The Rays took the national stage Saturday as Fox's Game of the Week, and they threw up all over themselves, so to speak. The 9-2 blowout was great for Yankee nation, but Tampa Bay fans probably tuned out early. Before it got out of hand, there was an interview with Rays right-hander James Shields in the bottom of the fourth. Shields answered questions from Kenny Albert and Tim McCarver about everything from complete games to his charitable foundation, all while dodging sunflower seeds thrown by teammate David Price. Price pretty much stayed in the camera shot for the whole interview. When it was over, Price picked up the headset and started an impromptu interview with Albert and McCarver. Well, David, since you continued the interview, how about some questions about giving up Yankee great Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit? "I'm going to be in the Hall of Fame for that, so that's pretty neat," he said. Shields stayed in the picture but still got blasted with seeds by Price. The interviews lasted the entire bottom of the inning and showed how loose the Rays really are and how good they are at spitting sunflower seeds.
During the first game of the series Friday, there were a couple of interesting quips from broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson. When Yankees 2B Robinson Cano dropped a Desmond Jennings popup in the fifth inning, which allowed Jennings to get to second, it was ruled a hit. Anderson was not going to let that slip past. "That's a routine popup that needs to be caught. This is the major leagues. This isn't a Saturday Little League game at 10 a.m." Not just a Little League game, but one played by 8-year-olds at 10 a.m. Good description. Then there was this from Staats after a Kelly Shoppach home run: "(Shoppach) can supply the power if need be." Really? He has felt the need only seven times this year? Any chance he can feel the need more often?
Around the PGA Championship
CBS and TNT shared coverage of the PGA Championship. Of course, CBS got the best part of the weekend play, including the playoff, while TNT was left with early round action. Not really sure what TNT gets out of its weekend coverage aside from those riveting shots of players walking to the clubhouse from the parking lot or chit-chatting on the putting green or driving range. Just not sure who cares about watching Bubba Watson when he's 3 over or Rickie Fowler pack his clubs into a courtesy car.
One interesting feature TNT debuted this year was called "Billy's Course." Analyst Bill Kratzert, thanks to technology, inserts himself into historical moments from PGA Championships past. For example, he was standing next to Y.E. Yang during his chip-in in 2009 and next to Dustin Johnson when he accidentally grounded his club last year. Creative use of technology, but I wonder if the PGA got any calls from fans who thought Kratzert was actually standing there?
When the big boys at CBS took over, they were not presented with an attractive leaderboard. Nothing they could do about that. But the veteran crew of Jim Nantz, Gary McCord, Nick Faldo, Ian Baker-Finch and David Feherty kept up the drama, even without marquee players. Graphics such as the Golf Tracker and aerial views that show the break of the greens added to the broadcast. And it was refreshing to hear Faldo be critical at times, kind of like a poor man's Johnny Miller. Overall, it was another professional performance from a group of announcers with hundreds of tournaments under their belts.
Sunday, rainy Sunday
Rain on the East Coast messed up three networks Sunday. ESPN was stuck trying to fill time because of rain at the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, N.Y. It ended up being a three-hour talk show. And the Rays vs. Yankees rainout not only forced a programming change at Sun Sports but at TBS as well. That's too bad for TBS, which gets one MLB game a week. And there is no safety net. If the network's game of the week gets rained out, that's it for the week. TBS is stuck having to show movies such as Nacho Libre.
Feature of the day
Pretty good story on ESPN's Outside the Lines on Ian Williams, an undrafted free agent from Altamonte Springs and Notre Dame. Williams, a defensive lineman, was not able to talk with teams during the lockout. He expected to get drafted and spent weeks in a state of depression. His mother, Natalie, finally said, "I love you, but get off your butt." The interesting part of the feature was when the lockout ended July 24. Williams' phone started blowing up with calls from the Falcons, Texans, Seahawks, Ravens, 49ers and Jaguars. He and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, got a deal done with San Francisco in one day, and he was off to California on July 26. It showed how accelerated things were after the lockout and how hectic it was for players such as Williams.
Three things that popped into my head
1 A new NFL season brings new hope. Hope that Fox would find something, anything, to replace that mechanical transformer thing that dances before and after commercial breaks. Oh, well. Maybe next year.
2 While watching bull riding Saturday night on Versus (you heard me), I came across the most aptly named athlete in the world: Ryan Dirteater.
3 If ESPN used a K Zone graphic for the Little League regional games, it would have to be from the shoe tops to the brim of the helmet and from the inner line of each batter's box. Man, is it hard for a pitcher to miss the strike zone.
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Rodney Page looks back at a weekend of sports on the air.
Best night of the weekend
F riday night is usually one of the slower nights of the sports weekend, but this past Friday was made for the local sports fan. First, the Rays were hitting solo home runs and beating the Yankees' CC Sabathia on Sun Sports. At the same time, the Little League team from New Tampa was playing for a World Series berth on ESPN (although the sixth inning was painful to watch). And finally, we were getting our first look at the Bucs in a nationally televised preseason game against Kansas City on Fox. It took a steady remote control hand, but it was fun keeping up with everything.
The most interesting event? The Bucs game. It was hard to tell the players had been locked out for months. The Fox broadcast featured Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick and Howie Long. Not the network's "A" team, but a solid group that seemed to be in midseason form. Long usually stays in studio, but he made a live appearance (sans tie) for three quarters. Even without a tie, Long kept his persona of being the smartest guy in the room.
Perhaps the best part was former NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira, who was on hand all game to fill viewers in on the rule changes for this season. The two biggest are the review policies and the addition of an eighth official.
On the policy of reviewing every touchdown: "I don't like it for two reasons. I'm always concerned about extending the game for more reviews. That's a real possibility here with having to confirm every score upstairs. Second thing, it's only one review. They're only going to review it if a touchdown is scored. To me, they need to review everything that happens in the end zone."
On the eighth official: "They haven't added an official in 33 years. … I'm anxious to see how it works. The officials have their own collective bargaining agreement that expires at the end of the season. You're going to likely get an enhanced severance benefit, so seven or eight guys are going to retire. Combine that with needing 17 new officials and you need 25 new guys. I don't think they're out there."