Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shooting from the lip

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

Best moments

The strongest segment of the Sunday morning NFL pregame shows, by far, was ESPN's look into the Aaron Hernandez situation. The segment concentrated on how teams vet players coming out of a college and if they, especially the Patriots, should have known that the former Gators tight end was headed for trouble.

Adam Schefter's thorough feature was followed up by a roundtable that included analysts Tom Jackson and three ESPN regulars who had checkered or questionable moments while playing in the NFL: Cris Carter, Ray Lewis and Keyshawn Johnson. All three addressed their personal issues and talked about how certain teams helped lead them on the path to more productive lives on and off the field.

Good for ESPN and good for the analysts, particularly Lewis and Carter whose issues were more serious than the former Buc receiver Johnson, for using their stories as the backbone for a compelling and intelligent discussion.

Most annoying moments

If I were the king of tennis, I would ban players toweling themselves off after every point. Ball boys and girls spend more time bringing towels to players than they do tracking down loose balls. For most, I think it's more out of habit now than necessity. Players should have to wait until the end of each game or maybe even during the changeover to use a towel. Seriously, all that toweling off actually is a nuisance while watching the U.S. Open.

Biggest surprise guest

Hey, how about Eminem showing up in the booth with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit during the Notre Dame-Michigan game? I loved that Musburger called the rapper by his given name of "Marshall," and I loved that Eminem (right) showed Musburger respect by saying he belongs on the all-time legends list with Al Michaels, John Madden and the late Pat Summerall. Eminem said his dream is for his hometown Lions to reach the Super Bowl and have it called by Musburger, Michaels and Madden.

Worst conflict

On ESPN's College GameDay, the analysts make predictions at the end of the show, capped by Lee Corso putting on a mascot's head. The dumbest thing is the show doesn't allow Kirk Herbstreit to make a prediction on the game he is going to call that night. For example, on Saturday, Herbstreit didn't pick the Notre Dame-Michigan winner but instead gave his keys to the game.

I don't see how telling viewers which team he believes will win compromises his ability to call an objective game.

So let me get this right, ESPN allows its talent to do commercials with the athletes and coaches they cover, but Herbstreit can't pick a game he is more qualified than most to pick?

Oh, you want a conflict of interest? How about GameDay analyst Desmond Howard standing on the Michigan sideline clapping after a Wolverines score Saturday night. I realize the guy went to Michigan, but he's got to show more objectivity than that. And if he can't contain himself, why in the world would ESPN put him on camera during such a moment?

Best analyst

I'm surprised at just how good Brian Griese has become as a college football analyst for ESPN. Griese (right) called Saturday's Florida-Miami game. Like his father, Bob, he doesn't have the most dynamic personality, but he's smooth and brings a sharp perspective to his analysis.

Best hustle

How tough is SEC football? Even the coaches fight. And I'm not talking about coaches from opposing teams, but coaches on the same team. Great work by ESPN to catch two South Carolina assistants pushing and shoving during the game against Georgia. Perhaps those coaches should have been figuring out a way to stop Georgia's offense instead.

Harshest words

Can't say I disagree with these comments from New York Daily News baseball columnist Bill Madden:

"Quite simply, the Yankees are where they're at, still hanging in there in the wild-card chase, because the teams they're contending with — the wildly inconsistent Tampa Bay Rays, Buck Showalter's pitching-challenged Orioles and Terry Francona's overly optimistic Cleveland Indians — are all just as flawed and mediocre as the Yankees. None of them is worthy of the postseason."

Most interesting thought

So the Patriots have won three Super Bowls and it has been because of the greatness of quarterback Tom Brady, right?

Uh, maybe not. Check out this comment Sunday from Marshall Faulk, analyst on the NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning.

"The pressure is on Tom," Faulk said. "Those three Super Bowls that Brady won — and people don't want to hear this — they had the likes of (defensive stars) Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi. … The two Super Bowls that they lost, it was all about Tom Brady's team. We have to find out if Tom can get them to the next level."

Best local shout-out

Speaking of Marshall Faulk, the former star running back had good things to say about the Bucs' Doug Martin (right).

"Doug Martin is going to eclipse that 2,000-yard mark in total yards from scrimmage because he helps them so much in the passing game," Faulk said. "He is the engine to this team."

Best line

Sun Sports studio Rays analyst Orestes Destrade had a good line after yet another Rays loss to the Mariners on Saturday, their seventh in nine games on a West Coast trip. "There is one piece of good news," Destrade said. "And that is the Rays are one day closer to this road trip being over. That's about it."

Funniest comeback

During an interview with Bob Costas on NBC's Football Night in America, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was told that brother Peyton said Eli used to dream about being in a boy band. That's funny, but Eli's comeback was funnier.

"Peyton can be a liar," Eli said. "I guess Peyton wanted to be in a rock band. He was a big Twisted Sister fan, Wham. That's what he was listening to back in the '80s when he was driving me to school. That's why he went with the more punk haircut."

Wham? That's a zinger of a comeback.

Three things that popped into my head

1. A word that I heard at least three times over the weekend while watching football and a word that I'm absolutely tired of hearing: "trickeration." I guess the thing that bothers me about that word is … it's not a word! What's wrong with the word "trickery?" That's a real word and means exactly what the announcers are trying to say.

2. NASCAR is heading into what is supposed to be its best part of the season, and yet it's right smack-dab in baseball's pennant races and the start of football season. I just think that's poor scheduling and NASCAR gets lost in the shuffle.

3. My goodness, does coach Willie Taggart have his work cut out for him at USF. First order of business: find a quarterback.

tom jones' two cents

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