Thursday, April 19, 2018
TV and Radio_sports

Best and worst of weekend televised sports

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

Biggest switch

The big controversy in sports media at the moment is Fox announcing that Pam Oliver has been removed from her role as sideline reporter for its No. 1 NFL broadcast team, which includes Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Erin Andrews will take Oliver's spot, and Oliver will work one more season on the NFL with the No. 2 team of Kevin Burkhardt and former Bucs safety John Lynch.

Many, including those with respected voices in the industry, are suggesting that Oliver's age is the reason for the switch. Oliver is 53; Andrews in 36. Even Oliver, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, alluded to that.

"I live in the real world, and I know that television tends to get younger and where women are concerned," Oliver said. "Just turn on your TV. It's everywhere. And I'm not saying these younger girls don't deserve a chance. I know I've had my turn."

It's a valid topic, for sure. If you watch sports, you know that not many 50-year-old women are on TV.

But to dismiss Oliver's demotion simply as ageism I think might be wrong. To be honest, I've never been a big fan of Oliver's. I've felt that much of her work, especially her features on Fox's pregame show, has been more about her than her subjects. I'm probably in the minority on this. Oliver seems to have a lot of fans, especially in the business.

Is it possible Oliver is being moved out because Andrews is younger, and in some minds more attractive? Sure, it's possible. But is it possible Fox thinks Andrews would do a better job? Yes, that is possible, too.

Best coverage

Nice job by ESPN covering the British Open even though winner Rory McIlroy did the network no favors. McIlroy went wire to wire, and Sunday's final round was anticlimactic. You never had the feeling McIlroy's lead was in trouble even though it was cut to two shots with five holes left.

Still, it was great to hear Dottie Pepper on the course again. The former NBC course reporter does limited work for ESPN these days, and listening to her makes me realize how much she is missed. Come back full time, Dottie.

Meantime, Paul Azinger has become an outstanding lead analyst. His strongest comments over the weekend were about how three clubs are most important in making birdies and winning tournaments: the driver, the wedge and the putter. And right now, Tiger Woods is having major trouble with two of them: the driver and the putter.

Worst performances

Tuesday's baseball All-Star Game turned into a lifetime-achievement-award show for Yankees great Derek Jeter (right), who will retire after the season. The night was almost perfect.

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright spilled some paint on the masterpiece when he told reporters he threw a couple of "pipe shots'' to Jeter. That meant he let Jeter get a good whack at some meaty pitches in the first inning, and Jeter ended up doubling.

During an in-game interview with Fox's Erin Andrews, Wainwright tried to explain that he really didn't groove any pitches, that it was just his sense of humor and that he felt bad for drawing attention away from Jeter's moment.

In the end, Wainwright loused up the night, whether he was kidding or not. I don't even care if he actually did give Jeter a couple of hit-me pitches. You don't then tell the world about it.

But Wainwright wasn't the only one who had a bad moment saying something dumb.

To conclude the Wainwright interview, Andrews said to Wainwright, "Don't you just love social media?''

Was Andrews actually suggesting it was Twitter's fault that Wainwright said something stupid? Sure sounded like it. She came off as if she wanted to be on Wainwright's good side. That's not her role, and her comment was wrong.

What Fox analyst Harold Reynolds said was worse. In a postgame show, Reynolds said it was all a non-story. I have no problem with that. That's his opinion.

But then Reynolds said Wainwright's comments were told to a pool reporter, who took the comments out of context. That is flat-out wrong. If Reynolds didn't know the details of Wainwright's comments — and clearly he didn't or he wouldn't have said something so offbase — then he should have kept his mouth shout.

It's one thing to have an opinion. It's another to use a falsehood to back up your opinion. Reynolds was out of line.

Best return

It was quite the shock last year when longtime researcher and Dick Vitale's right-hand man, Howie Schwab, was one of those laid off by ESPN. Schwab had been with ESPN since the early days of the network and had become something of a cult figure thanks to the show Stump the Schwab, where contestants — usually to no avail — tried to outwit Schwab in a sports trivia contest.

Well, Schwab is coming back to sports. He will be a consultant on the new Sports Jeopardy! show, which will be hosted by former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick. Sports Jeopardy! will debut in the fall on Crackle, a Sony-owned digital service available on mobile devices and outlets such as PlayStation and Xbox. Jerry Seinfeld's outstanding series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is also supported by Crackle.

Worst event

Can we please get rid of the All-Star Game's Home Run Derby? Even with a format shakeup, it's a way-too-long event — so long that we can't help but hear Chris Berman yelling, "Back … back … back'' in our sleep.

About 5.4 million viewers tuned in to the derby last Monday, the lowest viewership since 2003. Some of that might have been due to an hour-long rain delay. Or maybe fans are just getting tired of the event.

Okay, we get it. If you throw a guy a 75 mph meatball, he can hit it a long, long way.

Best line

Great line by New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica:

"What does Alex Rodriguez think about when he watches the (All-Star Game) reception Derek Jeter got in Minneapolis the other night?''

How true. You get the sense that all A-Rod ever has wanted is to be loved like Jeter, but it turns out he's despised by most fans. He's the anti-Jeter.

Three things that popped into my head

1. I was excited to see Kentucky had agreed to play USF in basketball until I found out the Nov. 27, 2015, game would be played in Miami. What the heck? How about a game in Tampa to generate some excitement for USF hoops?

2. Anyone else notice that we're in mid July and SEC already held its football media days? I mean, college football is still more than a month away.

3. Actor James Garner died over the weekend. He is best remembered for his television roles of Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files and Bret Maverick in Maverick. But here on the Two Cents page, we remember a sports role: Pete Aron, a race car driver on the comeback trail in the 1966 film Grand Prix. Plus, I'm good with any movie that has Eva Marie Saint.

tom jones' two cents


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