ESPN's Chris Mortensen broke a story during Sunday NFL Countdown that could have been incredibly embarrassing to the NFL. Mortensen reported that one of the replacement officials scheduled to work Sunday's Saints-Panthers game was a Saints fan, according to the photos and comments on the official's personal Facebook page. The NFL pulled the official from the game when made aware of the situation.
Just as disturbing was a comment made by Countdown's Keyshawn Johnson: "Even the regular referees, I'm sure, are fans of some of the teams in the National Football League or whatever other sport, but they didn't display it out publicly in social media to have everybody scrutinize the situation."
Wow, does Johnson really believe there are officials who are fans of certain teams? Is that really true? I think Johnson is wrong. I certainly hope he is.
ESPN keeps doing it, so I'll keep writing about it. The network insists on having its personalities do commercials with people they cover, raising the question of a conflict of interest. The latest ad has the College GameDay crew playing cards with Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher. The thing is, Fisher wasn't even necessary to make the commercial effective. He didn't have a speaking line, and the ad had nothing to do with him or the Seminoles.
Memo to ESPN: Can you please have your NFL people stop referring to the New York Giants as the "football Giants.'' After all, there hasn't been a "baseball Giants'' in New York in, oh, 55 years.
Why would any team want Jay Cutler as its quarterback? The Bears' QB has talent but is a major head case. He makes awful decisions and throws interceptions at the most inopportune times, yet he can't wait to jump teammates whenever they goof up. During Thursday's loss against the Packers, Cutler could be seen yelling at teammates, and at one point, he shoved an offensive lineman while scolding him.
"Bumping that guy, yelling at guys on national TV like that – your teammates,'' ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown analyst Tom Jackson said. "It will come back to bite you in the end. And I think it might come back to bite Jay in the end."
Countdown's Mike Ditka said, "It sets a bad precedent. It's an immature act by the quarterback."
Meantime, Fox NFL Sunday's Terry Bradshaw criticized Cutler and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, who also laid into a teammate during the game.
"I don't believe in that,'' the former QB said. "It's not right to embarrass players that you are counting on to be successful. You're going to make mistakes yourself, and … do they …turn around and go; 'Hey, Rodgers! Hey, Cutler!'? If you have a disagreement with them, do it quietly on the sideline. Do not embarrass your teammates in front of a national TV audience and your fans."
Best Sunday morning show
I have a secret to confess. I wear out my DVR recording Sunday morning NFL pregame shows and ESPN shows such as Outside the Lines and Sports Reporters, but the best Sunday morning show is CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. It had a great feature on Dodgers announcer Vin Scully on Sunday, but even when it doesn't have sports features, it remains as enjoyable a show as you can find on Sunday morning — or any morning, come to think of it.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, above, was asked about calling players up from the minors, and though it's true that the Red Sox's roster has been depleted because of injuries and trades, Valentine managed to insult his players and general manager. "Are you kidding me?'' Valentine said. "This is the worst roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball. We could use help everywhere.'' You just cannot say that. On Saturday's Fox pregame show, analyst and former Red Sox standout Kevin Millar said, "If I was on that roster … I would've come back with another quote, and that's 'This is the worst manager the Boston Red Sox ever had in history.' '' Analyst Harold Reynolds said, "(Valentine) sounds like a man wanting to be fired.'' Actually, he sounds like a man who should be fired.
ESPN lost a big part of its college football coverage when sideline and College GameDay reporter Erin Andrews bolted for Fox. But her replacement, Samantha Steele, left, has been outstanding. Her piece on University of Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter and his return from a severe knee injury was the highlight of Saturday's GameDay.
On a side note, she has a heck of a throwing arm, too; she tossed a long pass to Hunter during the story.
Speaking of Andrews, she's doing a nice job on Fox, but you get the feeling most folks aren't seeing her pregame work because they are watching other games.
Great job by Fox to bring in football rules expert Mike Pereira when USC scored a touchdown that should not have counted because an offensive lineman pulled a running back into the end zone. Normally, Pereira handles NFL rules, but it's smart by Fox, which now has college football, to bring Pereira in when there's a rules question or controversy on Saturday as well as Sunday.
Three things that popped into my head
1. It was silly for college football to add a rule this season that whenever a player loses his helmet, he has to come out for a play. But in just three weeks, have you ever seen so many helmets come off?
2. USC losing was good news for a Florida State team with designs on a national championship. The Seminoles play an actual team for the first time Saturday when they host Clemson.
3. The Rays have 16 games left. Last season with 16 games left, the Rays were four games out of a playoff spot, like they are now.
tom jones' two cents
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Best postgame moment
For some reason, I'm easily bothered when college football fans rush the field after victories. It's okay when a mediocre program upsets the top-ranked team in the country. But if a decent program beats, say, the 12th-ranked team in the country, don't rush the field. • It seems wrong that Stanford fans stormed the field after Saturday night's upset of Southern Cal. The Trojans were ranked second in the nation, but Stanford was ranked 21st, and it has now won four consecutive games against USC. But for some reason, it was pretty cool watching fans of the Cardinal storm the field, maybe because only USC fans probably minded coach Lane Kiffin losing a game. • Fox did an excellent job pulling back its cameras to show the enormity of the crowd. And a special thumbs-up to announcer Gus Johnson. • I've never been a Johnson fan because of all his yelling and screaming, which tends to dominate a broadcast and become bigger than the game, which is about the worst thing an announcer can do. But he deserves credit for not saying a word for nearly 30 seconds after the game as cameras panned back to show the crowd.