Shooting from the lip/Oct. 24th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
In the end, Sunday's NFL game in London between the Bucs and Bears was more for the people of England and the rest of Europe than it was for fans in the United States. For Americans, it was just another NFL game. And Fox treated it as such. Other than a few shots of Big Ben (the clock, not the quarterback) and Stonehenge and the like, you really wouldn't know the game was being played in another country.
But the question is: Why doesn’t the NFL make a bigger deal out of it? Why not make it an event for the people in the United States, too? The game went out to only 17 percent of the country, while 40 percent got the Falcons-Lions game at the same time on the same network. Aside from Chicago and much of Florida, the only other places to see Sunday’s Bucs-Bears game were Albuquerque, N.M.; Indianapolis; Milwaukee and Phoenix.
Here's a thought: Instead of starting the game at 6 p.m. London time, start it at 3 p.m. London time. That would mean a 10 a.m. start in the eastern United States. Make it a "Breakfast With the NFL'' special, just like Wimbledon or golf's British Open. Show the game across the entire country. Wouldn't that be cool to do once a year?
Best camera work
Applause for NBC's work Saturday night on the Notre Dame-Southern Cal broadcast. The camera work during the fourth quarter was outstanding and gave viewers definitive shots of two crucial plays in the Trojans' 31-17 victory.
The first was what initially appeared to be an incompletion that, NBC's replays showed, was clearly a backward pass. Southern Cal, which led by only seven points at the time, recovered the loose ball. Moments later, the Trojans scored on a pass that might have been a ball trapped on the ground. The replays, however, showed it was a good catch and a touchdown. It was solid work that probably was lost behind better college games, as well as Game 3 of the World Series.
Most touching moments
The most heartbreaking moments of the weekend were turned in Sunday by ESPN's NASCAR Countdown host Nicole Briscoe as she paid tribute to IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed last week after a crash in Las Vegas.
Briscoe knew Wheldon well because her husband is IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe. As she read the tribute, which she wrote herself, and talked with the NASCAR Countdown analysts, Briscoe's voice cracked several times and she seemed on the verge of breaking down.
Forget that stuff about journalists being objective or not showing emotion. Briscoe's demeanor was real human emotion that reminded us all just how cruel last week's events were. Briscoe should be admired for fighting through her emotions to run a respectful and honest eulogy and discussion of Wheldon's life and death. In the most real and powerful portion of the conversation, Briscoe's voice wavered as she talked about the ability that drivers have to compartmentalize things so that they can climb back into a car after a devastating wreck such as last week.
"I say this as the wife of a driver who was on the track last weekend in Las Vegas,'' Briscoe said. "For the loved ones? I don't think we have the ability quite like them to compartmentalize. So, today for some people, it's kind of scary.''
Outstanding job by Fox's crew Saturday night during Game 3 of the World Series. When the topic of pitchers tipping pitches (doing something to accidently give hints as to what pitch they are about throw) came up, Fox called upon pre- and postgame analyst A.J. Pierzynski to chime in with his experience. Pierzynski revealed that Cardinals (and former Rays pitcher) Edwin Jackson used to look down during his windup when he threw fastballs. He also said Mets pitcher Johan Santana would give away pitches with how he held his mouth.
Sensational work by Pierzynski to offer up real examples from real players and smart work by Fox to work Pierzynski into that part of the broadcast.
Only Fox could take analyst Michael Strahan making a football point about the dust-up between Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and turn into a promo for an upcoming mixed martial arts fight on the network. There's no topic, it seems, that Fox can't turn into a promo for an upcoming show. That's not a compliment.
ESPN loves self-promotion, but its piece on college football analyst Lee Corso during Saturday morning's College GameDay was excellent. The feature celebrated the 200th time that Corso has closed out GameDay by putting on a mascot's head or uniform to announce which program he was picking in that day’s game of the week.
As reporter Tom Rinaldi said: "The true kickoff, respectfully, to a college football Saturday doesn't happen in a stadium. It doesn't happen on the field. It happens on a coach's head.''
Amen. By the way, over the years, Corso's mascot performance is right about 70 percent of the time.
When you have a mediocre game such as USF-Cincinnati, you would think that the network would have to dig too deep into the well of decent announcers for a really good broadcast. But, you know, ESPN analyst John Congemi was actually quite good calling the Bulls-Bearcats game. His strength was anticipating what would happen next and, on several occasions, noticing mismatches that teams could (and, ultimately, did) use to their advantage. That shows an analyst who did his homework.
The most interesting conversation during the Sunday morning NFL pregame shows was about a quarterback and whether he could play in the league at this point of his career. But it wasn't about Denver's Tim Tebow. It was about Vikings veteran Donovan McNabb during the NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning show.
Reporter Michael Lombardi said: "Donovan really has not been putting the time in to be the great player. What happened in Washington, the lack of work habits in Washington, has now gone into Minnesota.''
After having a conversation with McNabb, analyst Kurt Warner said: "(McNabb) said, 'That stuff's crazy.' He said he's putting in his time. He says he's doing what the coaches ask him to do in every situation.''
But analyst Warren Sapp said to Warner: "I understand the text that he sent you and him calling back to defend himself, but the proof is in the pudding. The eye in the sky, the game film, does not lie. He looked like an unprepared quarterback out there (last) Sunday.''
Three things that popped into my head
1. So, Steelers nice guy Troy Polamalu gets fined $10,000 for using a cell phone on the sideline to call his wife and tell her he was okay after being injured, but coaches Jim Harbaugh (49ers) and Jim Schwartz (Lions) get nothing for bumping, yelling, nearly coming to blows and acting, in general, like a couple of knuckleheads. Really?
2. Goofy NFL television rules. Every week, many folks around here gripe about having to watch the Dolphins instead of a better game, and then on Sunday when everyone wanted to watch the Dolphins against Tim Tebow and the Broncos, we don't get to watch it.
3. Saturday night's Oklahoma-Texas Tech and Wisconsin-Michigan State thrillers were made all the more dramatic because the seasons of Oklahoma and Wisconsin were on the lines. That's what makes the college football regular season so good, and that's why the BCS works.