Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.
Just when you think the NHL has gotten its act together, it does something idiotic to remind you that those in charge occasionally must eat stupid pills for breakfast.
Have you heard the story of John Scott (left)? He was voted into today's All-Star Game by the fans. It started off as fans clowning Scott because he really isn't an all-star-caliber player. He's an enforcer. He fights. When it comes to actual hockey skills, he is near the bottom of the league. He has five goals and six assists in 285 NHL games.
But then it turned into a movement, and Scott was voted a team captain, meaning he was elected to the game.
Then things turned really bizarre. The NHL tried to talk Scott into not playing. Then he was traded from Arizona to Montreal and immediately demoted to the minors. Many believe the NHL orchestrated the trade so Scott would be ineligible to play in the All-Star Game. I happen to believe there is something to that.
Eventually, faced with a public relations backlash, the NHL relented and said Scott could play in the game if he wanted. However, Scott said someone with the NHL (he didn't say who) asked him, "Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?"
First, it's the league that set up the system where fans could vote a player into the game. If it didn't want Scott in the game then it shouldn't have had him on a ballot.
Let's go a step further. If the NHL really has a problem with Scott or players like him, maybe it should eliminate fighting. Then guys like Scott wouldn't even be the league. Such hypocrites.
But to use a player's children to try to embarrass him and guilt him into doing what it wants is the lowest of lows.
The All-Star Game is an exhibition game, a game that doesn't count, a game that has forced the NHL to drum up a 3-on-3 contest just to keep folks interested. This game was already a joke, and now the NHL is worried that Scott is going to ruin it? That's laughable.
But you better believe fans are interested now. Now we have someone to root for, and that's John Scott.
His kids should be proud. He should be proud.
The NHL? Not its proudest moment.
Sports Illustrated reports that former Bucs wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson is out as an analyst on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show. It's hard to believe that he had been on the show since 2007. SI said the network decided to not renew his contract. But don't count Johnson (left) out of the broadcast game. He spends most of his time in Los Angeles, where Fox and the NFL Network have headquarters.
Who replaces Johnson on Countdown? Seems as if Countdown already has enough analysts, but it likely will add someone. A couple of names that have been thrown out there: Louis Riddick and Ryan Clark. The latter's stock has really risen because of strong opinions he has offered on other ESPN NFL shows.
Of course, ESPN always can go with a newly retired player. Charles Woodson is done and might make a good broadcaster. The wild card might be Peyton Manning. If the Broncos quarterback hangs it up after the Super Bowl, he will get offers from every network.
It's doubtful any of the networks would run off their top analyst (Fox's Troy Aikman, CBS's Phil Simms, NBC's Cris Collinsworth, ESPN's Jon Gruden), so Manning might opt for a studio job — if he retires and decides he wants to broadcast.
Fox has tapped Paul Azinger (above) to replace Greg Norman as its top golf analyst. Norman was relieved of his duties two weeks ago.
Azinger is a solid pick. He is a bit quirky and thinks outside the box, yet delivers commentary that is strong and, when needed, critical. He's not concerned with making sure he stays in the good graces of the players or the PGA Tour. His priority is the where it should be: with the viewer.
However, another name is out there who might make a really good analyst. I'm not the first one to throw this one out — ESPN's Pardon the Interruption fellows were — but Tiger Woods would be compelling TV. He doesn't appear to be close to playing, and tell me you wouldn't watch if he was a commentator.
• Huge numbers for the NFL's conference championship games on Sunday. The Broncos-Pats AFC game featuring QBs Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (above) drew 53.3 million viewers, and the NFC's Panthers-Cards game drew 45.7 million.
• Viewership for the prime-time sports coverage on Jan. 23, a Saturday night, was impressive. ABC's NBA game had 3.92 million viewers. NBC's U.S. Figure Skating Championships had 3.7 million. Fox's boxing card had 2.52 million. But CBS led the night with non-sports; 5.14 million average viewers watched back-to-back episodes of 48 Hours.
• The NFL could make a decision this week on which network will be awarded Thursday Night Football rights. NBC, Fox and CBS put in bids.
Three things that popped into my head
1 The Rays seem like they have 18 outfielders, and yet I'm not convinced any one of them will be a dependable and productive hitter this season.
2 It's so stupid that the NBA won't allow Golden State's Luke Walton (below left) to coach the Western Conference in the All-Star Game — a game that means nothing — and instead gives the job to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who snubs his nose at the NBA by going out of his way to blow off sideline reporters and resting key players in marquee matchups. Seriously, who is a better story and would sell the game more, Walton or Pop?
3 If former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who presided over five Super Bowl champions, does not get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend, then they might as well declare that no more owners will ever get into the Hall of Fame.
tom jones' two cents