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Best and worst of weekend sports TV

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

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Best coverage

Because of the focus on the World Cup, Wimbledon seemed to slip under the radar this year. Having no Americans reach the quarterfinals on either the men's or women's side also didn't do ESPN any favors. Still, ESPN did a bang-up job for the fortnight. Chris McKendry was more than capable as host. She took over the lion's share of hosting duties with Mike Tirico off in Brazil doing the World Cup. Chris Fowler also did a solid job as the main play-by-play voice. ESPN also continues to get strong work from the likes of Chris Evert, Cliff Drysdale and Brad Gilbert. But there's no question about who the stars are: the McEnroe brothers, John and Patrick. John McEnroe has turned into arguably the best analyst of any sport. He is honest without being preachy, authoritative without being arrogant and funny without being a smart aleck. He is simply brilliant. On Sunday morning, John and his brother were the perfect analysts to call Novak Djokovic's thrilling five-set victory over Roger Federer. They never once overshadowed the match, yet perfectly complemented the drama with well-timed and consistently good analysis.

Best criticism

Boy, you better know what you're talking about if you're going to criticize the great Derek Jeter (above).

During TBS's coverage of Sunday's Yankees-Twins game, the Yankees shortstop was questioned for being in the wrong spot and not cutting off a throw after a hit to the outfield.

It takes a lot of nerve to take out Jeter. Either that, or you better be a Hall of Famer.

Fortunately, the man who said it is a Hall of Famer: Cal Ripken Jr. And, you know, Ripken was right. Jeter should've cut off the throw.

Best shoutout

Attaboy, Aric Almirola.

The Tampa native remembered his hometown after winning the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

"I've said time and time again how bad I want to win here,'' Almirola, a Hillsborough High graduate, said on TNT after Sunday's race. "This is my home race, two hours away from Tampa, Florida, and I grew up sitting in those grandstands … dreaming about what it would be like to race here, and I just took the 43 car to Victory Lane at Daytona."

Above, he wears a Rays cap with his trophy.

Best moment

The best did-you-see-that moment of the weekend came in a soccer match, and it wasn't in the World Cup.

During ESPN's Sunday coverage of Major League Soccer, Dom Dwyer of Sporting Kansas City scored and celebrated by pulling out a cell phone and taking a selfie with a bunch of fans.

Classic, though the referee wasn't amused. Dwyer picked up a yellow card for his genius move.

Most busy

I'm not sure if U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was busier during his remarkable 16-save performance against Belgium in the World Cup round-of-16 loss on Tuesday or the next morning.

The day after his incredible game, Howard, according to Sports Business Daily, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today, CBS This Morning, CNN's New Day, MSNBC's Morning Joe, Fox News' Fox & Friends, ESPN's SportsCenter, ESPN2's Mike & Mike and Fox Sports Radio's and NBC Sports Network's Dan Patrick Show.

The ratings game

Tampa Bay area ratings for the U.S.-Belgium World Cup match were not special, but they were decent. Overnight ratings indicated the area had a 9.0, meaning 9 percent of all households with televisions were tuned in. That put Tampa Bay in a tie with Charlotte for 25th nationally. New York had a 15.0 to lead all markets.

It's important to remember that many folks watched the match in bars, meaning that drives the ultimate rating number down. But that likely won't change where Tampa Bay finished nationally. After all, viewers flooded bars and public viewings all over the country.

Best wishes

Those from Buffalo know the great voice of Rick Jeanneret, who has been calling Sabres games on radio and television for 43 years. Well, some sad news. Jeanneret, 71, has been diagnosed with throat cancer. He is set to have radiation and possibly chemotherapy, and is said to have an 85 percent chance of recovery.

"I would like to stress I have every intention of coming back,'' Jeanneret told the Buffalo News. " I have probably three months ahead of me that aren't going to be fun. I know they aren't going to be."

Best line

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, talking about the crash Sunday at the Coke Zero 400 that left his car upside down:

"It felt like a slow carnival ride.''

Newest hire

Shane Battier, who just retired after a 13-year career in the NBA, has been hired by ESPN. But he won't call NBA games. The former Duke star joins ESPN as a college basketball analyst.

Best criticism

It's always nice when a network doesn't feel the need to toe the company line and kiss up to the league it covers. Case in point: TBS's baseball crew Sunday was critical of Major League Baseball's new replay system. It didn't go nuclear, but it sighed over the one problem most seem to have with the system: It takes time in games that already are too lengthy.

The tactic that has become most annoying: managers slowly walking on the field after close plays to give their bench coaches time to look at the replay and determine whether the call should be challenged.

"Takes too much time,'' TBS analyst Ron Darling said.

Darling thinks managers should have to decide to challenge immediately.

"Managers are asked to make tough choices all the time,'' Darling said. "Make them make another one.''

Three things that popped into my head

1. Ann Coulter wrote "Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay.'' Actually, any interest in what Ann Coulter has to say about soccer can only be a sign of the nation's intellectual decay.

2. Heard this over the weekend and couldn't believe it: golfer Davis Love III is now 50 years old.

3. Also heard this and also couldn't believe it: Fox's Joe Buck is about to call his 16th Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

tom jones' two cents

Best and worst of weekend sports TV 07/06/14 [Last modified: Sunday, July 6, 2014 10:23pm]
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