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Shooting from the lip

Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best return

I'm waiting for the day when ESPN's College GameDay starts at 6 a.m. on Saturdays. No, wait. How about starting Friday night? Or better yet, just start the show immediately after the last game ends on Saturday. It can be a 156-hour show.

Saturday's debut was four hours long, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The last hour was pretty much useless because a bunch of games started at noon. Who wants to watch a preview show, even one as good as GameDay, when you can watch actual games?

College GameDay, which smartly returns to the three-hour format this week, remains one of the truly outstanding shows in all of television. Chris Fowler, who incredibly does the show without a teleprompter, remains on top of his game, and I would rank Kirk Herbstreit among the top two or three sports analysts on television. Lee Corso, 78, seems all the way back from the effects of the stroke he suffered in 2009.

There are additional pieces such as Desmond Howard and David Pollack, and they are fine. But the show is at its best when it's Fowler, Herbstreit and Corso steering the ship.

GameDay needs to be careful not to stray too far from what it does best. When it lets ESPN personalities become bigger than the sport, such as when a Scott Van Pelt piece about Clemson seemed more about Van Pelt than Clemson, the show stumbles. (Oh, by the way, enough Urban Meyer stories. We get it. He worked at ESPN, and you like him. Yeesh.)

Anyway, when GameDay sticks to the nuts and bolts as well as the features that highlight the teams and players, it remains the gold standard of pregame shows.

Most curious line

From, former University of Minnesota coach Glen Mason, calling the UNLV-Minnesota game on Saturday, said this when a UNLV receiver dropped a pass: "Come on now, you get paid for it. Catch the ball."

Get paid for it? Hmm, maybe the NCAA needs to check out that Rebels program.

Then again, if a newspaper or sports network doesn't break a story, the NCAA is pretty much clueless.

Best prediction

In a weekend full of upsets, there might not have been a more shocking result than how soundly USF was beaten by I-AA McNeese State. But a close second was I-AA North Dakota State upsetting Kansas State. Who saw North Dakota State coming?

"They know how to win," ESPN's Lou Holtz said, "and they will."

Final score: North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21. Nice job, Lou.

Best new show

Keith Olbermann's ESPN2 show, Olbermann, is off and running after debuting last week.

One of the turnoffs people have about Olbermann is he acts as if he is the smartest guy in the world. Yet you know what makes him such an interesting television personality? He acts as if he is the smartest guy in the world.

There is very little in-between with Olbermann. You either love him or hate him. Sometimes, you do both.

I probably should dislike Olbermann after he ripped reporters in general and newspapers specifically during his very first show, saying they were "a dying medium doing everything short of armed robbery to get a dollar out of you." I would like to think Mr. Olbermann is smart enough to realize newspapers, as a whole, still offer the best and most thorough journalism in the world.

Anyway, I'm willing to give him a pass on that one seeing as how you can't occasionally say brilliant things unless you are willing to sometimes say something so completely unintelligent.

Olbermann opened his show with an inside joke about his 16-year hiatus from ESPN: "As I was saying … " It would have been clever if Jack Paar hadn't used that line after a break from The Tonight Show 53 years ago. But after that unoriginal opening, Olbermann offered some pretty original programming.

There were highlights and solid interviews. Most of all, there was Olbermann.

You might not always agree with Olbermann's opinions or even how he delivers them. But he is compelling television. He is smart and clever and definitely has his opinions. What I respect about Olbermann is, yes, he can be snarky and petty and a smart aleck, but he's authentic. I don't think any of it is for effect. What you see is what you get. That's who he is.

Here's the thing with Olbermann. Those who don't like him won't watch. And those who do like him eventually won't because they will be offended or bothered by him or something he says. That basically has been Olbermann's career in a nutshell. He's welcome until he isn't anymore.

Until he's not, he's worth watching.

Most incomplete coverage

The most intriguing moment during the weekend at the U.S. Open came late in the fourth set of Saturday's match between Tampa resident John Isner and Philipp Kohlschreiber (left). CBS showed and said Kohlschreiber stopped and turned to those sitting in Isner's friends box. He then said something, in what appeared to be a reaction to something that was said to him. CBS never followed up. We don't know what was said. We don't know who said it. We don't know what happened. CBS could have done a better job getting to the bottom of something you rarely see in tennis — a little dustup.

Most missing commentary

In Sunday's Rays-A's game, the Rays had a chance to tie the score in the seventh inning. But Wil Myers, who was on second, was cut down at home on a two-out single by Desmond Jennings. Announcer Dewayne Staats said the problem was Jennings hit the ball too hard. That's true, technically, but that didn't explain why third-base coach Tom Foley sent Myers.

Analyst Brian Anderson eventually said viewers could understand why Foley sent the runner, considering the Rays have had trouble scoring runs lately and needed to try to take advantage of every opportunity.

Maybe Anderson is right, although, personally, it looked like Myers never had a chance to score unless a bird flew down from the sky and into the ball. I kept waiting for more highlights and more commentary, but it never came. Although it might not have been the intention, it came off as if Sun Sports was protecting Foley by pretty much glossing over a pivotal part of the game.

Three things that popped into my head

1. If Tim Tebow's career is over, don't necessarily look for him to be a television analyst. He speaks in too many cliches, and you wonder if he would be willing to be critical enough to be a commentator. Although you can bet someone will give him a try.

2. All season, Rays fans did not want to see their team play that precarious one-game wild-card game. Now they are hoping the Rays get to that game.

3. Yikes! Anyone still left on that Willie Taggart bus?

Tom Jones' two cents

Shooting from the lip 09/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 2, 2013 12:31am]
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