Shooting from the lip/Oct. 31st edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
With rumors swirling that he might be the next coach of the Dolphins, CBS NFL Today pregame analyst Bill Cowher, during Sunday's show, denied being contacted by any team and said he has no plans to coach next season.
"So I can put all the speculation to rest,'' Cowher said. "And if I have to repeat this in December again, I will. … I know there is speculation out there. I'm flattered by it, to be honest with you. But at the same time, it affects too many people's lives. I like what I'm doing right here, and I plan on being back in the same seat next year.''
Cowher's announcement comes a couple of weeks after Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden agreed to a contract extension that will keep him with ESPN through 2016. Cowher is 54 and hasn't coached in five years. Gruden is 48 and has been out of coaching for three seasons. Could both be done with coaching forever? Before you say no, did you think either would be out of coaching for as long as he has?
Broadcasting is more lucrative than it used to be. Coaching is way more stressful these days because of increased media coverage, the Internet and bloggers. Maybe Gruden and Cowher have decided they have jobs simply too good to leave. Gruden is an analyst on Monday Night Football, a game watched by the entire country, including most NFL people. Cowher works in a studio at a major network, which is one of the marquee jobs in sports broadcasting.
Why leave comfortable, well-paying jobs to go back to the lousy hours of coaching, dicey job security and constant scrutiny? Plus, it's not like either Cowher or Gruden is chasing a Super Bowl trophy. Both have won Super Bowls as a head coach. Gruden still "coaches'' by working with college quarterbacks. Finally, both are really good at what they do. This isn't to say neither will coach again. But it seems less likely with each passing season.
Fox baseball announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver seem to be a lightning rod for critics. They have their flaws, sure. Both rarely question a manager, and Buck went on Fox radio last week to defend Cardinals manager Tony La Russa even though La Russa took the blame for the whole mixup with the bullpen and bullpen telephone late in the Cardinals’ Game 5 loss in the World Series.
Overall, however, it's hard to imagine any broadcasters could have done better calling the already classic 2011 World Series. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: What makes Buck and McCarver so good is they never try to act bigger than the event they are calling. They inform and entertain, but they ultimately complement the games, not dominate them.
Most uncomfortable segment
ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown produced an excellent piece about players "tapping out,'' asking out of a game because of injury or fatigue. In a panel discussion after the feature, analyst Merril Hoge said, "Tapping out means a sign of weakness. … I played in the league. I never tapped out.''
Fellow analyst Keyshawn Johnson stood up to Hoge and said he “totally’’ disagreed and that sometimes a player is helping his team by coming out for a fresher, healthier one. Hoge seemed incredulous that Johnson would ever come out of a game because he was out of breath.
But more disturbing was Hoge’s overall attitude toward "tapping out.'' At at time players' long-term health is an issue, was Hoge suggesting players never come out of a game even if they are feeling the effects of, say, a concussion or some other injury that could cause permanent damage? And what kind of message is Hoge sending to high school and youth football players who might have been watching? Was he suggesting "real'' players should never come out of a game, even if they are hurt and putting themselves in jeopardy? The thing is, Hoge's career was cut short by concussions. So his anti-tapping out stance came as a surprise.
Best pregame show
Each week, CBS's NFL Today gets better. The show has had quite a renaissance. A year ago, it was almost unwatchable because of all the clowning around. It has become more serious this season and much better, especially when Bill Cowher and Dan Marino talk. It's not perfect. It still has clunker moments, such as Sunday, when a lighthearted piece about Halloween at former player Kris Jenkins' house turned almost painful to watch. But still, the NFL Today has become more informative and more watchable than Fox NFL Sunday.
The question isn't whether Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is the best prospect in next year's NFL draft. It's when was the last time there was a prospect this good?
Fox NFL Sunday's Jay Glazer said Sunday, "I talked to six NFL GMs this week specifically about Andrew Luck. They said this is the best prospect to come out of college since Peyton Manning (in 1998). Some think he's an even better prospect than Peyton Manning. The GMs I talked to are saying Andrew Luck will be the most valuable pick in 15 years.''
Three things I liked in the past week
1. The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine had an up-and-down season in their first year together on TV, but they were outstanding on ESPN Radio's coverage of the World Series.
2. It's great to hear Rick Peckham and Bobby "The Chief'' Taylor on Lightning TV broadcasts again. Taylor's intermission work with the Telestrator is about as good as it gets on local sports broadcasts. Even those who know the game learn something.
3. The best thing on TV all weekend was by far seeing John Saunders back as host of ESPN2's Sports Reporters. Saunders had missed several weeks recovering from concussion and brain swelling after a fall.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Say what you want about the Cubs and the old Curse of the Bambino with the Red Sox, the Rangers' loss in the World Series was about as cruel as anything we've seen in baseball. Ever.
2 It's hard to believe that Sataurday’s LSU-Alabama game will be the first time No. 1 takes on No. 2 in an SEC regular-season football game. It has happened in the SEC Championship Game, but not in the regular season.
3 Also hard to believe: Florida, FSU, Miami, USF and UCF are a combined 21-18, and in their conferences are 9-14.