Ronde Barber will get a little practice before starting his gig with Fox as an NFL analyst next season. The Bucs announced last week that Barber, the cornerback/safety who retired this offseason, will join play-by-play announcer Chris Myers for three preseason games carried locally by Ch. 8. Barber replaces former teammate John Lynch, who called preseason games on Ch. 10. Lynch, who lives in Colorado and had to travel cross-country, gladly is turning over his gig to Barber, who can use the experience. I'm not a huge fan of Myers, especially after disparaging remarks he made about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina victims three years ago. But he has apologized for those comments, and he isn't a bad veteran for Barber to work with to get his feet wet. Come fall, Barber will be teamed with veteran Fox announcer Dick Stockton, who, interestingly, was a partner of Lynch's last year. Lynch is expected to be paired with Kevin Burkhardt, who is joining Fox after working as a reporter and an occasional announcer on Mets games for SportsNet New York. So how will Barber do?
There are two keys for every player-turned-analyst.
First, make points quickly and fully. Being an analyst means making a point during the 15-20 seconds between a play ending and the play-by-play announcer resetting the down, yardage and substitutions. It's difficult for first-timers to make strong points before running out of time or, just as bad, not filling enough time.
Second, be critical. That's the hardest thing for new analysts to do. They don't want to insult anyone. They want to be liked. They also know how tough it is to play professional football. The last thing they want to do is criticize someone for doing something very difficult.
But that's the role of the analyst. Barber doesn't have to blast away at anyone, but he can't ignore obvious mistakes. If he is too gentle, viewers will pick up on it immediately, and that will damage his credibility.
It takes time to become a good analyst, and Barber should not be judged on the preseason. Just like the players, it will be practice time for Barber.
Ch. 8 will air preseason home games against the Ravens (Aug. 8) and Redskins (Aug. 29), and a game at Miami (Aug. 24). The home games are subject to blackout and might be shown tape-delayed. The other game, at New England on Aug. 16, will air nationally on Ch. 13 (Fox).
So did you see that the Tigers now have a beef with the Blue Jays?
In the series after Miguel Cabrera, manager Jim Leyland and the rest of the Tigers whined about a pitch that got away from Rays closer Fernando Rodney and went upstairs (though not that close) to Cabrera, they cried when Toronto's Colby Rasmus broke up a double play with a hard slide into second baseman Omar Infante on Wednesday. Infante sustained a bruised left shin and has not played since.
Let's see then. You're not allowed to pitch inside to the Tigers, and you're not allowed to break up double plays against them. Why don't we just let the Tigers hit off tees during games, give them four outs an inning and buy them snow cones afterward? The odd thing is, Leyland likes to fancy himself as an old-school manager, yet the Tigers come off as babies because teams dare to play hard against them. Gimme a break.
TNT and Speed NASCAR analyst Kyle Petty says he was surprised his critical comments about Danica Patrick caused such a stir two weeks ago. During a show on Speed, Petty said, "Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can't race. I think she's come a long way, but she's still not a race car driver. And I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver."
First things first. Petty, surprisingly, said he didn't realize those comments were a big deal because he has said similar things in the past. He should know any comments about Patrick, particularly critical ones, are going to be news.
Certainly, Petty is entitled to his opinion, and he is paid plenty of money to give strong opinions; he is no different from fellow TNT analysts such as the always outspoken Charles Barkley on NBA coverage
In this case, perhaps Petty's overall point is Patrick isn't a great driver, but he did an awful job backing up his opinion.
As Patrick herself pointed out, she actually does better during races than qualifying.
The other mistake Petty made was to suggest that someone who is technically a rookie on the Sprint Cup circuit is never going to get better. That isn't fair and seems to indicate a predisposed opinion about her.
Then again, Petty should know what it's like to be a driver whose name is way more impressive than his resume. Son of the great Richard Petty, Kyle won only eight times among 829 career starts. Heck, even he called himself a "journeyman."
In the end, Petty was just doing his job, which is stating opinions. But this one seemed like a bit of a cheap shot.
Three things that popped into my head
1. With Vinny Lecavalier now off to the Flyers, who will be the Lightning captain? Ultimately, this will be Steven Stamkos' team. But how can anyone other than Marty St. Louis wear the captain's C next season?
2. Best idea I've heard in a long time: Actor Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly, below) as a possible future host of ESPN's ESPY Awards.
3. Jeff Turner, a Brandon High graduate who played 10 seasons in the NBA (seven with the Magic), will be the Fox Sports Florida/Sun Sports analyst on Magic games next season. Turner is fine. But can't we wave a, uh, magic wand and get Matt Goukas back? I still don't get why Goukas' contract was not renewed.
Tom Jones' two cents