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Highs and lows of the weekend's televised sports

St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Worst tournament

The biggest letdown in sports might be the golf tournament held the week after a major championship. A week after Lucas Glover won the U.S. Open by shooting 4 under, fans watched the Travelers Championship, in which 4 under was tied for 59th. You saw the leaders at 20 under (Kenny Perry won at 22 under) and your instinct was to roll your eyes and change the channel.

Worst news

Quite the buzz surrounded the United States — after its miracle-on-grass upset of Spain last week — playing in the Confederations Cup men's soccer final against Brazil on Sunday. And what a heartbreaker for the Americans, kicking away an early two-goal lead in a 3-2 gut-wrenching loss. For soccer fans in this country, this was yet another potential seminal moment, when the rest of the country would finally "get it" and appreciate soccer as much as they and the rest of the world do. We would all get swooped up in this American run and become football fanatics.

But it's not going to happen. We all paid attention Sunday. But now it's Monday, and we've put soccer back on the shelf until the next time the Americans do something special. We'll pay attention then, and then we'll forget about it until the time after that. That's how soccer works in this country. We all cheered in 1999 when Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt after the Americans beat China to win the women's World Cup. Casual sports fans got to know Chastain, Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy. But how many current American female players can you name?

It's not a sport Americans follow day in and day out. It's like Olympic sports. Few pay attention to what's going on in track and field or swimming except for two weeks every four years. The next time Americans will pay attention to soccer is when the World Cup is played a year from now. Until then, we reserve our passions for football, baseball, basketball, NASCAR and Tiger Woods. This isn't to put down soccer. The sport is by far the most popular in the world. It would be arrogant to say the rest of the world is wrong and only Americans are right to think it's boring. But it would be wrong to think that the tremendous effort the American men put in during the past week has suddenly turned the United States into a country full of soccer fans.

Best offseason move

So which team made the bigger deal in the NBA Eastern Conference to improve its championship hopes? Was it Cleveland getting Shaquille O'Neal to play with LeBron James? Or was it the Magic acquiring Vince Carter to play with Dwight Howard? Both were good deals, but the biggest "addition" just might be the Celtics getting Kevin Garnett, above, back from injury.

Most surprising trivia

If you watched the Fox baseball game of the week Saturday, you learned two things about analyst Eric Karros. And it's hard to decide which was more surprising: that he hit more homers in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform than anyone or that he never played in an All-Star Game.

Most impressive performance

The best sporting event on TV today is a rematch of this year's French Open final between Roger Federer, top left, and Robin Soderling in a fourth-round match at Wimbledon. Federer leads the series 10-0, which led Soderling to crack, "Nobody can beat me 11 times in a row!" Speaking of Federer, this is what's so impressive about him: He never has an off day in a major championship.

Everyone gets sick, run down or injured. Everyone loses focus. Everyone occasionally loses a match they shouldn't. Except for Federer. In his past 20 Grand Slam events, Federer has won or reached the final 17 times. The other three times, he reached the semifinals. His record in Grand Slam events over that span is 106-7. And here's the kicker: All those losses were to the man who eventually won those tournaments.

Most hypocritical

We all love Sweet Lou Piniella, below, but doesn't the Cubs manager have to be called out for sending Milton Bradley home last week after Bradley went crazy in the dugout after a fly out? Piniella got into a heated exchange with Bradley after the outfielder threw his helmet and tried to bust up a water cooler. Look, Bradley is a wing nut and does this stuff all the time. This isn't meant to defend him, but don't we see half the Cubs act that way? Doesn't it seem as if pitcher Carlos Zambrano melts down about every third start? You don't see any of them sent home. And is this the same Piniella who tosses bases, kicks dirt and once screamed at Ben Grieve with the Devil Rays because he didn't think Grieve showed enough emotion?

Having said that, Rays fans should be happy their team did not sign Bradley in the offseason, something that was considered over at the Trop.

Three things I learned over the weekend

1. The NHL draft is incredibly boring after your team makes its first-round pick.

2. This one thanks to sharp replays on Rays TV: Reliever Chad Bradford, left, is a freak to be able to get that close to the ground while pitching.

3. Sports fans really don't care about steroids, given the reaction to Manny Ramirez playing in the minors.

Most disappointing

It was the Golden Boy himself, Oscar De La Hoya, who called junior welterweight Victor Ortiz "the next Oscar." Wonder if he meant Ortiz would never quite live up to the hype? Ortiz is 22 and was 24-1-1 when he stepped into the ring and onto HBO Boxing on Saturday night to take on Argentine Marcos Maidana. Officially, the fight was stopped in the sixth round because of a cut over Ortiz's right eye, but Ortiz essentially quit.

That led to the most interesting comment heard on a sports broadcast over the weekend. HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman said, "In boxing, to be great, more is required of you than in any other sport; more is required that is really reasonable."

In other words, Ortiz needed incredible heart to keep fighting, but he didn't have it.

Best pitcher

How about Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield? On Saturday's Fox game of the week against the Braves, Wakefield tied Roger Clemens for most starts in a Boston uniform with 382, and he's among the franchise leaders in just about every pitching category. Saturday he pitched six shutout innings. "If (Rays manager) Joe Maddon is the mensch I think he is," Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday, "he will take 42-year-old Tim Wakefield and his current 10-3 record for his American League All-Star pitching staff." Amen.

Highs and lows of the weekend's televised sports 06/28/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 28, 2009 9:28pm]
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