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Best and worst of the weekend's sports on TV

Best coverage (long form)

ESPN's coverage of the NFL draft really is amazing stuff. More than five hours Saturday from New York's Radio City Music Hall. Another eight Sunday. And that doesn't count all the coverage on SportsCenter and ESPNews. The preparation time must be enormous, and the execution was impressive. The network never had a second of dead air among miles of highlight clips, a ton of graphics and constant shifting of sets and analysts. Then there were the video conference-call interviews with coaches from around the league, including the Bucs' Raheem Morris. What's clear in coverage such as this — aside from having producers and directors who are masters of their trade — is just how well ESPN hires analysts. Go through the cast — Tom Jackson, Cris Carter, Trent Dilfer, Mel Kiper, Chris Mortensen, Keyshawn Johnson and on and on and on — and not one of them does a bad job. You might not like the opinions of some. You might not care for the style of others. But you cannot say that they are not prepared and ready to talk when the camera turns their way. You might think the draft is overrated, but the coverage is anything but that. Give ESPN an A-plus for a remarkable job.

Most silent voices

NBC's Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire are two of the strongest opinionators in hockey and, really, in all of sports. That's why it was so disappointing that neither weighed in on whether Rangers coach John Tortorella, left, should have been suspended for Sunday's Game 6 against the Capitals. NBC gave the story plenty of attention in its pregame show, but it would've been nice to hear whether Milbury and McGuire agreed with the league's decision to suspend Tortorella for such a big game after he squirted water and threw a water bottle at a fan near the end of Game 5.

After all, Tortorella is only the second coach in NHL history to be suspended for a playoff game. Coincidentally, the coach who took over for Tortorella on Sunday, Jim Schoenfeld, was the other. He was suspended while coaching the Devils in 1988 after his infamous "Have another doughnut" run-in with referee Don Koharski.

Numbers of the day

So what's in store for Matthew Stafford, the first overall pick by the Lions in the NFL draft Saturday? Here are some numbers for you. Since 1970, 16 quarterbacks have been taken No. 1 overall. Six (Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning) have combined to win 13 Super Bowls. Of the other 10, several (JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, David Carr and maybe even Michael Vick) still have chances to win a championship someday.

Worst use of replay

Anyone catch the Bulls' Ben Gordon grabbing his crotch after hitting a 3-point shot to tie the Celtics at the end of the first overtime in Chicago's double-OT victory Sunday? If you missed it live, ABC was kind (and stupid) enough to give us a good replay of it.

Worst conflict

Once again, ESPN has come out with a funny SportsCenter commercial. And once again, the commercial is a blatant conflict of interest. The spot has sports agent Drew Rosenhaus negotiating to buy lunch for a couple of anchors in the ESPN cafeteria. How can ESPN not see the problem here? ESPN does stories on Rosenhaus. It does stories about his clients. Why should the viewer trust any story it sees when one of Rosenhaus' clients is negotiating a new deal, or worse, gets into legal trouble?

This isn't to say ESPN will slant stories one way or the other, but just the appearance of a conflict of interest puts doubt in the viewers' minds, and why would ESPN risk its credibility?

Favorite line of the week

Here's why I like Rays announcer Dewayne Staats. In the late innings of a regular old game last week, Staats drew some smiles by suggesting the Academy Awards should have a category specifically for baseball movies. And instead of handing out the traditional Oscar, they could hand out a statue of former major-leaguer Oscar Gamble with his hall of fame Afro.

Funniest line

"Well, clearly they're not spending enough money. I think that they need to buy some more good players."

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free-Press columnist, on the Yankees and their struggles during Sunday's Sports Reporters on ESPN

Three things that popped into my head

1. It was another weekend of Brian Anderson doing analysis for Rays television, and another solid weekend at that. This guy is good. After Sunday's 7-1 loss, Anderson was critical of the Rays offense, and maybe that's not what fans want to hear, but that's what they deserve to hear.

2. The first round of the NFL draft and the Red Sox-Yankees game started at the same time Saturday, and the baseball game lasted longer. When you watch the Red Sox and Yankees play each other, you expect to hear the ping of an aluminum bat because it looks and lasts as long as a college baseball game.

3. If Jeff Van Gundy called analysis of every NBA game, I would watch every NBA game.

The St. Petersburg Times' Tom Jones looks back at the weekend's best and worst of televised sports.

Good, then mediocre coverage (short form)

A network certainly can benefit from a thrilling finish, whether it's a buzzer-beating shot in a basketball game, a walkoff homer in a baseball game or a last-round knockout in a boxing match. But the key is to not mess up the gift when it's handed to you. And Fox took advantage of the incredible final lap of Sunday's NASCAR race at Talladega when leader Carl Edwards crashed, allowing Brad Keselowski to win.

Replays of the spectacular crash, quick analysis and hustling interviews again showed why Fox's NASCAR production is among the best sports productions on television. But that's not to say the ending was perfect.

In his postrace interview, a very classy and gracious Edwards did fire a shot at NASCAR, saying, "They put us in this box, and we'll race this way until it kills somebody, and then we'll change."

That's quite a quote, way too good for Fox commentators to ignore. But that's what they did. Not one comment from Larry McReynolds, Darrell Waltrip or Jeff Hammond. Someone had to step up and say something, anything, even if he disagreed. Instead, they were too busy hootin' and hollerin' about how fun the ending was.

Fox also could have done a better job seeing if any fans were hit by flying debris from Edwards' car, especially after it first claimed that no debris went into the stands when replays showed that was not true. In fact, seven fans were injured. None of the injuries was life-threatening, but one spectator suffered a broken jaw.

Best and worst of the weekend's sports on TV 04/26/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 26, 2009 9:38pm]
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