Thursday, December 14, 2017

Shooting from the lip

tom jones' two cents

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

Best voice

The MLB Network picked up the Yankees feed of Saturday's Yankees-White Sox game. And if you watched, you heard a familiar voice: former Rays skipper and Tampa native Lou Piniella, who is working occasional games this summer for the YES Network.

Sweet Lou is really good on TV. He has interesting stories from his career as a player and a manager that he recalls quickly. But he doesn't spend the entire broadcast boring fans with, "Well, when I played … " His stories are topical and pertinent to what is happening during the game.

As I've written time and time again, I'm a fan of Rays TV broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson. But Piniella would make a good third member of the booth if the Rays ever went in that direction.

Best points

Whenever his team lost, former Lightning coach John Tortorella would be asked what went wrong. From time to time, Tortorella would say, "You know, there was another team out there, too."

His point? Sometimes, you just get beat by a team that played better than you did.

So while it's easy to get bogged down by what your team is doing wrong, sometimes one has to recognize other teams have good players and those players play well sometimes.

Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson is often quick to criticize the Rays. But Sunday, he astutely recognized there were moments when the Tigers just outperformed the Rays. When Detroit's Prince Fielder fought off a good Jake McGee pitch for an RBI single, Anderson gave credit to Fielder. When Detroit reliever Brayan Villarreal struck out B.J. Upton with a filthy slider, Anderson said so.

Anderson wasn't being an apologist. He was being a good analyst.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Too bad the Orioles, instead of the Rays, traded for Jim Thome. True, he can't do anything but DH at this point. But he looks like he has more left in his bat than Hideki Matsui, doesn't he?

2. Please, Orlando, just trade that whining, immature, egomaniac Dwight Howard already.

3. I jump on Tiger Woods a lot for being cranky on the golf course. But he was all class Sunday, especially when dealing with the crowd and honoring those in the military. Well done, Tiger.

Best silence

While flipping around the television on Saturday, I came across the X Games on ABC. BMX riders were doing various tricks on the park course. There were no announcers, and the viewers could hear only what the competitors were hearing — the cheers, the horns and the voice of the public-address announcer. I don't know if the absence of announcers was planned or a technical glitch, but it was nice. And this isn't to pick on the X Games announcers, who are both enthusiastic and authoritative. It is, however, an indication that sometimes it's just nice to watch a sporting event without listening to an announcer.

Biggest hire

Erin Andrews has a new home. Fox Sports announced Sunday it has hired the Tampa native and University of Florida grad to host a new 30-minute pregame college football studio show as well as work on its NFL and MLB coverage.

Andrews, the former Lightning television sideline reporter, joined ESPN in 2004 and was mostly known for sideline work on college football and basketball. Last year, ESPN increased her role, naming her host of the first hour of football's College GameDay. Her contract expired last week, and Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch broke the story that Andrews, 34, was not returning to ESPN and was in talks to join Fox.

Fox is beefing up its college football coverage and has long-term deals with the Pac-12 and Big 12. It will air a minimum of eight regular-season games, including four in prime time. There's also a thought that Andrews could end up doing work for Fox entertainment. It has long been rumored that Andrews would end up working on an Entertainment Tonight-type of show.

The other question that remains is how badly did ESPN want to keep her?

All along, ESPN's executives said they wanted Andrews to stay. But it might not have been able to offer her anything other than more money. Other than giving her the first hour of GameDay (which, by the way, aired on ESPNU, not ESPN) and a few other sideline duties, the network did not seem to be doing anything to give Andrews a higher profile. Most noticeably, she was not given any other hosting duties.

Fox is smart to take a gamble, and Andrews is doing the right thing by making the jump. Otherwise, she risks doing nothing in this business other than sideline reporting.

Second-best silence

What a surreal scene Saturday at Congressional, site of this past weekend's PGA event. A severe storm rolled over the Bethesda, Md., course Friday night and toppled trees and tree limbs, leaving the course a mess. Because of all the debris, spectators were kept away, leaving the players playing in front of almost no one.

It was weird listening to just a smattering of applause when someone hit a superb shot or sank a long putt. Know what was welcome, however?

Not hearing a numbskull yell, "Get in the hole!" as soon as a golfer hit his tee shot on a long par 5.

Best feature

ESPN's Outside the Lines attacked the long-overdue nuisance of tennis players, particularly women, who shriek, grunt and groan during matches. Apparently, the WTA is attempting to curb the problem, but the issue I have is I'm not really sure what the WTA is doing.

It says it recognizes fans are turned off by the noise. But the WTA's plan, as far as I can tell, is to work with young players to break them of the habit before they reach the major events. As far as today, the WTA believes it wouldn't be fair to suddenly penalize players who have been doing this all their lives.

To which I say: Phooey!

As the great Martina Navratilova said in the Outside the Lines piece, start giving point penalties and watch how quickly players get the message. At worst, give players a year to break their habit before the penalties start.

The two biggest things I got out of the story were:

• Top players such as screamers Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka have more power over the WTA than anyone.

• It was sad to hear Sharapova, above, say, "no one of any importance" ever told her her shrieking was a problem. Fans complain all the time. I guess fans aren't anyone of importance.

Best coverage moment

Spectacular work Sunday by CBS on its PGA coverage. Tiger Woods' second shot at the par-4 No. 12 had to be hit while he stood against a tree. Before Woods hit the shot, CBS microphones picked up him telling spectators to be mindful that his 9-iron might snap and fly at them when it hit the tree. Woods hit a great shot, and CBS's super-slow motion replays captured how the 9-iron flexed almost into the letter U and rode up the side of the tree. Good stuff.

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