Shooting from the lip/Oct. 25th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Usually, the NFL pregame shows are produced for the football diehards and fantasy players looking for last-minute updates. For most sports fans, the pregame shows are watched with one eye and serve as background noise while we go through our Sunday papers or tidy up the house. We check and check out. However, Sunday's pregame shows were must-see TV as they offered a compelling debate on the NFL's latest crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits.
The morning might have been won by Fox, which smartly brought in analyst and former Bucs safety John Lynch, a player known for delivering heavy and sometimes borderline hits. In addition, the hire of rules expert Mike Pereira this season has turned out to be a brilliant move, and he lent his perspective as well.
The most interesting aspect was how many of the analysts on the pregame shows, most of whom are former players, defended the NFL and criticized players for complaining about rules that are meant to protect them.
The NFL Network's Warren Sapp laid into Pittsburgh's James Harrison, who was fined by the league and said he might retire because he couldn't play the game the way the NFL wanted him to. Sapp said, "You were not taught that way (to tackle). The rules have changed, so adjust and if not, get out of the game. It is very simple. If you are going to go home so fast, then go home, but we cannot have players laid out on the field. It is something that we don't want to see.''
CBS's Shannon Sharpe said, "At the end of the day if your boss tells you can still do your job but you've got to tweak it a little bit, then you change it and do your job. I'm tired of guys complaining that the game’s going to flag football.''
But, as always, there is no more reasonable voice on the NFL pregame shows that ESPN's Tom Jackson.
"Tackle properly and quit trying to get on SportsCenter's top 10 plays,'' Jackson said. "Don't challenge the league office, you're going to lose. (Commissioner Roger Goodell) is not trying to do something to you. He's trying to so something for you.''
At first glance, we assume Fox is disappointed with a Giants-Rangers World Series, especially compared to what could have been a Yankees-Phillies World Series. New York is the biggest TV market in the country, by far, and the Yankees are always ratings gold. And, true, Philadelphia is the fourth biggest TV market. But it's not all bad for Fox. Dallas-Fort Worth and the San Francisco bay area make up the fifth and sixth TV markets, respectively. In addition, baseball fans who have been paying attention should be intrigued by this matchup of unlikely teams full of interesting characters and storylines, from Josh Hamilton to Tim Lincecum to the Giants relievers with their crazy beards.
The championship series on TBS and Fox averaged 8.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched LCS's since 2007. However, keep an eye on Sunday when the NFL, for the first time, has scheduled a night game to go up against a World Series game. Assuming the weather doesn't force any changes, the Giants and Rangers will play Game 4, while the Steelers and defending champion Saints play a Sunday Night Football game. Don't be surprised when the NFL game crushes the World Series in the ratings.
Here's why I like ABC's Matt Millen on college football broadcasts. When a Wisconsin offensive lineman chopped out the legs of an Iowa defensive lineman from behind Saturday, Millen barked, "That's wrong! If that were me, there would be a major fight right there.''
Legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno has an interesting theory on how to end all these controversial helmet-to-helmet hits in football: Remove the facemasks. "I have been saying (it) for 15 years,'' Paterno told the Wall Street Journal. "Then, you would get back to shoulder blocking and shoulder tackling and you wouldn't have all those heroes out there. Guys would have to worry about broken noses, knocked-out teeth, which we would like to prevent, but you don't get anything for nothing. We used to have a single bar. Now we have weapons.''
I've just about lost my patience with local announcers griping about officiating. It happens everywhere, not just Tampa Bay, and sometimes questioning a call is fine. But it does seem like a speciality here in Tampa Bay, and it comes off as whiny. T.J. Rives, the sideline reporter on the Bucs radio broadcast, isn't a regular contributor to the Whining Announcers, but his bellyaching Sunday came just as my patience was running out over listening to anyone cry about officials. During the Bucs-Rams game Sunday, a 47-yard run by LeGarrette Blount was wiped out by a Jeremy Trueblood block in the back. At no point did Rives dispute the actual call, only that it wasn't near the play -- as if that makes blocking in the back somehow permissible. But that, in Rives' assessment, was enough to call the penalty a "stretch'' while pointing out all the other calls that had gone against the Bucs on Sunday.
Thank goodness Bucs analyst Dave Moore rescued the moment by saying if Trueblood wasnt near the play, why is he even near an opposing player? "Once the play is past you, you don't have to block anybody there,'' Moore said.
And I think I'm ready to say now that Moore is the best color analyst the Bucs have ever had on the radio.
Remember before last season when everyone seemed to be criticizing Auburn for hiring Gene Chizik to be its football coach while passing on Turner Gill? Even former Auburn basketball star Charles Barkley ripped his old school, saying race played a role (Chizik is white, Gill is an African-American) and that Chizik should not have been hired. Well, it's easy to have 20-20 hindsight, but with Auburn undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the AP poll, is anyone complaining about Chizik now? Oh, by the way, Gill is 2-4 with Kansas. The Jayhawks have lost three in a row by a combined score of 159-24.
Three things that popped into my head
1. It's interesting that the NFL is so concerned about protecting players from head shots but still is pushing to add two games to the regular-season schedule.
2. My ears are still hurting after listening to all the boisterous laughter on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show. And my side is not hurting because the things that the crew laughs at are not even a little bit funny.
3. Who was more disappointing in the postseason, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (.218 average, no homers, three RBIs) or Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (.303, but no homers, no RBIs and 17 strikeouts)?