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Shooting from the lip: ABC's Indy 500 coverage a highlight

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

Best coverage

ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 was the broadcast highlight of the sports weekend.

The production and direction were outstanding with coverage whipping around at a dizzying pace. Think about it for a moment. It's a bunch of race cars driving in circles for three hours, yet ABC's intense coverage left no moments of silence or boredom.

For my money, pit reporter Jamie Little was the MVP of the broadcast. The amount of information she relays to viewers only proves how hard she works preparing for the race.

Meantime, the best moment of the broadcast came when driver Ed Carpenter talked about the crash with 25 laps to go that took him out of the race and possibly cost him a victory. He said the wreck was the result of an "amateur move'' by James Hinchcliffe, then added that Hinchcliffe was lucky to have suffered a concussion earlier this month or else Carpenter might have done more than yell at him.

Strongest comments

Former NFL players are suing the NFL, saying they were unaware of the dangers and future effects caused by painkillers to mask injuries. Certainly everyone sympathizes with the health problems suffered by former players, but surprisingly, one high-profile former NFL player is not blaming the NFL.

ESPN's Mark Schlereth, who played 12 seasons and had 29 surgeries during his career, admitted he took pain pills and shots throughout his career.

"I did it to myself,'' Schlereth, 48, said on ESPN last week. "I knew what I was doing. That's why I never joined a concussion lawsuit despite getting an email every day."

Best hire

After a year, Fox Sports 1 hasn't had quite the impact on sports television that some thought it might. It really hasn't cut into ESPN's dominance, but that shouldn't be a big surprise. When you have a network as good as ESPN, it's going to take more than a year to try to change viewer habits.

Anyway, Fox Sports 1 is still trying. The latest move was to hire Yahoo Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski, who covers the league probably better than anyone. Wojnarowski will immediately begin contributing to Fox Sports Live. The hire also means that Fox likely wants to get in on carrying NBA games.

Biggest absence

One of the biggest soccer stories in U.S. history went down last week when Landon Donovan, probably the country's all-time greatest soccer player, was left off the World Cup team.

The theory that I'm buying is that the Americans are in such a tough pool this year that coach Jurgen Klinsmann is already looking to the 2018 World Cup. So that's why he is leaving Donovan, 32, at home while going with a few younger players who could benefit from World Cup experience.

Donovan has done great things for American soccer. No doubt about that. But I don't get the outrage over Donovan being left off the team. The Americans are good in soccer but not great. It's time to take soccer to the next level and it requires bold moves to do that. Leaving Donovan off the roster this time and building to the future is such a move.

Best calling out

Sun Sports Rays analyst Brian Anderson is having another solid season — as usual. He can be offbeat and silly, but he also can be critical. Example, in Sunday's game, Rays catcher Jose Molina was lazy on a ball in the dirt thrown by pitcher Joel Peralta. Instead of blocking the ball, Molina tried a backhand and the ball ended up going to the backstop.

"That, right there, is not textbook,'' Anderson said of Molina's effort. "That's not how you should do that at all. … What's that do to your confidence to pitch the ball down and away?''

Worst news

Say it ain't so, Chuck. In a radio interview last week, TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley said he might walk away from broadcasting when his contract expires in two years. Barkley said he wants to become a general manager.

"Not that I don't love my job,'' Barkley, 51, said. "I got the best job, I just think 17 years is long enough to do anything, to be honest with you. You know, when I took the job, I told them I was going to do it for four years. I'm in year 15 now. And I think 17 years is long enough to do this job.''

Best show

How big is football in this country?

Well, consider this: NBC's Sunday Night Football finished the 2013-14 television season as the No. 1 show in prime time. That's all of television we're talking about. The 21.7 million average viewers for Sunday Night Football beat out second-place finisher NCIS, which had 16.9 million average viewers on CBS. That's quite a gap between first and second.

Officially hired

As expected, CBS named Tracy Wolfson to be the sideline reporter for its Thursday night NFL broadcasts. Wolfson also will work select Sunday NFL games. In recent years, CBS has been getting away from sideline reports on NFL games, though Wolfson has worked NFL playoff games and the Super Bowl for CBS.

Wolfson has spent the past 10 years as the network's lead college football sideline reporter, working SEC games alongside play-by-play man Verne Lundquist and analyst Gary Danielson. So who will take over Wolfson's college football gig? Look for Allie LaForce, 25, who has had a meteoric rise with CBS.

Three things that popped into my head

1. The Red Sox are a bunch of babies. Complaining about Yunel Escobar taking an uncovered third base with the Rays leading 8-3 in the seventh inning Sunday? Seriously? Have the Red Sox seen the Rays bullpen? A five-run lead in the seventh inning is far from safe. In fact, things got dicey for a moment in the ninth for the Rays.

2. Speaking of the little dustup between the Rays and Red Sox, I had no problem with Boston's Jonny Gomes standing up for his team by rushing in from the outfield, but he shouldn't be pushing (even inadvertently) Rays' 54-year-old third-base coach Tom Foley, who was merely trying to play peacemaker.

3. Most underrated announcer: NBC hockey guy Kenny Albert. Doc Emrick is so good that Albert often is overlooked. But he's tremendous.

tom jones' two cents

Shooting from the lip: ABC's Indy 500 coverage a highlight 05/25/14 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2014 11:36pm]
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