Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

Shooting from the lip

Best coverage

ESPN takes a lot of criticism from sports fans for a variety of reasons, but there's no doubt that it is the destination station whenever there is breaking sports news. Case in point: ESPN's Sunday coverage of the death of Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno. ESPN's coverage was comprehensive and compelling, informative and engrossing. For several hours Sunday morning, SportsCenter ignored all other stories in sports and concentrated solely on the Paterno story. And yet the broadcast never grew boring or monotonous. The network reeled in one guest after another, from former Penn State players to coaches to analysts, all offering unique perspectives on Paterno's life and career. Anchors Bob Ley, Rece Davis and Lindsay Czarniak were impeccable in shaping the story with their interviews, which were powerful and emotional. ESPN walked the fine line of celebrating Paterno's storied career while not ignoring the controversial final chapter of his life. In the end, folks likely fall into one of three groups when it comes to Paterno. There are those who have nothing but the utmost respect for Paterno's impact on and off the football field. There are those who will only remember Paterno for the scandal that cost him his job and tarnished his reputation. And then there are the rest, which fall somewhere in the middle. No matter which group you're in, if you watched ESPN's coverage, you really had no right to complain. ESPN practiced fair journalism and told the whole story. As a television viewer, what more could you want?

Best line

Here's a great story from Bob Raissman of New York's Daily News. A listener called into Bruce Murray's radio on Sirius XM Radio last week and tried to argue that Trent Dilfer, top, was a better quarterback than Dan Marino, bottom, because Dilfer won a Super Bowl and Marino did not.

Later, Dilfer was a guest on Murray's show. When told that a caller claimed Dilfer was better than Marino, Dilfer said, "That caller is an idiot."

Worst guest

No. Please tell me I didn't see CBS NFL Today pregame host James Brown "interviewing" the E-Trade talking baby Sunday.

Shame on you, CBS! All season, I've been heaping praise on the NFL Today. I've bragged about how the show cut out all the horseplay and silliness. I've passed along kudos for dumping the juvenile behavior, unnecessary laughter and annoying horseplay in favor of good, solid football talk. And then you go out and interview a fake person? Really? A season's worth of smart decisions and commendable television nearly ruined for the sake of a 30-second bit that wasn't only not funny, but felt like a shameless plug. Ugh!

Best analyst

It feels like ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke calls two games a night and about 20 games a week. You can hear her calling men's and women's college basketball, as well as NBA games.

Sure, she knows the game of basketball, but her analysis goes way beyond describing pick-and-rolls and zone defenses. She talks expertly about the players and teams of the games she calls; clear evidence that the amount of homework she puts in must be enormous. Proof of that was listening to her call Saturday's Syracuse-Notre Dame game. There were times when it felt like she was so knowledgeable that she was the hometown analyst — for both teams.

If I was named president of my own sports network, Burke would be one of my first hires.

Biggest beef

I don't like it when those who help call the games are the ones to present trophies to the winners of the NFL's conference championship games. It just seems like a line is being crossed because the announcers tend to get a little too chummy with the players, coaches and owners. That's not a criticism, necessarily, of the broadcasters. They are thrown into the middle of a celebration, and it's almost impossible for them to look objective.

Worst idea

Last week, Rangers and former Lightning coach John Tortorella, left, took some heat for acting a bit rude to NBC's Brian Engblom during an in-game interview from the bench. Which leads to this point: Let's end this in-game interview junk. If these interviews ever offered any insight at all, I'd be all for them. But the coaches rarely say anything of interest. In the end, it feels like the only reason the networks interview the coaches during the game is just to prove they can. And that's not a good enough reason to distract a coach.

Three things that popped into my head

1. As if this NFL season could get any worse for the good folks of Indianapolis. Not only did their beloved Colts nearly go winless and have the worst record in the league, now they have to suffer the indignity of the Patriots coming to town for the Super Bowl.

2. After watching Steven Tyler screech his way through the Star-Spangled Banner before Sunday's AFC Championship Game, I'd be ticked off if I auditioned for American Idol and didn't make it to Hollywood because Tyler didn't think I was good enough.

3. USF is now 5-2 in the Big East, which is tied for third and ahead of UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville and Pitt. It also means the Bulls should be getting way more than 3,000 people for home games.

Worst reaction

True, Syracuse was undefeated and No. 1 in the country, but isn't Notre Dame basketball a little too established for its fans to rush the court as they did Saturday when the Irish beat a Syracuse team missing one of its better players? You're bigger than that, aren't you, Notre Dame? After all, this is the same program that snapped UCLA's 88-game win streak in 1974. You got to rush the court that day. Rushing the court for any other game feels pointless. Actually, the most impressive victory of the weekend wasn't Notre Dame beating Syracuse, but Florida State going on the road and beating Duke.

Three things I liked on television this weekend

1. Nice job by Tampa Bay's own Shaun King on NBC Sports Network's coverage of Saturday night's NFLPA Collegiate All-Star Game. The 1010-AM radio host and former Bucs quarterback shows great poise on TV. It would be wise for NBC Sports Network to give him regular work.

2. The Big Ten Network's coverage Saturday night of the Joe Paterno situation was unexpectedly impressive. This was early in the story when there weren't many details other than Paterno being in "serious" condition. Still, the Big Ten Network shined.

3. Sunday's Manchester United-Arsenal game on Fox, believed to be the first English Premier League match on U.S. major network television, was good, although I wasn't crazy that CNN host and Arsenal fan Piers Morgan was involved. It made it feel a bit gimmicky, but it didn't ruin the broadcast.

tom jones' two cents

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

     
   
Comments
Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Who is the most compelling personality in Lightning-Capitals Game 7?We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for their answer. Who's yours? Please share in the comments section and feel free to take issue with our answers.JOIN the Lightning Strike...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Admiral Farragut’s grit brings state softball glory

Admiral Farragut’s grit brings state softball glory

VERO BEACH — It was only natural to think of Admiral Farragut’s state title chances more in terms of the future. After all, the roster consists of zero seniors and just two juniors. The rest are sophomores, freshmen and middle-schoolers. Because of t...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

As the Lightning and Capitals prepare for their series finale Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, here's a by-the-numbers look at each team's Game 7 history.5-2The Lightning's record in Game 7s. It has never lost at home (3-0).+5The Lightning's...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays loss to Red Sox

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays loss to Red Sox

Marc Topkin's takeaways from Rays 4-2 loss to Red Sox on Tuesday:* The Rays record against a Red Sox team they consider a measuring stick doesn't look very good at 3-8. But, as manager Kevin Cash and several players pointed out, there is some consola...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Critics don’t faze Sergio Romo or team

Rays journal: Critics don’t faze Sergio Romo or team

ST. PETERSBURG — Criticisms of the Rays' latest innovative pitching strategy have piled up since Angels INF Zack Cosart said after Sunday's game that starting RHP Sergio Romo to get the first three-six outs was "bad for baseball.''One of the lo...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Willy Adames homers, but Rays fall to Red Sox and suffer injuries

Willy Adames homers, but Rays fall to Red Sox and suffer injuries

ST. PETERSBURG — Top prospect Willy Adames is only going to get to stay with the Rays for a few days, so good for him for making the most of it with a home run in his first big-league game, and off Red Sox ace Chris Sale no less.But the good fe...
Updated: 6 hours ago
do your thing, mr. do-it-all

do your thing, mr. do-it-all

TAMPA — He’s the Lightning’s best player. He’s its most important player.Well, other than goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s a given. Every team relies most heavily on its goalie.But if the Lightning is going win a nerve-racking, heart-stopping, nail-...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

VERO BEACH —Academy at the Lakes waited two weeks to play in the Class 2A state softball tournament in hopes of winning what has been an elusive title.The Wildcats completed the first task Monday, cruising to a mercy-rule win over Fort Pierce John Ca...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

TAMPA — By now there are no more secrets. After six games over 11 days, the Lightning knows all the Capitals' habits , and the Caps know all the Lightning's.To Lightning coach Jon Cooper the outcome of tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

TAMPA — He's 30."I know. I'm getting old," Gerald McCoy said Tuesday, shaking his head.He's still a young man, of course. But in football years, McCoy has finally reached a black balloon birthday. This is his ninth season with the Bucs, which i...
Updated: 9 hours ago