tom jones' two cents
Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
ABC has been showing the Indianapolis 500 since 1965, so it knows how to cover the race. • It has all the nuts and bolts, as well as all the bells and whistles. • But despite the superb direction and production, the broadcast quite often falls flat. And I'm starting to think it's the broadcasters. • Marty Reid does a decent enough job as the lap-by-lap announcer, but analysts Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear are just meh. Maybe they should be applauded for not trying to be something they are not, but I just get so much more — information, analysis, entertainment — from the NASCAR broadcasters. • In addition, there was this: With only a few laps left and the race under caution, the broadcasters talked about how, after the restart, it would be better to be in the second or third position instead of leading. The broadcasters were right, but they never relayed why that was the case. If you are an experienced fan of IndyCar, you knew it was because of drafting and so forth. But that information was never clearly explained to the novices who might have been watching or who hadn't watched much of Sunday's race.
Clearly, ABC/ESPN is intent on making anchor Lindsay Czarniak a star. After having a prominent role on SportsCenter, Czarniak became the first woman to host ABC's Indianapolis 500 broadcast on Sunday. This is a spot previously reserved for some of the giants in the business, such as Jim McKay, Brent Musburger and Keith Jackson.
It's also interesting that Czarniak has been given such a role after ESPN recently lost high-profile female broadcasters such as Erin Andrews, Michelle Beadle and Charissa Thompson.
As previously rumored, the new Fox Sports 1 has hired former tennis great Andy Roddick to co-host Fox Sports Live, the flagship news program for the network. Roddick will join host Charissa Thompson on a panel, perhaps as often as five nights a week, to discuss some of the big events of the day.
This is an interesting hire. While certainly a big name in the sports world, he doesn't have extensive television experience in the media, other than being interviewed over the years. This could turn out to be a sensational hire or a complete embarrassment. But give Fox credit for a little outside-the-box thinking. That's what it needs to do if it hopes to compete with ESPN.
Oh, former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb is another name rumored to be in line for a Fox Sports 1 job.
Typically, I'm not a fan of three-man booths. Occasionally they work. For example, NBC's setup of Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire is fantastic. That's rare for such a fast-moving sport like hockey. And, actually, it's rare for any sport.
Of all sports, you would think baseball would be the best for three-man booths because of all the time between pitches. Yet, whenever Sun Sports adds Orestes Destrade (left) to the broadcast with Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson, as it did Saturday, it just doesn't work. And that's not a knock on Destrade. Maybe it's because Staats and Anderson are so comfortable together that it's hard for another voice, regardless of who that voice might be, to fit in.
It always feels as if Destrade has to interrupt to make his point. That's not to say he literally has to cut off Staats or Anderson, but it feels as if he has to butt his way into the conversation.
The thing is, Destrade, who usually is stationed at field level, makes good points. For example, he did a nice job Saturday pointing out that a Rays runner on first base (Ryan Roberts) would have advanced to third on a single if he had been more alert as to how deep the Yankees outfielders were playing. That was solid analysis by Destrade.
Unfortunately, as a third voice, it just doesn't feel like a natural conversation, no matter how hard Staats, Anderson and Destrade try to make it so.
There is a bigger jerk than Rangers coach John Tortorella when it comes to dealing with the media during a game. That would be Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (above), who regularly acts like a first-class crab when doing in-game interviews. On Saturday night, ABC's Doris Burke asked two good questions — one about his offense, another about his defense — and the answer to both was: "Turnovers." That was it. Look, we all realize that these in-game interviews are often a waste of time and coaches are busy. But, occasionally, they do offer insight. Even if they don't, how come Popovich is incapable of being respectful to a sideline reporter doing his or her job? Phil Jackson, the greatest NBA coach ever, took the time to be polite and give good answers, even when his team wasn't playing well. What makes Popovich so special?
Maybe someone needs to remind Popovich that television pays the bills. It's why he makes a nice living and lives in a nice house and has nice things. Take 20 seconds and answer a question.
What bothers me about Gus Johnson as a football and basketball announcer is the same thing that bothers me about him as Fox's featured soccer announcer. His speaker-busting volume is so over-the-top ridiculous that I honestly don't understand what he's yelling half the time. During one of Johnson's explosions Saturday during the Champions League soccer final, I think I might have heard the words "London" and "Wembley," but I'm really not sure. And if he's screaming a name? Forget it. Whatever the name is, it comes off as, "Ayaaamaaaanreeeaaee."
Many people out there love Johnson's passion. They dig all the screaming. I'm just not one of those people.
Sports Illustrated media writer Richard Deitsch reports that ESPN has two more subjects in line for the "30 for 30" documentary series. The first is Bad Boys, about the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s. That should air about a year from now. Meantime, a film on the soap opera involving figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan could run sometime later next year.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Isn't it interesting. Over the years, the AL East closers have included names such as Fernando Rodney, Jim Johnson, Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Joel Hanrahan, Casey Janssen and on and on and on. Yet, Mariano Rivera was, is and will be, until he retires, the best.
2. Fox's baseball game of the week Saturday was a prime-time game. Part of the reason Fox showed a prime-time game was because it aired the Champions League soccer final live during the day. Still, I think a baseball game of the week should air during the day, not at night. That's how it is supposed to be.
3. The only thing worse than watching senior golf is watching senior tennis. Both were on over the weekend. Egads.