Shooting from the lip/Oct. 3rd edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Sun Sports saved the best for last. Its coverage of the final night of the Rays' regular season was equal to that of the team it was covering.
Some might think that it's hard to mess up a night as dramatic as the Rays' come-from-behind victory to make the playoffs, but that's not true. In the end, the night was made all the more special because of Sun Sports coverage.
The direction and production were first-rate, the announcing of Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson were equally informative, stirring and entertaining and sideline reporter Todd Kalas showed great hustle and knowledge, especially during an extremely well-done and must-watch post-game show that ruined many bedtimes in Tampa Bay.
It's a shame Sun Sports can't continue televising Rays games in the playoffs. You understand why it can't. The networks pay a ton of money for playoff rights and they aren't going to lose their biggest audiences to the local stations. Still, it's disappointing that the biggest games of the year can't be shown by the network and announcers that cover the team the best.
Best analyst of the weekend
The television MVP of the weekend was Fox NFL Sunday's Terry Bradshaw. Some dismiss Bradshaw as a serious analyst because of his country bumpkin routine, which Bradshaw always has overplayed for the sake of schtick. He actually is a sharp guy and quite tuned in to what is going on in the NFL. On Sunday, he took two topics that have been beaten to death and came up with two new theories that make lots of sense.
For starters, there's the gunslinger style of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who alternates between great passes and costly interceptions. Maybe, Bradshaw contends, it's because Romo spent three years on the taxi squad.
"On the taxi squad you're taught to throw it down there and he plays like that,'' Romo said. "He plays like he's on the taxi squad.''
Meantime, regarding the controversy of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick being hit so often, Bradshaw came up with a theory that hasn't been discussed. Maybe it's because Vick is only six feet tall.
"Michael Vick is a short quarterback,'' Bradshaw said. "For a short quarterback to drop back and see over 6-foot-5 offensive lineman is nearly impossible so he has to get deeper. Also, if you set deeper, you can't run quick slants or quick outs therefore the routes have to be medium to long therefore you end up holding the ball longer. That's the problem.''
New ideas. Fresh takes. Outstanding analysis.
NFL Network's Kurt Warner is a broadcaster worth listening to. Every week on the NFL GameDay Morning pregame show, he seems to make a prediction that comes to fruition later in the day. And he isn't making just wild guesses, but giving educated foresight.
"Take Sunday, when Warner said: "When I watch (Steelers quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger play, he's not the same Ben Roethlisberger. He looks confused, he's making bad decisions. ... This offense is struggling right now and I believe they struggle today against Houston.''
What happened Sunday? Roethlisberger was a pedestrian 16 for 30 for 206 yards and the Steelers managed only 10 points in a 17-10 loss to the Texans.
Most forced story
Fox looked silly Sunday because of Pam Oliver's piece on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show about Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Supposedly, Romo's courage of playing through injuries have, according to Oliver and Fox, turned Romo doubters into fans over the past couple of weeks. Fox should have waited a few weeks just to make sure Romo didn't turn back into, well, Romo. Less than three hours after the piece ran, Romo had thrown three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, and the Cowboys blew a 24-point lead in a 34-30 loss to the Lions. Go back to Dallas today and see what folks are saying about Romo. And, is it just me, or does it seem like most of Oliver's stories are about the NFC East?
Best team (and best line)
Yikes, did you see Alabama dismantle Florida on Saturday night? That has to be the No. 1 team in the country, doesn't it? Or as New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden said on ESPN's Sports Reporters, "If there was a number higher than that ...’''
CBS NFL Today pregame analysis Boomer Esiason isn't buying that Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is going to bring a championship to Philadelphia.
"They're not going to the Super Bowl with Michael Vick,'' Esiason said. "I'm sorry. He’s not going to make it through the season. Just the way that he plays, he's reckless.''
Worst cheap shot
I've always been a big fan of ESPN's Howard Bryant, especially his work on shows such as Outside the Lines and Sports Reporters. His opinions, even if you disagree with them, always seem well thought out, sensible and objective. Unlike so many of ESPN's talking heads, Bryant isn’t a fly-off-the-handle type of analyst. When he talks, I listen.
That's why it was disappointing to hear him take a cliched cheap shot at Rays attendance during Sunday morning's Sports Reporters on ESPN2. Bryant was at the Trop on Wednesday night for the Rays dramatic victory against the Yankees. Or as Bryant put it, "Me and 15 other people.''
True, the Rays didn't sell out. They drew just under 30,000. Bryant's crack about attendance had nothing to do with the point he was making. It was just a cheap shot to get a cheap laugh. The point is, Bryant is better than that.
Then again, as long as the Rays don't draw well while putting a winning product on the field, this area always will be the target of such wisecracks, even from the intelligent and classy voices in the national media like Bryant.
Three things that popped into my head
1. If the NBA season is locked out, TNT, TBS and ESPN/ABC should just show random regular-season games from like 30 and 40 years ago in its place. Think how cool it would be to see games with players such as Wes Unseld, Bob Love, Clyde Frazier and Dave Cowens.
2. If I was a Red Sox fan, I would be furious that Terry Francona, the manager who brought the Sox its only two championships of the past 93 years, is no longer the manager.
3. Brilliant move by baseball to end the regular season on a weekday as opposed to a Sunday, as it has done traditionally. Wednesday's incredible night of baseball might have lost a bit of its oomph nationally had the Rays, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves competed against the NFL.