Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Shooting from the lip

Best announcer

Time to put the name of ESPN's Chris Fowler, left, among the elite broadcasters in the business. That's to say he belongs somewhere high on the list, a half-notch below Bob Costas and Al Michaels. His work at Wimbledon over the weekend, as well as the past two weeks, was first-rate.

Fowler's greatest strength calling tennis — and the best part of his brilliant juggling as host of ESPN's football version of College GameDay is his economy of words. He says exactly what needs to be said to get his point across, no more, no less. And whether it's Kirk Herbstreit on GameDay or Chris Evert or John McEnroe on tennis, Fowler is all too willing to set up his expert analysts as the stars.

The egos of a lot of play-by-play broadcasters are too large for them to do that. Those announcers not only want to be the stars of the booth, but the stars of the entire broadcast. Fowler realizes the analysts are the stars with the microphones and the event is the star of the broadcast.

Strangest feeling

The gentleman's final of Wimbledon was Sunday morning. How weird was it to turn on NBC and see … bicycling? It still feels like we should've been hearing that "Breakfast at Wimbledon'' music, with Dick Enberg and Bud Collins calling the action.

Instead, Wimbledon is on ESPN/ABC, and NBC carried the Tour de France on Sunday morning.

Records of the day

Sunday's Pirates-Giants game featured starting pitchers Tim Lincecum of San Francisco and A.J. Burnett, left, of Pittsburgh. One is now 10-2 on the season and the other is 3-10. Who would've thought it would be Burnett who is 10-2?

Best contest

Did you see who won the Miss Florida 2012 pageant Saturday night? Laura McKeeman, who you often can find working the Rays telecasts on Sun Sports. McKeeman, who entered the pageant after winning the Miss Pinellas contest, will represent Florida in the Miss America 2013 pageant in Las Vegas in January. McKeeman was born in Atlanta, raised in Florida and spent time in China and Washington, D.C., studying ballet. She went to the University of Florida, where she became involved in sports journalism. She covers high school recruiting for Fox Sports Florida but mostly is known for her work on the Rays broadcasts.

Best stat

Did you see last week that former Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson ran his mouth about how a bunch of guys shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Reggie's list of guys who shouldn't be in the Hall included Jim Rice, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Bert Blyleven. Jackson has a right to his opinion, but he stooped pretty low to also say that a couple of Hall of Famers who have passed away — Kirby Puckett and Gary Carter, who died in February — also shouldn't be in. Those guys aren't around to defend themselves against baseball's all-time strikeout leader.

The New York Daily News' Bill Madden looked up how Jackson fared against Blyleven and found some interesting numbers. Even though Blyleven isn't a Hall of Famer in Jackson's eyes, Jackson hit a paltry .214 against Blyleven with 49 strikeouts. Blyleven has the fifth-most strikeouts in major-league history and struck out Jackson more than any other hitter. Meantime, Jackson struck out against Blyleven more than any other pitcher.

Best newcomer

Nice work by former golf star Annika Sorenstam as an analyst for NBC's U.S. Women's Open coverage. She sounded extremely comfortable for someone with so little broadcasting experience. Plus, you know how some people are just likeable? That's Sorenstam.

Sorenstam said she is interested in occasionally working in the booth, but she doesn't want a full-time gig because she doesn't want to be away that much from her two children. After all, if she was willing to be a full-time announcer, she might as well start playing again. She's only 41.

Speaking of NBC's U.S. Women's Open coverage, it was — no surprise — an outstanding weekend. And it also was no surprise that Dottie Pepper, among the best analysts, golf or otherwise), made the smooth transition from on-course walker to lead analyst.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Now it appears the Rays' Evan Longoria won't be back until maybe August. But we can all thank our lucky stars he is well enough to take a break from rehab to attend this week's ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. (Why, yes, that is sarcasm.)

2. Can't wait for tonight's Home Run Derby. (Why, yes, that is sarcasm, too.)

3. This might make you feel old: O.J. Simpson turns 65 today.

Smartest move

Great move Saturday by CBS during its PGA coverage after Troy Kelly, above, shot 62 to move near the top of the leaderboard. Most folks, even golf fans, would have trouble picking Kelly out of a one-man lineup. He went into the weekend ranked 464th in the world. So CBS brought Kelly into the booth with host Jim Nantz and lead analyst Nick Faldo to, in effect, introduce him to the audience. CBS knew full well Kelly was going to be a major part of the coverage Sunday, so the network wanted to make sure fans knew his story, including past injuries, where he grew up and who his idols were. CBS was dealt a bad hand when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson missed the cut, but it changed on the fly nicely and told fans why they should tune in Sunday by telling them why Kelly was interesting even if he wasn't well known. As it turned out, Kelly was a major part of Sunday's broadcast. He lost in a playoff to Ted Potter.

Saddest news

Legendary Raiders star Ben Davidson passed away Tuesday of prostate cancer at the age of 72. What I didn't know until seeing an item in the New York Post was that the day before, an NBC executive named Julian Goodman, left, died at the age of 90. Who was Goodman? Why is he mentioned in a sports column? And what does he have to do with Davidson?

Goodman was the NBC president who was blamed for the network switching from a Jets-Raiders game in 1968 to the movie Heidi. The Raiders rallied for two late scores to win after the switch in a game forever known as "The Heidi Game.'' Davidson played in that game.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up his best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best performance

Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player ever, right? That was true before Sunday. After beating Andy Murray for his seventh Wimbledon singles title, Federer owns 17 major championships. After the match, ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe summed it up perfectly: "(Jimmy) Connors loved the fight. (Pete) Sampras loved to win. This guy loves it all. He loves everything about (tennis)."

By the way, the McEnroe brothers, Patrick and John, were splendid throughout the fortnight. And though Chris Evert was steady enough on the women's matches, the coverage really missed Mary Carillo, who no longer works for ESPN. If Carillo isn't calling a high-profile women's match, it just doesn't fell like a high-profile women's match.

     
     
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