeated No. 2 Alabama. And their performance was not atypical, at least this season.
More frequently than in the past, Lundquist is getting calls wrong, as if he's not seeing plays clearly. Receptions are called interceptions. Interceptions are called incompletions. Down and distances, penalties and players are often misidentified. Danielson is put in the difficult spot of quickly correcting his partner without making it sound awkward and as a result is talking a tad too much.
Now, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. But Lundquist seems to making more than normal. Maybe he's just having an off year. I hope so. I'm not suggesting we put the 71-year-old out to pasture, because when he's on, he still calls a heck of a game.
ESPN's postgame coverage of Saturday's LSU-Alabama game was tremendous. Host Chris Fowler and analysts David Pollack and Urban Meyer broke down how LSU beat Alabama and what the result meant for the rest of the season. Kirk Herbstreit joined the broadcast from Oklahoma State. Fowler led the conversation into all the appropriate nooks and crannies, and the analysts were strong and concise with their opinions.
The more I watch Pollack and Meyer, the more I like them. ESPN really needs to think of ways to make them more visible. One thought: ESPN could use Pollack and Meyer to replace Desmond Howard and Lee Corso on College GameDay. (Though you would want Corso to still have some sort of role so he could continue with his priceless mascot-head predictions.) Another thought is to have Pollack and Meyer replace Lou Holtz and Mark May on the scoreboard show. Holtz and May are decent, but their Odd Couple act is starting to grow a bit thin.
While many were comparing Saturday night's LSU-Alabama game to boxing match, an actual boxing match (and a really good one, at that) was on HBO's Boxing After Dark at the same time. During six haymaker-filled rounds, James Kirkland scored a TKO victory over Alfedro Angulo in a junior middleweight bout. In what might have been the round of the year, both fighters were knocked down in the first round.
What made the match so fun was the outstanding announcing of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr. All were on top of their game, especially Jones, who seemed to be a few seconds ahead of the action all night. HBO and its sister stations will rebroadcast the fight over the next week, so if you have a chance, check it out to see the fight and hear boxing announcing at its very best.
For details, analysis and pull-no-punches opinions, ESPN's NASCAR Countdown was destination television after Kyle Busch intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday during Friday's truck race. Aside from in-depth reports from the pits and garages, the show benefitted from analysts who weren't afraid to speak their minds on Busch's behavior and NASCAR's reaction (Busch got pulled out of the trucks race and banned from the weekend's Nationwide and Sprint Cup races). Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty in particular criticized authoritatively and unapologetically. Good stuff.
Fans of the Bucs wish Fox NFL Sunday analyst Michael Strahan had been right when he said before Sunday's Bucs-Saints game: "The Buccaneers have won three out of the last four, and they are confident. I think the Buccaneers are primed to win the division. Josh Freeman is where he needs to be, and right now the Saints don’t know who they are.''
Not to pick on Strahan, because we all make predictions that turn out to be clunkers, but man, is there anyone today who thinks the Bucs are "primed'' to win the NFC South?
CBS NFL Today analyst Shannon Sharpe deserves heaps of praise for his interview with Raiders QB Carson Palmer. Sharpe was highly critical of Palmer in the past, saying he quit on his former team, the Bengals, and Sharpe did not shy away Sunday when he was face-to-face with Palmer. Sharpe also pushed Palmer when Palmer danced around an answer. It was nice work by someone not really trained to conduct tough interviews. Nice job by Sharpe, especially for someone who isn’t trained to interview people. He was tough without being confrontational, and he got Palmer to open up.
Worst interview subject
The NFL Network's Melissa Stark had an in-depth interview with Jets receiver Plaxico Burress on Sunday morning. What is the fascination with Burress? Before Sunday's game with the Bills, Burress had 18 catches in seven games, so why the continuing coverage from all the networks? He played in the NFL. He went to prison. He got out. He's back playing. Yeah, I got it.
Worst litmus test
During Saturday morning's College GameDay on ESPN, analyst Lee Corso said, "I don't think there’s anything wrong with Florida.'' He then proceeded to say that their game against Vanderbilt that afternoon would show where the Gators are. Analyst Kirk Herbstreit, however, pointed out how far the Gators have fallen when a game against Vanderbilt is used as a gauge of their game.
"I think there are big issues here,'' Herbstreit said of the Gators.
GameDay also talked to former Gators coach Urban Meyer, but it should have had more insight from the man so recently in charge of the program now struggling with mediocrity.
I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again. Each year, Hockey Night in Canada legend Don Cherry commemorates Remembrance Day, Canada's Veterans Day, by showing photos of Canadians killed in combat over the past year. He did it again on Saturday night's broadcast during his "Coach’s Corner'' segment, which is one of the most-watched things on Canadian TV. The U.S. sports TV equivalent is Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football. Wouldn't it be great if either NBC or ESPN used part of a broadcast to run a list of Americans killed in combat over the past year.
Fox NFL analyst and former Buc John Lynch is an up-and-coming broadcaster who gets better each week, but he seemed to go out of his way to defend rather mediocre Bucs QB Josh Freeman during Sunday's Bucs-Saints broadcast. Twice Freeman badly overthrew receivers, yet Lynch tried to pin the blame on the receivers, who really had no prayer of making the catches.
However, Lynch gets a thumbs up for questioning coach Raheem Morris' use of QB Josh Johnson instead of Freeman on a critical third down late in the first half with the Bucs driving. "You have to trust (Freeman) in that situation,'' Lynch said.
Question of the day
After recent controversies, ESPN put out a new expanded policy that addresses staffers writing books. One of the new rules is no one at ESPN is permitted to write an "as-told-to'' book with a sports personality. Which leads us to ask: You mean that policy wasn't already in place?
Three things that popped into my head
1. Here's some advice for caddie Stevie Williams: Maybe you should just shut up and carry the bag for a while.
2. With troubles at Florida, FSU, Miami, USF and UCF, and with the Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars, how far do we have to drive to find a pretty good college or pro football team?
3. LSU's 9-6 victory over Alabama was entertaining, but not so much that I want to watch these teams play again.