Sports Reporters has winning formula
Shooting from the Lip
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
The format is simple. Get a knowledgeable, likeable host. Surround the host with three sports writers with strong opinions. Bring up current sports events. Discuss. That's all ESPN's Sports Reporters is, and that format has worked brilliantly for 20 years. The show celebrated its 20th anniversary Sunday, and it continues to be one of the most watchable 30 minutes of television.
"We've always thought -- 20 years ago and still today -- it's the most intelligent conversation of its kind on television,'' said New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, a regular panelist. "Viewers don't feel we're talking down to them, and they certainly don't feel we're shouting at them. The viewer feels part of the conversation. That's the key.''
Lupica is right. There's no yelling (like on, say, ESPN's Around the Horn). There's no talking down to anyone (like on, say, Around the Horn). And viewers do feel a part of the show (unlike on, say, Around the Horn). Here's hoping for, and expecting, another 20 years of Sports Reporters.
CBS's worst nightmare came true Saturday night when the signature star of its mixed martial arts EliteXC, Kimbo Slice was knocked out 14 seconds into his fight with some guy who couldn't even cut it in the UFC. Unknown Seth Petruzelli filled in for Slice's scheduled opponent, Ken Shamrock, who was injured before the fight, and he stunned Slice, evidence that the EliteXC is miles behind some of other MMA circuits. The good news for us is maybe the EliteXC will run out of steam without Kimbo and CBS will stop airing it on Saturday night.
However, the result did produce a good line from announcer Gus Johnson, who screamed, "Rocky is here!'' after Petruzelli knocked out the heavily favored Slice.
ESPN's Outside the Lines ran a thought-provoking piece on whether Major League Baseball should retire No. 21, worn by former Pirates star and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. As of now, only Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is retired across baseball.
"The combination of the man, the ballplayer and the soul of the man makes a very, very strong case that his number should be retired,'' Fox analyst Tim McCarver said. "If baseball decided to retire Roberto Clemente's No. 21, who would object to it?''
Actually, quite a number of people would. Some believe it would take away from the impact of retiring Robinson's number. Others worry it would open a Pandora's box of requests to retire other players' numbers. Personally, I think Clemente's number should be retired because of Clemente's off-field work and the impact he has had on the Latin community in baseball.
It's impossible not to be riveted by HBO's consistently excellent Boxing After Dark broadcasts. The team of Jim Lampley, Lennox Lewis and Max Kellerman is a master at covering a fight card, and in each broadcast, the announcers do something that puts them above and beyond other teams in other sports. What you have to respect is how strong their analysis is even when it makes the sport look bad.
Example: Saturday night they criticized the judge and the corner of light middleweight Andrey Tsurkan, who was getting pummeled round after round by Alfredo Angulo.
Lewis said, "There's a saying: Live to fight another day.''
Lampley followed: "That's the key word: live.''
Lampley then brought up the possibility that they could be witnessing a boxer being literally killed in the ring. "What does it take to stop this fight!'' Lampley screamed. Finally, Tsurkan's corner waved the white towel midway through the 10th, and final, round.
"Let's go rent The Longest Yard.''
NFL Network's Warren Sapp, talking about the movie with the prison football game, in previewing the Cowboys-Bengals matchup
Notre Dame football is improved, and its schedule is weak. And yet that might not matter. The Fighting Irish will head to a bowl game, but unlike 10 or so years ago, they won't even sniff the national championship picture, or the BCS picture, for that matter. CBS football host Tim Brando put it best: "It could be true. Notre Dame could win nine and still be irrelevant.''
Best Long point
You have to feel badly about the way the Oakland Raiders treated recently fired coach Lane Kiffin, but come on, is anyone surprised owner Al Davis wigged out again? That was the on-the-money point made by former Raiders lineman and current Fox analyst Howie Long on Sunday.
"It has been 15 years since I've been part of the organization, so I can't speak to the day-to-day operations,'' Long said. "But if you're Lane Kiffin, you should know what you are getting into. He has access to a guy like Jon Gruden, who coached there. Don't be surprised when the owner who coached in the league and built three world championships gives input on a day-in, day-out basis on the goings-on of the football team. Don't be shocked by that.''
Best local shout-out from a local announcer
"(The Lightning's Steven Stamkos) can shoot the puck as well as anyone in the league.''
-- Sun Sports Lightning broadcaster Bobby "Chief'' Taylor, during Saturday's Lightning-Rangers broadcast.
Best local shout-out from a national announcer
"Evan Longoria is the next great thing at third base.''
-- Boston Globe's Bob Ryan, on Sunday's Sports Reporters