St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones look back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Did you notice that during Saturday night's Bucs-Cowboys game, the NFL Network kept working in references that not everybody in the Tampa Bay area gets the network?
The game was shown locally on Ch. 38, which picked up the NFL Network feed. Pregame host Rich Eisen, right, and, later, play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler mentioned how Bright House customers do not get the NFL Network and other cables companies, including Verizon Fios, do carry it. Smart tactic.
The best selling point, however, might have been the NFL Network's coverage. Bucs fans probably didn't enjoy the game, but all would have to admit the network's work is outstanding, especially that of Nessler and partner Mike Mayock. And the camera work on NFL Network games is excellent.
Nickname of the day
Last season a well-followed Bucs blog and a Tampa Bay area radio show criticized ESPN's Trey Wingo for referring to Bucs coach Raheem Morris, left, as "Radio." The blog ran a photo of actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who portrayed the title character in the 2003 movie Radio, about a mentally challenged man and a high school football team. Wingo insisted he was talking about the character Radio Raheem in the 1989 Spike Lee movie Do The Right Thing. Recklessly, I thought, the blog and the show suggested the reference by Wingo, who is white, was racially motivated. Well, on a special Saturday edition of ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, former Bucs star Keyshawn Johnson twice referred to Morris as Radio Raheem. It will be interesting to see if the blog and radio show throw a fit over this reference as well.
Tim Tebow has officially taken over the NFL. During ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, the Broncos QB and former Gator (No. 15 above) was referenced by name 133 times in a three-hour show. The noon-12:30 p.m. block was devoted to Tebow and discussion of the Broncos-Patriots game. Overkill? Depends on whether you like Tebow. I find the coverage compelling, probably because Tebow is so polarizing. The best pregame segment over the weekend was on Countdown, using work from NFL Films, showing highlights of Tebow and the Broncos beating the Bears on Dec. 11. Tebow wore a microphone, and it offered fascinating insight into his personality and leadership. Even the Countdown crew, a group including Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson that has seen it all over the years, was mesmerized by the footage.
Seems like Fox reporter Pam Oliver does more stories on the New York Giants than any other team. And I'm tired of it — tired of the Giants and tired of those who constantly try to sell me on the Giants being good. Approximately a half-hour after Oliver's fawning pregame piece Sunday, the Giants went out and got thumped at home by the Redskins. They are 7-7. They haven't made the playoffs since the 2008 season. They haven't won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl in the 2007 season. Enough on the Giants, already! And while the networks are at it, can we take a break from all the features on Cowboys QB Tony Romo? I realize the NFL Network needed to make a big deal about him Saturday night because he was in its featured game. But every other network — CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN — has done a big piece on Romo and speaks a little too highly of a guy who has one playoff victory in his life.
CBS's Boomer Esiason made a superb point during NFL Today on Sunday when he said more players, such as the Panthers' Steve Smith, should be criticizing accused drug dealer and former Bears player Sam Hurd instead of going out of their way to take shots at Tim Tebow.
Having said that, the pregame shows could have spent a little more time Sunday talking about the Hurd situation.
It's quite a thing to accuse professional athletes of quitting, but that's what the NFL Network's Deion Sanders, above, did during halftime of Saturday night's Bucs-Cowboys game. With the Bucs trailing 28-0, Sanders said, "I have the utmost respect for Raheem Morris, but a lot of these guys have quit. They've shut this thing down. I know quit when I see quit, and quit is not disguised tonight.''
Analyst Marshall Faulk, below, chimed in with, "Raheem Morris is a good coach, and for these players to quit on him is not even fair.''
Biggest missing voice
Hockey analyst Mike Milbury was not on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday and will not be seen on NBC or Versus soon. He is sitting out while Boston-area authorities investigate an accusation that Milbury, right, was involved in a physical confrontation with a 12-year-old boy who had an on-ice altercation with Milbury's 12-year-old son in a hockey game.
In a lengthy interview with the Boston Globe, Milbury said his son was a target of verbal taunts throughout the game. He said he grabbed the 12-year-old boy by the collar to break up the fight. He also said he swore at the child. But, he said, he did not shake or strike the boy. Several parents who were at the game confirmed Milbury's story.
Apparently there is a video of what happened. It will be interesting to see if Milbury's absence is temporary or permanent.
Did anyone else see new WTSP-Ch. 10 meteorologist Jim Van Fleet singing a song about Tim Tebow during halftime of Sunday's Broncos-Patriots game? It was really good, actually.
Best point … until it wasn't
Fox NFL Sunday's Howie Long was on to something, I thought, when he talked Sunday about how the Packers' drive for perfection was outside of the media glare because so much attention was being paid to Broncos QB Tim Tebow. It made sense until the Packers went out and lost to the Chiefs.
But speaking of Fox NFL Sunday, the show has improved dramatically in recent weeks because of less goofing off by the panel. But if I did a power ranking of the morning pregame shows, I would have CBS's NFL Today in the top spot. (Note: NBC's Football Night in America is not a morning show.)
Three things that popped into my head
1 Sigh of relief for Lightning fans: Steven Stamkos' second-half slump last season obviously has not carried over to this season.
2 Just wondering, but if you're an established, experienced football coach such as Bill Cowher or Jeff Fisher and have your choice of openings, would you be interested in the Bucs job if it was available?
3 Is anything more frustrating in football than watching your team throw a 5-yard pass when it's third and 12? Yeesh.
tom jones' two cents