Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
I wrote the following on July 27, 2009:
“ESPN essentially invented the X Games and created a culture in which competitors feel the need to push the envelope further and further to keep these sports entertaining. It's to the point where competitors have to do something that has never been done or fans will lose interest. … The only choice is to attempt something more dangerous, and soon enough, you have people suffering permanent injuries or dying."
Predictably, and sadly, a death occurred at the X Games as snowmobiler Caleb Moore died last week from injuries suffered in an accident at the Winter X Games.
ESPN put out a statement after Moore's death that read:
"We are deeply saddened by Caleb Moore's passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to … the entire Moore family. He will be remembered for his natural passion for life and his deep love for his family and friends. He will always be an inspiration to everyone he touched in the action sports community.
"As a result of the accident we will conduct a thorough review of this discipline and adopt any appropriate changes to future X Games.
"For 18 years we have worked closely on safety issues with athletes, course designers and other experts. Still, when the world's best compete at the highest level in any sport, risks remain. Caleb was a four-time X Games medalist attempting a move he has landed several times previously."
The last two paragraphs of that statement, which was not signed by anyone, range from insulting to downright callous.
For starters, ESPN now says it will review and adopt changes as a "result of the accident." You mean no one at ESPN thought flipping snowmobiles (among other things) should have been reviewed before now? Surely I'm not the only one who ever thought these sports were pushing the limits too far for years now.
And how inappropriate that ESPN spent the last paragraph saying, essentially, that Moore knew the risk he was taking, took it anyway and basically failed to pull off the trick he had performed successfully before. What was the point of the last paragraph other than for ESPN to distance itself from the tragedy and all but say, "It was Moore's fault?"
Yes, I understand, accidents happen. Yes, I understand, X stands for "extreme" sports, meaning there is risk and danger. But it seems to me that ESPN has been too slow to keep up with the stunts the athletes are pursuing. Worse, its reaction to Moore's death was somewhat disturbing.
Best Super Bowl pregame moment
CBS did a commendable job on its four-hour NFL Today pregame show. Let's face it, it's hard to put together a four-hour pregame that, at some point, doesn't feel like it's going on forever regardless of how many funny, tear-jerking, interesting, entertaining and informative features you can drum up.
The finest moment was the interview of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, the parents of the opposing coaches, just an hour before kickoff. The questions weren't all that special, but the Harbaughs knew exactly what to say to make it a good few minutes.
I'm not necessarily big on networks breaking down the X's and O's of the game, but CBS did a smart thing by using its analysts, as well as some special guests, to explain the 49ers' "Pistol" offense. Especially impressive were those special guests: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.
Best Super Bowl commercials
The Audi commercial featuring the kid kissing the prom queen and then driving home with a black eye was good stuff. The seniors going for a wild night on the town in the Taco Bell commercial was awesome. Amy Poehler was in a Best Buy commercial and, as far as I'm concerned, Poehler can be on every commercial and television show and I'd be totally fine with that.
Worst Super Bowl commercial
Watching model Bar Refaeli making out with a nerd in the Go Daddy ad was supposed to, at the very least, make you laugh. It more likely made you go "ewww."
Most interesting free agent
Former Bucs star Warren Sapp, elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend, is eligible to be a free agent again. His contract with the NFL Network is about to expire, and he could be on the move.
Here's the thing: The NFL Network might not mind if Sapp moves on. He says a lot of interesting things, but he also says some controversial things and you always get the feeling he is one sentence away from saying something just outright stupid. The NFL Network might feel as if his potential for saying something awful isn't worth his analysis, as good and honest as it might be.
I love how ESPN's basketball version of College GameDay had adopted the football show's idea of going to the best game of the day. It has done that the past couple of years and it was a smart move. For example, Saturday's GameDay came from Indiana, where the No. 3 Hoosiers were hosting No. 1 Michigan. Broadcasting live from inside the arena before and after the game, as well as halftime, gives the show an extra buzz.
It also helps to have the best analyst in college basketball, and that would be Jay Bilas. Jalen Rose is solid and so is Digger Phelps when he's not interrupting or talking over his partners. But host Rece Davis and Bilas could do the show by themselves and it would be excellent. That's how good Bilas is.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I wish the NFL would just kill the Pro Bowl already, but do you know why it doesn't? Believe it or not, more than 12 million people watched the game; that's about twice as many as watched the game as recently as six years ago.
2. Give credit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters for not letting personal feelings cloud their judgment and voting Warren Sapp in.
3. I get tired of hearing how newly elected Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells built a bunch of different teams. What, Chuck Noll, Tom Landry and Bill Walsh couldn't have done that if they had chosen to coach more than one team?
tom jones' two cents