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Highs, lows from weekend's TV sports

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best candidate

The coaching carousal continues to spin in college football, and in another month or so you'll start to see changes in the NFL as teams begin the annual season of firing and hiring.

One name you'll hear a lot — and we've already heard his name with seemingly every coaching opening — is former Bucs coach Jon Gruden. Most didn't believe he would stay away from the sideline for more than a year, but here he is about to wrap up his fourth season as an analyst on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Gruden, 49, has established himself as one of the best broadcasters on television and likely could have a 25-year career in the booth if that's what he wants. But is that what he wants?

In a feature on Gruden in December's Playboy magazine, his wife, Cindy, said: "Sometimes I think Jon has two monsters on his shoulder. One is go back to coaching, and the other is stay with this, have a nice life with his family. He'll always have two monsters."

That is why I think he'll go back to coaching someday. The booth will always be there.

Best coverage

The annual Army-Navy football game is one of sports' greatest traditions, although the game itself has lost a bit of its onfield pizzazz because of Navy's recent dominance. The Midshipmen won their 11th game in a row in the series Saturday.

But when you watch the pregame pageantry, you can't help but acknowledge just how special this game is. CBS did its usual splendid job covering Army-Navy more as an "event" than a "game." The result of the game certainly matters to the teams and those who are and were in the military, but for the rest of us, Army-Navy is about those serving this country.

That sentiment was expressed perfectly before the game by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with CBS's Tracy Wolfson.

"Every year this game seems to get better and better," Dempsey said. "And I know (Army was 2-9 going into the game). But it's the spirit of the game and the way that spirit defines us as a military. … It's really about the soul of the military."

Best remembrance

ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson wasn't in his usual seat on the Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show because he was at Raymond James Stadium for the Bucs' 10th anniversary celebration of their Super Bowl season.

The former Bucs receiver did, however, join the show from Tampa and credited — get this — the Tampa Bay defense for the title: "Every player in the National Football League … wants to go out on top. And I think as a group, our defense was dominant. We were able to pull things together, and we were able to deliver a world championship to the city of Tampa."

Worst ratings

Yikes. Just when you thought Major League Soccer was gaining momentum, you see the ratings for the MLS Cup final between the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy on ESPN. The game drew about 793,00 viewers. The World Golf Challenge had more viewers.

Biggest dropped ball

During Fox's Bucs-Eagles coverage Sunday that included the 10th anniversary reunion of the Bucs' Super Bowl team, former players Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp swung by the broadcast booth to see Fox analyst and former teammate John Lynch. Play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton said there were no microphones for the ex-players, so Lynch would have to speak for them. What the heck? You would think Fox would have one microphone around in case anyone ever stopped by the booth. And in this case, you're better off not even acknowledging the players are there if you're not going to let the audience hear directly from them.

Most-watched documentary

Most of the reviews for ESPN's latest installment of its "30 for 30" documentary series are in and are positive. You Don't Know Bo is about former football and baseball great Bo Jackson.

The film does a solid job of giving Jackson a voice, and there are some interesting tidbits. One of local interest is the Bucs put Jackson on a private plane so he could fly to Tampa to take a physical before the 1986 draft. But the ride violated SEC rules and made the two-sport star ineligible for his final baseball season at Auburn, something Jackson never forgave the Bucs for doing. However, that story is already well known in these parts. Maybe younger viewers who don't remember Jackson and his onfield exploits found the film interesting. And no question, he was a cultural phenomenon in his time, the late 1980s and early 1990s. For me, I'm not all that interested in Jackson's story anymore. Most of us old enough to remember Jackson already knew Bo.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Look, I don't the know details of the NHL contract talks, but I do know this: This is the third time in commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure there has been a lockout, and we seem on the verge of losing a season for the second time. If I'm an owner, I have to question if we have the right guy in charge. At least we should have someone with some innovative ideas to perhaps avoid the incredible embarrassment the NHL has become.

2. Classy moves by ESPN to allow Keyshawn Johnson and the NFL Network to allow Warren Sapp to skip their TV pregame duties to take part in Sunday's 10-year reunion of the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning team.

3. Guess we can forget about that Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. superfight, eh?

Most missed

It's looking more and more as if the NHL is going to lose another season to a lockout. Though the loss of hockey affects many, one of the most affected is NBC Sports, which has the contract to carry the league. It's especially hard on the NBC Sports Network, whose anchor tenant during the week is the NHL. NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said the network's ratings are down in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

"We've been filling our prime time with some good college basketball and some good college hockey," he said. "But the NHL is a staple of our prime-time lineup from October until May, and not having it is definitely harmful to us."

Biggest switch

ESPN is losing one of its more underrated yet popular broadcasters. Sal Masekela, the face of ESPN's X Games and extreme sports coverage, signed a multi­year deal with Red Bull Media House, Sports Business Daily reported.

Masekela had been with ESPN for 13 years and hoped to stay with the network, but the sides couldn't come to terms on a new deal.

"It was the hardest decision for me to walk away from the X Games," Masekela said. "It was a relationship that I thought I'd have another six or seven years."

Worst comment

Fox's NFL pregame show Sunday addressed the issue of the league potentially eliminating kickoffs to cut down on serious injuries. Analyst Michael Strahan said, "Pretty soon they're going to put (the players) in bubble suits and call it football."

At a time the NFL is trying to come up with ideas to protect the health of the players, it seems out of sorts for a former player to criticize the league on a matter such as this.

Highs, lows from weekend's TV sports 12/09/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 9, 2012 11:53pm]
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