Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Shooting from the lip

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Most welcome network

Okay, Bright House customers, you now have your NFL Network. What do you think?

One week in, and it's safe to say football fans would prefer a world with NFL Network than one without. However, to suggest the network is one you can't live without is debatable.

Maybe this isn't fair criticism, but the NFL Network feels too technical. It's NFL overload with an emphasis on X's and O's. NFL Network stars such as Thursday night analyst Mike Mayock and Sunday morning pregame show analyst Steve Mariucci talk over many folks' heads, using language you would hear in a huddle. Problem is, we're all in a living room.

Some of the more entertaining characters — Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Deion Sanders — are fine when they're serious. But when they turn into caricatures, it becomes hard to watch.

There's a lot to like about the network. Analysts Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk are sensational. Rich Eisen is a top-notch studio host. Brad Nessler is a superb game broadcaster. All the retrospective shows during the week are great.

That RedZone channel, which shows the key plays during Sunday's games, is like candy. It's fun to eat, but it never actually fills you up. You keep wanting more.

Overall, getting the NFL Network is great for Bright House customers, especially to see Thursday night games. But have your remote close by. There are other channels to watch, too.

Three things that popped into my head

1. I love the Ryder Cup, but can't golf figure out a way to play it so it's not going up against college and NFL football?

2. Rays bench coach Dave Martinez should be happy he didn't get the Astros job. A better job will come along someday.

3. Know whom the Red Sox should go after for a manager? Previous manager Terry Francona. Seriously, he's the best available guy out there, and maybe a year away from each other has done both sides some good.

Best criticism

Monday night's debacle at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game certainly seems to have sparked a new contract between the NFL and regular officials. But give some credit to the announcers on all the major networks for the constant review and criticism of the replacement officials and for how the league bungled the whole mess.

Most biased

The Wall Street Journal put together an interesting, although incomplete, study of which local baseball broadcast teams are the most biased.

The Journal watched one local broadcast of every team — so it's a pretty small sample size — but it's no surprise the White Sox's Ken "Hawk'' Harrelson and Steve Stone were the most biased. The two combined for 104 biased comments, and I'm guessing Harrelson was responsible for about 103 of those.

The Indians' Matt Underwood and Rick Manning were second with 23. Four broadcast teams — Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, Mets — had no biased comments. Neither did the Dodgers' Vin Scully, who calls games by himself.

The Rays' Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson had four biased comments. Having watched most of the Rays games this season, I would say Staats and Anderson are among the most professional, unbiased and fair broadcast teams you can find.

Media tidbits

• Former NBA star and coach Isiah Thomas is believed to have interviewed with ESPN for a studio position. Not sure about this one. Thomas seems like a sharp guy, but is he likeable enough to be a TV star?

• Speaking of the NBA, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy will not be joining ESPN as expected. Too bad. I get the feeling Van Gundy would have made a heck of a broadcaster, especially if he had been paired with his brother Jeff.

The Astros' Milo Hamilton is stepping down as a full-time broadcaster this week after nearly six decades with seven major-league clubs. He had memorable stints with the Braves, Cubs and Pirates, where he replaced the legendary Bob Prince. But he's best known for his 28-year association with the Astros.

Best addition

Now that Gerry Austin has joined ESPN as a rules expert, it seems as if everyone has a former NFL official on call. Well, except for CBS. Let's go, CBS. Get on board.

But it's funny how much debate there is, even with officials on TV. Case in point: Austin said last week he didn't have a problem with Seahawks receiver Golden Tate pushing off on the winning touchdown because on a Hail Mary, pushing and shoving should be ignored. Yet that's the only part of the play the league said the officials got wrong.

Best guest appearance

It normally bugs me when networks bring in their prime-time stars on sporting events for cross-promotion. But Zooey Deschanel of Fox's New Girl is so hip and charismatic, you can't help but think it was pretty cool that she kicked off the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show. In fact, should the show replace Michael Strahan with Deschanel? I know I'd watch more.

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Published: 01/17/18