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Shooting from the lip

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

Best pregame feature

Fox's best moment of the Daytona 500 pregame show was a feature on car owner Richard Childress' decision to put the late Dale Earnhardt's famous No. 3 back in circulation. Childress' grandson Austin Dillon drove the No. 3 car on Sunday.

It sounded as if Childress would not have minded keeping the No. 3 permanently out of circulation, but NASCAR doesn't retire numbers. Childress said Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave him the blessing to use his father's No. 3 again.

If anyone should drive the No. 3, Dillon (bottom right) is a great choice considering his ties to Childress, who owned the car Earnhardt (top) drove and was very close to him.

But as Fox analyst Michael Waltrip said during the pre-race show, "I think it's great that Austin is driving the No. 3. But whenever I see the No. 3, I will always think of Dale Sr."

So will everyone else, which is why NASCAR should have just retired the number.

Toughest break

Poor Fox. Biggest NASCAR race of the year, the Daytona 500, and it gets delayed by rain. Fox did its best with plenty of interviews and canned features — some expanded from those shown during the prerace show. Eventually, it was out of stuff to talk about, so it went to a replay of last year's race (which caused quite the confusion on social media, see Sideline, 1C). Whether it's golf or NASCAR, it just seems like networks should have a plan in place to avoid ever showing coverage from last week or last month or last year.

Biggest mistake

The NHL is run by a bunch of fools if it doesn't see the benefits of its players participating in the Olympics. When the United States beat Russia in a shootout, there was more reaction on Twitter and other social media and more of a buzz across all forms of media than anything that ever happens in the NHL.

The Olympics showcase the league's best players and give nonhockey fans a chance to see just how entertaining the sport can be. Isn't that worth shutting down the league for a couple of weeks? And it's not as if die-hard NHL fans are going to lose interest. What? They won't watch again when the league returns? That's absurd.

NHL owners hate to see their players risk injury. And we did see, for example, the Islanders' best player, John Tavares, suffer a season-ending knee injury. But injuries can happen anywhere. That's not a reason to skip the Olympics.

The benefits for the NHL, still fighting for attention on the sports landscape, far outweigh the risks and cons.

Worst sportsmanship

The end of Duke's dramatic 66-60 victory against No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday night will forever be remembered for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (right) being ejected for arguing a charging call against C.J. Fair with 10.4 seconds left.

"Ah, you don't want to see the game end like this," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. "He had a right to scream. There are times when the coach has a right. Come on now."

I love Dickie V. But coaches, even legends such as Boeheim, do not have the right to run onto the court, flail his arms, point his finger, stomp his feet and scream obscenities. He deserved to be kicked out.

More bothersome was Boeheim's cavalier attitude about his antics after the game. He even joked about it.

For starters, I doubt his team found it amusing that his childish meltdown cost Syracuse any chance of a comeback. Even Fair said, "Maybe if we didn't get the tech, we might get the chance to win.''

In addition, Boeheim's behavior and absurd postgame comment — "the worst call of the year" (it wasn't) — took away from what was a great college basketball game. Shame on him.

When Duke lost in overtime at Syracuse on Feb. 1, a controversial noncall might have cost the Blue Devils the game. Yet you didn't see their coach, Mike Krzyzewski, act like a horse's rear. He respected the game and the outcome. Something Boeheim didn't do.

Best night

On Thursday, for what is believed to be the first time, Fox Sports Live on Fox Sports 1 garnered a better rating than ESPN's SportsCenter.

Credit probably goes to NASCAR. The Daytona 500 twin qualifying races, which drew about 3.1 million viewers, were the lead-in to Fox Sports 1. Fox said Fox Sports Live averaged 2.272 million viewers to SportsCenter's 1.089 million.

Still, it was just one night. I doubt ESPN is working through lunch in a panic.

Best job

Overall, NBC should be proud of its Olympic coverage. It's never easy to cover something with such a drastic time difference, and it's never easy to fill a prime-time schedule with events that happened hours earlier.

NBC caught a bad break when host Bob Costas missing several days with eye infections, and it showed just how valuable he is. Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira filled in and did professional jobs. I thought Vieira was the better of the two, although I'm still baffled as to why NBC didn't do some juggling and have Dan Patrick and/or Al Michaels run the show while Costas was out.

Tara Lapinski (top right) and Johnny Weir (bottom) were the breakout stars calling the figure skating, while I thought the best coverage involved hockey and the sledding events — skeleton, luge and bobsled.

A fine effort by NBC, as expected.

Biggest clown

Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino took shots at the Yankees last week, talking about how much they spend on players.

"We're very different animals. I'm proud of that difference," Lucchino said. "I always cringe when people lump us together."

Know why people lump you together? Because you're the same franchise!

You both spend tons of money to either buy your players or keep the stars you have. Look, there's nothing wrong with that. The rules allow teams to spend whatever they want. Just don't be hypocritical about it.

Wonder what Rays president Matt Silverman and executive vice president Andrew Friedman think when they listen to someone from the Red Sox bellyaching about another team spending money.

Best line

Howard Bryant, on ESPN's Sports Reporters, on whether Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was aware bullying was going on in his locker room: "I've read the Warren report, and now I've read the Ted Wells report. And the only thing less plausible than Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone is that Joe Philbin knew nothing."

Three things that popped into my head

1. Don't be too hard on the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team. It fought the Canadians until the last second and, as soon as the semifinal game was over, the Americans were ready to come home, which explains the 5-0 loss to Finland. Who can blame them for having no interest in the bronze medal game? Finland would have thrown in the towel, too, if the United States had jumped out to an early lead.

2. Speaking of Olympic hockey, be glad Canada won. Now that the country has its self-worth back, we don't have to listen to yelling, second-guessing and just general whining about what happened in Sochi.

3. Nelson Cruz (above) cheats, gets suspended for 50 games and is rewarded with an $8.5 million contract by the Orioles. What a country, huh?

tom jones' two cents

Shooting from the lip 02/23/14 [Last modified: Sunday, February 23, 2014 9:03pm]
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