Too much Tiger
Looking back at the weekend in televised sports ...
Worst golf announcer of the weekend
NBC's Dan Hicks is married to ESPN's Hannah Storm. But by the way he was gushing Saturday as lead announcer of the U.S. Open, he sounded like a man ready to leave Storm for Tiger Woods. Woods' third-round charge had some thrilling moments, but when you add up the scorecard, he still only shot 1-under par 70 for the day. Listening to Hicks, however, one might have thought Tiger played the most brilliant round of golf that had ever been played. It was obvious that NBC so baaaaadly wanted Woods to do well, and that's understandable. The lower Woods shoots, the higher the TV ratings. But did Hicks need to make it so obvious?
Hicks spent Saturday ignoring the other golfers and stories and, sadly, added nothing to what we were witnessing with Woods. Even if you think Woods was having a remarkable round, Hicks added little to the moment other than to say Woods was having a remarkable round. We could see that. We already knew that. Give us perspective. Give us a call to remember. Give us something. And if you don't have anything, that's fine. Be quiet, and the let the sights and sounds tell the story. Instead, Hicks talked. He talked a lot. He just didn't say anything.
Hicks was a little better Sunday but not enough to wash the bad taste of Saturday out of our mouths. The thing that was so disappointing is Hicks is better -- much better -- than he showed over the weekend.
Best golf announcer
Johnny Miller was the opposite of Dan Hicks over the weekend. Everything that came out of his mouth was good stuff. As it always is. I could fill this whole page every week with Miller's brilliance, but here are just a few of the highlights:
• On Stuart Appleby blowing up in the third round: "He has not done well in majors for no particular reason, and it's sort of showing up today. Maybe his insides and majors don't necessarily like each other.''
• On watching Tiger Woods wince because is knee injury: "It makes you sick to your stomach.''
• On the slowness of a particular green: "This is about as fast as cold maple syrup.''
• On Rocco Mediate staying in the hunt: "Rocco Mediate is dodging more bullets than Indiana Jones.''
• On Phil Mickelson hitting shot after shot on the par-5, No. 13 on Saturday: "This is like Six Flags. You don't see many snowmen (an eight) at the beach.'' In Hicks' best moment, he added: "He's got to be hoping for a snowman!'' Hicks was right. Lefty took a nine.
Most underused golf announcer
NBC added a nice touch, bringing in Golf World magazine's Tim Rosaforte to act as an "insider,'' telling a few behind-the-scenes stories. The only problem was it barely used him. In the future, more Rosaforte, please. Also, NBC has the best announcer in the business (Bob Costas) and barely used him, as well. It's like having A-Rod on your team and using him only to pinch hit.
I'm not even a soccer fan, and yet I'm glued to ESPN's coverage of Euro 2008. The coverage has been outstanding, and the studio show is as good as any studio show, thanks to analysts Julie Foudy, Andy Gray and, best of all, Tommy Smyth. The reason it all works so well is ESPN is not "dummying down'' the coverage. Everything is geared for the soccer aficionado, and that's exactly the right approach. Compare that to, say, CBS's recent coverage of mixed martial arts, which spent too much time teaching the sport to viewers. Listen, viewers are smart. They'll catch up. Sports aren't rocket science. ESPN is smart enough to treat the sports they cover and the fans who love those sports with respect.
Someone show Fox baseball pregame host Jeanne Zelasko the latest major-league standings. Or maybe she just hasn't bought into the Rays just yet. During Saturday's show, Zelasko asked analyst Rob Dibble if Reds slugger Ken Griffey could end up with the Cubs. Here's the exchange:
Dibble: "I see maybe the Tampa Bay Rays. I've heard the owners really want him down there in Tampa Bay. He has a home in Orlando. I think the Rays would be a better fit.''
Zelasko: "He’s going to go to a noncontender?''
Dibble, setting her straight: "No! The Rays are a contender! And he could put butts in the seat.''
Zelasko: "Point taken.''
What a pleasure it was to listen to Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy working Fox's Game of the Week, although we could've done without partner Thom Brennaman. (By the way, Remy earns extra bonus points in these parts for, on air back in New England, criticizing Boston's Coco Crisp the night he charged Rays pitcher James Shields.) Remy is quick, knows his stuff, has a sense of humor. It was nice to hear him instead of, oh, let's say Tim McCarver for a change.
On ESPN's Baseball Tonight, insider Tim Kurkjian, talking about Rays pitcher Matt Garza, said, "A scout told me last year that this is a young John Smoltz.''
Most interesting poll
The NBA has a serious problem. This Tim Donaghy/officials fixing games stuff is not going away. Donaghy, the NBA ref who admitted to gambling on games, accused that a playoff game in 2002 wasn't on the up-and-up. Who knows if the allegations are true. The problem for the NBA is the public thinks they might be true. ESPN conducted a poll over the week asking viewers, "Do you believe Tim Donaghy's allegations that two referees conspired to ensure a 2002 playoff series went seven games?''
Of the first 12,817 responses, 76 percent said yes.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Can we please officially ban the phrase "Tiger is on the prowl'' from all future golf telecasts?
2. Whether he was right or not, maybe ripping into an umpire wasn't the smartest thing Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir has ever done.
3. If you're an NHL team with an opening for a head coach, why wouldn't you at least talk to John Tortorella? The Senators, Maple Leafs and Sharks -- all of whom didn't talk to Tortorella and hired other coaches -- combined don't have as many Stanley Cups as Tortorella in the past 40 years.