St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Best stepping up
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final was seen in the Tampa Bay area, and we have two parties to thank for that: the Lightning and Sun Sports.
NBC showed the game nationally, but the local NBC affiliate, WFLA- Ch. 8, couldn't carry the game because it was broadcasting its annual All Children's Hospital telethon. And no one should point any fingers at Ch. 8. It has been leading this important charity for 26 years. Planning the telethon takes months of hard work, and the station cannot be expected to alter its plans for a hockey game.
The St. Petersburg Times contacted the NHL about the broadcasting conflict Thursday and never received a response. It was the Lightning's front office, led by executive vice president/communications Bill Wickett, that got things rolling with Sun Sports. And let's not forget Sun Sports and how it stepped up to pre-empt its programming to show the game. Sun Sports didn't have to, and it wouldn't have taken any criticism if it had not. (By the way, Bright House Sports Network also attempted to get the game, but that would've satisfied only Bright House customers.)
In the end, Tampa Bay hockey fans were able to see the game, and now the NHL is fully aware of this situation because this has happened two years in a row now. So next year when this happens again, here's hoping the league isn't left scrambling and relying on someone else to make sure a market with an NHL team can see a game in a championship round.
Though NHL fans got to see their Stanley Cup game, tennis fans weren't so lucky. Ch. 8's telethon pre-empted Sunday's coverage of the French Open. And what a day to miss. Rafael Nadal, the top seed on the men's side, lost for the first time at the French Open. Nadal, a four-time winner in Paris, had won 31 consecutive matches at Roland Garros, and some are already calling his loss to Robin Soderling one of the greatest upsets in the history of tennis, certainly at the French Open.
Jemele Hill, a former Orlando Sentinel columnist now at ESPN.com, made a rare appearance on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday morning. Usually we get Mike Lupica, Bob Ryan and Mitch Albom, but it was fun seeing Hill, who brings a different perspective from the middle-aged white guys. Lupica is always money on Sports Reporters, but ESPN would do well to include Hill, Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts and the Miami Herald's Israel Gutierrez regularly.
Show of the day
There's been another shakeup at one of the local sports-talk radio stations. The Tampa 2 morning show on 1010-AM, which might have been one of the worst sports-talk shows in the history of sports-talk radio, mercifully had its final edition Friday. So 1010 thankfully is going back to a show that works. Tom Krasniqi will host an hour from 6 to 7 a.m., then be joined by Mike Pepper from 7 to 9 a.m.
Any time anyone wants to question whether ESPN will go after a league partner, it should watch Sunday's Outside the Lines piece on Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a former UCF standout and Pro Bowl player. OTL detailed seven cases of alleged domestic violence involving Marshall and an ex-girlfriend. John Barr's solid piece certainly did not portray the NFL in a positive light, especially after it reminded viewers that the NFL reduced a Marshall suspension from three games to one because of his off-field conduct. The piece was followed by OTL host Bob Ley interviewing Marshall via satellite. Marshall said he never "laid his hands" on his former girlfriend. Ley did his best to ask the tough questions, but this is one case where it might have been better to be in the same room with Marshall instead of interviewing him via satellite. Perhaps ESPN had no choice, but it made Ley's job much tougher.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I love listening to TNT's Marv Albert call a big NBA game.
2. They take a lot of criticism, but the NHL referees have done a good job in these playoffs, much better than the NBA officials have.
3. Is it me, or does it seem like MLB umpires have really narrowed their strike zones this season?
Not only did the Cavaliers' LeBron James have his worst game of the NBA's Eastern Conference final Saturday with 25 points on 8-for-20 shooting, but James had an embarrassing performance afterward by refusing to meet with the media. If you want to be the superstar, if you want the commercials and big contracts, if you want to be considered "the man," you have to talk after the game. You think Michael Jordan would have done that? You think the Penguins' Sidney Crosby or the Red Wings' Nick Lidstrom will do that after the Stanley Cup final?
Most intriguing question
So after another disappointing exit from the postseason, will LeBron James stay in Cleveland when his contract runs out after next season, or will he opt for free agency and a place such as New York? TNT's Reggie Miller asked that question Saturday when the Cavs were seconds from being bounced by the Magic. "Me, being a guy in a small market for 18 years in Indiana, I think it would be fabulous if he stayed in Cleveland," Miller said. "I think it's great for the game to have superstars in small markets."
Not only is TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley entertaining, he knows his stuff, too. It needs to be pointed out that he was one of the few people who picked the Magic to beat the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference final. "The best team won this series," Barkley said after Orlando won Saturday night. "Orlando is the better team. … Cleveland was the fourth-best team left in the playoffs."