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Highs, lows of weekend sports TV

Tom Jones' two cents

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

Best coverage

Seems strange to have a three-hour broadcast for a two-minute event. But that's what NBC does every year for the Kentucky Derby. And every minute is worth it.

NBC's horse racing coverage is right up there with the best sports broadcast of the year, and you don't have to be a horse racing enthusiast to enjoy it. Saturday was no different — with one exception.

First, the good stuff. Bob Costas and Tom Hammond do a masterful job hosting, satisfying both the casual viewers and die-hards. Meantime, Donna Brothers might be the best sideline reporter on television. Whether she is riding a horse on the track, doing interviews, walking through the stalls or just standing and talking, Brothers teaches me something every time she is on camera.

Costas' strength is interviewing, and he did a splendid job interviewing jockeys Gary Stevens and Rosie Napravnik.

The highlight of the day, although we didn't know it at the time, was analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey giving their pre-race simulation. They eerily predicted Orb would drop back in the pack then rally on the outside to win. That's exactly what happened.

The only clunker in the coverage was how the network used Michelle Beadle, the former ESPN star. It still feels as if NBC can't quite figure out what to do with Beadle, and that showed again Saturday.

Beadle was there to provide fun features and report on topics such as fashion, celebrities and so forth. Good idea, but it felt like NBC just threw her out there and said, "Okay, be funny." Her wisecracks and attempts at humor likely were met more with eye rolls than laughs.

It's disappointing because Beadle is good. She's sharp, quick and funny. And often, her snark works well. Saturday, I don't think, was her fault as much as it was NBC's lack of a good plan for her.

Still, give NBC an A for its Kentucky Derby coverage.

Best analysis

Brian Anderson (below) had another terrific weekend calling Rays games on Sun Sports. Besides a superb reference to Anchorman's Brian Fantana, Anderson came strong in his doubts about Rays starting pitcher David Price. Instead of painting a don't-worry-everything-is-going-to-be-fine picture, Anderson wondered what is wrong with Price, who after Saturday's loss is 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA. He pointed to how Price's fastball remains a few miles per hour less than normal: "You certainly hope the velocity would be there by now."

Strangest comment

ABC NBA studio analyst Magic Johnson noticed Sunday that the Clippers' Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (below) have more television commercials than MVP LeBron James (top).

"I can't believe that," Johnson said. "I don't know what's going on.''

Was Magic asleep during James' "Taking my talents to South Beach" debacle, when he left the Cavs for the Heat? I personally like and respect James, but there is still a large segment of the population (i.e. consumers) who still have a bitter taste in their mouths for how James left the Cavs.

The ratings game

The Lightning missed the playoffs, yet Sun Sports had its highest ratings ever for games. This season, 43 of the 48 games were on Sun Sports. The games averaged a 1.8, meaning 1.8 percent of Tampa Bay households with televisions were tuned in. That's about 32,518 households.

Worst news

The Nets decided P.J. Carlesimo will not return as coach next season, and rumor has it ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy, the former Knicks and Rockets coach, is at the top of Brooklyn's wish list. Please, Jeff, don't take that job. Don't take any coaching job. You're the best basketball game analyst on television. We need you on TV.

Best familiar voice

Have you noticed Sun Sports announcer Rick Peckham calling NHL playoff games for NBC Sports Network? The fact NBC is using him just shows how fortunate we are to have one of the best hockey announcers in the business calling games for us all winter.

Three things that popped into my head

1. It's high time the NBA dismisses referee Joey Crawford. He has become a joke who thinks the game is all about him. The latest example was Friday, when he handed out seven technicals and two ejections in the Grizzlies-Clippers game. Ridiculous.

2. The Rangers better hurry up and start winning games, or former Lightning coach John Tortorella is going to become the former Rangers coach.

3. David Price isn't the only one having issues with overly aggressive umpires these days. The Nationals' Bryce Harper was kicked out of Sunday's game against the Pirates by third-base umpire John Hirschbeck, who called Harper out for not holding up on a check swing. Not only did Hirschbeck blow the call, he seemed to be looking for an argument with Harper. These umps are out of control.

Highs, lows of weekend sports TV 05/05/13 [Last modified: Sunday, May 5, 2013 8:51pm]
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  1. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down


    UPDATE, 3:26: And the Rays indeed have Hechavarria at SS and Beckham at 2B. Also, with no DH Dickerson is in left.

    Rays lineup:
    Smith cf,
    Dickerson lf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Souza rf,
    Ramos c,
    Beckham 2b,
    Hechavarria ss,
    Cobb p

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.
  2. Cal Foote was picked 14th overall by the Lightning in the NHL Draft.
  3. Jones: Serena Williams, and all women, deserved better from John McEnroe


    John McEnroe might be the best sports analyst in broadcasting.

    Serena Williams makes a backhand return to her sister Venus during the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in January in  Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  4. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant, and still means, to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  5. Jameis Winston held his pro day at Florida State's indoor practice facility. His pro team will be getting one soon.