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Sports TV weekend in review

Biggest loss

There are only a few truly iconic sports analysts, announcers who have stood the test of time and helped changed the way games are announced.

The NFL had John Madden. Boxing had Howard Cosell. College basketball has Dick Vitale.

And baseball had Tim McCarver (right), who retired after last week's deciding Game 6 of the World Series. McCarver had been calling the World Series since 1985, meaning most baseball fans in their 30s or younger don't remember another lead baseball analyst.

Like many of the other names above, McCarver was not universally loved. Many viewers strongly disliked McCarver. Why? The joke went that if you asked McCarver what time it was, he would tell you how the watch was made.

But wouldn't you rather have an analyst overanalyze and overexplain things?

I never have understood the criticism of McCarver. Instead of second-guessing managers and players, as most analysts did before him, McCarver, 72, was the master at telling you what was about to happen.

His shining moment came in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when he questioned the Yankees playing their infield in against the Diamondbacks with the bases loaded and one out. McCarver said a little blooper could end the Series, and sure enough, the Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez hit a blooper just out of the reach of shortstop Derek Jeter to give Arizona the championship.

I'm going to miss McCarver. And so will his broadcast partner, Joe Buck. The two shared a special bond, and that came through when they called their final game together.

"Thirty-four years ago, my obligation shifted from the field and the players to the booth and to you, the viewers," McCarver said after the game was over. "Fairness and accuracy and honesty have always been my goals, along with teaching you something you may not have known about this great game. I hope I've achieved those things. Thank you very much."

Buck then said McCarver was "best to ever do this in this sport."

I agree.

Biggest controversy

All the NFL pregame shows did solid, responsible jobs covering the disturbing story of Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin leaving the team, with media reports saying it was because he had been bullied by teammates, particularly fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown had the best roundtable discussion, highlighted by Mike Ditka (right) saying: "I can't comprehend how this could happen. When this would happen in my time, you take the bully and you kick his butt. I mean, you go to 'fist city' with this guy."

ESPN's Ray Lewis (right) said: "Guys don't leave the team for hazing. … If I'm the head coach, that guy (Incognito) has to be removed from my team."

Most truthful

John Fox (above) will miss a few weeks because of heart surgery on a valve after becoming dizzy over the weekend. Surgery is scheduled for this week. Fox network reporter Jay Glazer said the Broncos coach was going to have the surgery in the offseason but put it off.

Then Sunday night, Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed walking off the field at halftime against the Colts and was taken to a hospital.

Before the day's games started, Fox NFL Sunday analyst Jimmy Johnson, a former coach, spoke the truth: "When you ask a pro coach about his priorities, you get the standard, 'Well, it's faith and family, etc.' But the reality is it's about winning. There is so much pressure on these pro coaches to win that they try to outwork their opponents, so their priorities are completely out of whack. The way they work, they sacrifice their families, their health, and maybe you might say that (the Broncos' Fox) is a wakeup call for coaches, but really it's not going to change." Johnson says something strong like this every week, and he is quickly moving to the head of the list of the best NFL studio analysts.

Best local reference

Well, it's sort of a local reference. Fox NFL Sunday analyst Terry Bradshaw still has faith in current Vikings and former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman (above) and said not to read too much into former FSU standout Christian Ponder starting for the Vikings on Sunday.

"The impact of Josh Freeman being brought into the Vikings organization will not be felt until training camp next year when Freeman knows this offense inside and out," Bradshaw said.

That's assuming Freeman will be in Minnesota next season.

Best rebuttal

After getting suspended for several high hits, Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather (above) recently said he will now have no choice but to start going low and taking out receivers' knees. He has backed off that stance a bit but not enough for the NFL Network's Michael Irvin.

On GameDay Morning, Irvin said: "I don't ever want to hear you talk about taking that opportunity (to play in the NFL) away from another man. That is not what we are about."

Strongest comments

Once again, give me ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy on every NBA game on television. He knows the game and isn't afraid to say what's on his mind.

He blasted the NBA during Friday's Heat-Nets game for not being tougher on players and coaches busted for driving drunk or domestic violence. Van Gundy brought it up because new Nets coach Jason Kidd was suspended for two games this season for a drunken-driving charge. Van Gundy never mentioned Kidd by name, but it was obvious he had Kidd in mind when he spoke.

Van Gundy said the NBA "really should take a look at how we fine and suspend players and coaches. … Either get out of the personal behavior suspensions … or stop wrist-slapping these guys."

Van Gundy continued: "Drunk driving, domestic violence, that we suspend guys for two games. Then they get suspended for five games if they're in the drug program."

The solution? Van Gundy said, "Start putting the hammer down" and start handing out 10-game, 20-game and seasonlong suspensions.

Best line

This was my favorite line of the weekend because it was absolutely true. CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson, talking about a matchup of three-loss teams in Florida and Georgia, said, "The reason this game means so much is because it means so little."


Three things that popped into my head

1. While authorities sort through serious allegations that Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov beat his girlfriend, the team should send him home. I'm all for innocent until proven guilty, but because of how awful the allegations are, allowing him to continue to play not only is a distraction, but it sends a bad message.

2. I don't think anyone is ready to call for Gators football coach Will Muschamp to be fired. But that will change if Florida loses its homecoming game to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

3. Which is the best team in college football? Alabama? Oregon? Florida State? Ohio State? Hmm, too bad we don't have a four-team playoff system.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Sports TV weekend in review 11/03/13 [Last modified: Sunday, November 3, 2013 10:28pm]
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