Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Shooting from the lip

Best filler

If there was a Sports Emmy for best coverage during a weather delay, we could just give the award right now to Fox for its work during Sunday's delay of the Daytona 500.

Fox came on the air at noon, and five hours later the race was postponed until today. This wasn't a 35-minute rain delay that you might see in baseball. This wasn't a two-hour delay because of lightning at a golf tournament. This was five hours! And Fox's coverage remained enthusiastic, entertaining and enthralling.

The network bounced around from the studio to the broadcast booth to the track to the pits to the garages and to wherever the drivers were hanging out. They had interviews, features and weather updates. It was funny at times, informative at others and pretty darn good television; the best of a bad situation. The highlights of the day were interviews with drivers Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick (left) and Tony Stewart (right), and a running countdown of the best moments in Daytona 500 history.

Host John Roberts, along with analysts Michael and Darrell Waltrip and race announcer Mike Joy were spectacular throughout the day, keeping the broadcast moving along and never being stuck for something to say.

When there's a long delay in baseball, the networks cut away to other programming. When there's a delay in golf, the networks annoyingly show us taped coverage from the day before or last week or last year. Fox showed a bit of taped coverage from last weekend's Budweiser Shootout, but most of the five hours was filled with original programming.

Eventually, it dawned on me that part of the reason the delay was worth watching was because of the cooperation of the drivers. Patrick and Stewart did their interviews in the rain. Can you imagine Phil Mickelson doing that? Bayne sat in the studio for nearly a half hour, talking about everything and anything. Can you imagine Tiger Woods doing that?

Hard as this is to believe, Fox's NASCAR coverage on Sunday was the best TV of the weekend and there wasn't even a race.

Most overrated

Can we officially declare the NBA dunk competition the most boring and overrated thing in sports? Last year, the event had a bit of a revival and was tolerable, but now we're back to the same old, same old. The problem is dunkers have run out of ideas. They've jumped over cars, motorcycles, hip-hop stars. They've worn capes, blindfolds and throwback jerseys. They've dunked one ball, two balls. They've done 180s, 360s and reverses. There's nothing left. Eventually, to keep the excitement going, a player is going to try something dangerous and end up getting hurt. Before that happens, the NBA should just cancel the thing. Would anyone really miss it?

You know, you could ask the same thing about the actual All-Star Game, too.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Nice win by the USF basketball team Sunday against Cincinnati, but I still think it has to win its final two regular-season games plus at least one Big East tournament game even to get on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament.

2. Regardless of where USF ends up, Stan Heath deserves a few coach of the year votes.

3. Prediction: Tony Stewart will win today's Daytona 500.

Worst TV event

In theory, a match-play golf tournament seems like a fine idea, but as a television event, it's boring stuff. NBC has top-notch golf coverage, but even it couldn't make Sunday's Match Play Championship interesting enough to watch. It's okay if there are a bunch of meaningful matches being played, like in Ryder Cup, for instance. But when you're down to just one championship match, there's just way too much downtime.

Most disappointing show

Know which show as lost its fastball? ESPN's Sports Reporters. It used to be a "must-see" show. These days, it's more like a "I guess I'll watch because there's nothing else on" show. What happened?

Well, the show suffers when New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, left, isn't on, and he has missed the show more often than not over the past couple of months. The show remains relevant when the panel includes Lupica, the Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom and the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan.

But the bigger issue for the show is it has become predictable. Sometimes that cannot be helped. The point of Sports Reporters is to hit the pressing subjects of the moment. But, too often, you know what the topics are going to be before the show comes on and, worse, you know what they are going to say. Maybe the show will pick up when Lupica returns regularly and we move into a busier time of the sports year.



Best line

Best line of the weekend goes to TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who said this during the NBA All-Star Saturday coverage: "Larry Bird was great. You could buy a Larry Bird jersey in the ghetto, that's how great he was."

Associated Press

Dunk champion Jeremy Evans of the Jazz dons a Karl Malone throwback jersey and jumps over comedian Kevin Hart. Yeah, yeah, yawn. Wake us when there's something worth watching.

Best criticism

Some folks think Sun Sports Lightning analyst Bobby "The Chief" Taylor rips into the officials a little too much, but here's something you have to respect. Sure, he jumps on the referees when the Lightning gets a bad call, but he also takes shots at the referees when the opponent gets a bad call, too.

Example: During Sunday's Lightning-Devils game, New Jersey's Marek Zidlicky was called for holding. Taylor watched the replay and said what even Devils fans were thinking: "Uh, I guess he held him with his free hand? We really couldn't see it."

Strangest defense

One of the better interviews on TV over the weekend was ESPN's Marty Smith interviewing Kurt Busch on NASCAR Countdown before Saturday's Nationwide race. Smith grilled Busch pretty good on his past boorish behavior.

But that led to an odd discussion after the interview as several ESPN analysts wondered if Busch would change his ways. ESPN's Brad Daugherty said: "Why does he have to change? Because we put a camera in his face all the time?"

Uh, yes.

Daugherty always struck me as a good guy, so it was surprising to see him vehemently defending a driver who acts like a jerk a lot of the time, including an incident last year when Busch could not have been more rude to Daugherty's colleague, Dr. Jerry Punch.

tom jones' two cents

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

Associated Press

Rory McIlroy, above, fails to take over the No. 1 ranking in losing to Hunter Mahan.

     
   
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