St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones look back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Even if you're not a race car fan, you had to be impressed with ABC/ESPN's coverage of Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
True, some of the appeal might have been that the race was in downtown St. Petersburg and local viewers could recognize landmarks such as Albert Whitted Airport, Tropicana Field and beautiful Tampa Bay with the sailboats. Residents likely noticed the surroundings more than they would have had the race been in some other city.
Still, everything about the networks' IndyCar coverage is first rate, including the graphics, track-side reporting, replays and announcers, who aren't quite as homerish as NASCAR commentators.
Especially strong moments included:
• All-encompassing coverage of the wreck that damaged several cars on the first turn seconds into the race. Pit reporter Jamie Little got driver Marco Andretti to say the line of the day when he barked, "I think Helio (Castroneves) misjudged his breaking by about a football field.''
• Being able to listen to radio communications between the drivers and their crews, particularly Danica Patrick, who is liable to say anything.
• A story about diabetic driver Charlie Kimball, including a shot of the device in his car that is connected to his body to update him on his blood sugar. Kimball has Type 1 diabetes and constantly has to check his status while racing.
All in all, the broadcast made St. Petersburg look great to nonrace fans and made the race look great to those who love racing. An excellent day for ABC/ESPN.
CBS college basketball studio analyst Greg Anthony, top left, does a splendid job, but what an awful question he asked of Butler guard Shelvin Mack on Sunday during halftime of the VCU-Kansas NCAA Tournament Southwest Region final. Anthony asked Mack how he felt when he committed a foul near the end of Butler's tournament victory against Pitt, a foul that could've cost Butler the game. That was a great question … eight days ago, when the game was played!
Less than 24 hours earlier, in the Southeast Region final, Mack played the second half and OT with a badly sprained ankle and scored 27 points to lead Butler's upset of Florida. On Thursday, Mack had 13 points in an upset of Wisconsin. And the first question Anthony had was about something that happened three games ago, not to mention one Mack had answered a hundred times.
Sun Sports did a cool thing last week. During Wednesday's Rays-Phillies broadcast, play-by-play announcer Dewayne Staats worked without analyst Brian Anderson. But he didn't work alone. Sun Sports smartly brought in Rays personnel, each for a half-inning. Executive VP Andrew Friedman sat in the booth for a bit, then Staats was joined from the dugout by manager Joe Maddon, pitching coach Jim Hickey, hitting coach Derek Shelton, pitcher James Shields and others. Staats did an impressive job of calling the game while getting pertinent comments from his guest analysts. It must have been a good idea because it made a spring training game on television interesting.
Most controversial question
Gus Johnson, left, the excitable voice of CBS Sports, caught some grief last week for getting so excited during an NCAA Tournament game that he appeared to have lost track of the score. With BYU and the Gators tied with 14.9 seconds left Thursday, Florida was in-bounding the ball at halfcourt. Johnson asked, "If you're BYU, do you foul?"
Analyst Reggie Miller responded, "No! Why would you foul? It's a tie ballgame."
Analyst Steve Kerr said BYU was playing for overtime.
All in all, Johnson looked bad, as if he thought BYU was behind. But let's think about this for a moment. Could it have been that Johnson's question wasn't a result of him losing track of the score but a good point to at least throw out? BYU seemed out of gas as regulation was coming to an end. Star Jimmer Fredette looked to be running on fumes. Maybe fouling a Florida team that doesn't shoot free throws well wouldn't have been bad strategy: Foul and then go for the win on offense in regulation by hitting a 2 or a 3.
Maybe BYU would have been better off trying to win on offense instead of playing defense in the hope of getting to overtime. And the Gators easily outscored BYU 15-6 in overtime. Johnson always has been a little too dramatic for my taste, but maybe he should be given the benefit of the doubt on his call.
The decision to spread the NCAA Tournament across four networks (CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV) has been a smashing success. This has been the most-watched tournament since 2005, averaging 9.1 million viewers a game. And any concern that Turner's NBA broadcasters would not be able to handle covering college basketball has been silenced.
Reggie Miller, top right, and Steve Kerr, who have been working together, have been especially good on game broadcasts. Both have shown a sense of humor and have been particularly strong on strategy and breakdowns. It's clear both are well-prepared and knowledgeable. In the studio, Kenny Smith, and yes, even Charles Barkley, not only entertain, but educate. Their perspectives, along with the consistently good Greg Anthony, have been fresh and sharp. Give credit, too, to host Greg Gumbel, who has been smart enough to give the three analysts room to spread out but astute enough to rein them in when necessary. It's not easy to work among those personalities, and Gumbel has handled it like an all-star point guard dishing out assists and controlling the tempo.
Former Lightning tough guy and grinder Chris Dingman has been a pleasant surprise on Lightning telecasts with his intermission and pre- and postgame work. It's always beneficial to get a former player's perspective, but especially so when that former player isn't afraid to be critical. During the Lightning's recent scoring woes, Dingman has not been afraid to address and even question some of the Lightning's decisions.
It can't be easy for Dingman to do that. He was never a supremely skilled player, and he played with current Lightning stars Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier. But Dingman has quickly realized he does know the game and he is there to relay that expertise to viewers in a non-sugarcoated form.
Three things that popped into my head
1 I can't wait for the Masters for no other reason than I won't have to watch any more commercials for the Masters.
2 Of the two teams that reached last year's NCAA Tournament title game, Duke and Butler, which one did you think would reach the Final Four again this year?
3 The Tampa Bay area deserves a pat on the back. In the past two weeks it has hosted three major sporting events: the second/third round of the NCAA Tournament, left; the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship, and the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. And all three came through with flying colors.