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Shooting from the lip

Biggest change

With Fox carrying this year's Super Bowl, CBS wrapped up its NFL coverage for the season on Sunday, and there could be major changes before we see the network's coverage in the fall.

Ratings for the NFL Today pregame show were down, and there could be a cast shakeup. Thebiglead.com speculated that Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe could be out.

Tony Gonzalez is retiring from the Falcons and could easily slide into Sharpe's spot. Marino might survive unless Peyton Manning retires. Every network would line up to sign Manning, but CBS might be willing to open the bank vault to get him. (This is assuming Manning would be interested in television if and when he does retire.)

Surprisingly, Fox had its best ratings ever for the pregame show, averaging nearly 5 million viewers a week for Fox NFL Sunday. Sometimes I wonder how considering all the goofball shenanigans on that show. But Fox has the advantage of carrying the NFC, the better of the two conferences right now. Plus, most of the marquee teams from most of the bigger markets — Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Bears and 49ers — are in the NFC.

Best report

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. aired its annual "Hockey Day in Canada" on Saturday, celebrating the grass roots meaning and community spirit hockey brings to the entire nation.

One feature was about Steve Ludzik, who is fighting Parkinson's disease. Ludzik coached the Lightning from 1999-2001 and first noticed symptoms during his tenure. He was diagnosed 10 years ago but didn't go public with his disease until last year, when he decided that coming forward could help raise money and awareness to fight Parkinson's.

"I treat this disease like it's a bully," Ludzik said. "I refuse to give into it."

Best replacement

Longtime football analyst Dan Dierdorf called his last game two weeks ago for CBS. He then announced he will have reconstructive back surgery right after the Super Bowl. Lingering health problems from his NFL days are a big reason why Dierdorf, 64, is stepping away. Traveling had become just too difficult.

So who will make up CBS's No. 2 announcing team behind Jim Nantz and Phil Simms? There is some talk that Brian Billick, who was left off Fox's playoff schedule, could jump ship and join Greg Gumbel. Some are pushing for Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts. I'm good with that. Both are outstanding.

Most surprising

This came as a shock: CBS and broadcaster Tim Brando are parting ways after 18 years. Both called it a mutual decision.

Then again, maybe we should have seen it coming. Brando's radio show had been simulcast on CBS Sports Network since 2011 but was taken off the air earlier this month for Boomer and Carlton (featuring former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason) from New York's WFAN.

Last week, Brando, 57, told listeners and announced on Facebook that he was leaving CBS, where he was best known for his studio duties on college football and basketball.

His radio show will continue on Sirius XM, and he is looking to hook on with another network. One rumor that makes sense has Brando going to ESPN's SEC Network. He's based in Shreveport, La., and is well-versed in the Southeastern Conference.

Who might replace Brando on CBS's College Football Today pregame studio show? One name that has come up is Adam Zucker.

Biggest bids

All four of the NFL's network partners — CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC — are reported to have put in a bid for a Thursday night package starting next season. It's also reported that Turner Sports put in a bid.

Last season, there were 13 Thursday games, all aired by the NFL Network. It still hasn't been determined how many games will air next season. That's all a part of the various bids. There were rumors the NFL would require games to be simulcast on the NFL Network, but that hasn't been confirmed.

The Thursday night package would be a big boost for Fox, which could air games on the fledgling Fox Sports 1. Same could be said for NBC and the NBC Sports Network.

This season's Thursday night games averaged about 8 million viewers.

Three things that popped into my head

1. One thing that bugs me about the NFL — and I particularly notice it when I watch the Broncos — is wide receivers catching routine passes for routine gains, then celebrating and strutting and acting like they've done something special.

2. The Lightning is perfectly happy with coach Jon Cooper, and it should be. But after watching him trying to fight the Calgary Flames on Saturday night, I just want to say I miss John Tortorella. (Story, 4C)

3. Regardless of the records, I'm not convinced the Pacers (32-7) have passed the Heat (29-11) as the team to beat in the NBA's Eastern Conference. The champs are the champs until someone beats them when it matters — the playoffs.

tom jones' two cents

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

Worst conflict

This is messy.

New England Sports Network reporter Jenny Dell (above left) is in a relationship and living with Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks (right). Dell is a sideline reporter on Red Sox games, sort of like Todd Kalas and Kelly Nash on Rays games for Sun Sports.

Obviously, there's no way NESN can continue to have Dell covering the Red Sox. Some will argue Dell should be able to date whomever she wants, that it's nobody's business and so on.

But this much is true:

By becoming involved with an athlete of a team she covers, Dell has done serious damage to every female reporter who wants to be taken seriously. After all of these years, female sideline reporters still are trying to earn the respect of viewers.

Stories such as this feed into every negative stereotype even though virtually every female reporter does her job properly and is as offended as anybody by Dell's relationship with Middlebrooks.

Most gross

Word of advice. Make sure your stomach is settled before watching HBO Boxing.

One of the best parts of HBO Boxing is cameras take you up-close-and-personal into the corners between rounds to hear the sounds and see the sights. But enter at your own risk. Not only is the language a little salty, but the pictures are R-rated.

On the undercard of Saturday night's Jean Pascal-Lucian Bute main event, HBO showed a bout between Mike Perez (left) and Carlos Takam. Perez suffered a cut so nasty, viewers might have gagged while watching the cut man trying to close it.

But it's part of what makes HBO Boxing so compelling.

Shooting from the lip 01/19/14 [Last modified: Sunday, January 19, 2014 9:01pm]

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