Staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Three things that popped into my head
1 My favorite thing on TV over the weekend was Sunday afternoon when NBC showed a replay of a brutal 1977 fight when Muhammad Ali won a unanimous decision over Earnie Shavers. Ali later said Shavers hit him harder in that fight than he had ever been hit. In fact, Ali's quote was: "Earnie hit me so hard, it shook my kinfolk back in Africa.''
2 Bad move of the weekend award goes to Hawks and former Gators big man Al Horford, who taunted the Celtics' Paul Pierce late in Saturday's Game 3 victory. The Hawks still trail the series 2-1, the game was over at that point, why talk trash and give the Celtics extra motivation?
3 Uh, anyone else noticing what Josh Hamilton is doing with the Rangers? He's hitting .375 with five homers and a major-league-leading 26 RBIs. Not to rain on the Rays' parade after such a fun week, but think Josh would look good in rightfield for them right now?
The best sports interview of the past week was actually conducted by CBS late-night host David Letterman. It seemed silly when he asked former Packers QB Brett Favre if he had ever gone hunting on the day of a game until Favre answered:
"I have to admit, yes. … I made it back in time."
Letterman: "But what were you hunting and where?"
Favre: "I was just outside Green Bay. I was bow hunting. Didn't kill anything."
Letterman: "Like in the parking lot?"
Favre: "A little bit further out. We were playing the Bears that week. I think we lost."
The cold, hard fact is this is and always will be a football town. The Bucs rule the local sports scene, and the rest of the pro and college teams take turns being No. 2. But even though the weekend featured the NFL draft, the buzz around town was clearly about the Rays after they swept the Red Sox.
And rising to the occasion was the Rays TV team of Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane. You know, you just become smarter listening to those two. Magrane was masterful Saturday night during a sequence when he, essentially, implored Edwin Jackson to throw a slider. Jackson did and got an easy groundout. Magrane is full of gems like that.
The two always have been able to describe strategy, but now they get to show their enthusiasm for a team that is exciting to watch.
"We're seeing things we've never seen before," Staats said. "This is big-league baseball."
Oh, and this, too: Whit Watson was a strong presence as a sideline reporter during Friday's broadcast.
Sunday's second-day NFL draft coverage on ESPN was better than Saturday's first-day coverage, and I think the reason was that host Trey Wingo and new ESPN analyst Cris Carter were involved Sunday but not Saturday. Wingo did a better job than Saturday host Chris Berman. Wingo's best moments came while interviewing various players and executives, especially when he pushed Green Bay GM Ted Thompson on whether Brett Favre was truly retired and whether Thompson told new starting QB Aaron Rodgers that the Packers were going to draft Louisville QB Brian Brohm in the second round.
Carter, always a strong, opinionated presence on HBO's now-defunct Inside the NFL, came out strong. His most interesting comments came when talking about how QB Matt Ryan will be accepted by Falcons fans.
"They have more minority season-ticket holders than any team in the National Football League," Carter said. "And their hero is Michael Vick. And their hero is in jail. … Michael Vick is in the past. They need to let it go. Get off the black-white thing."
Ill-advised comment of the day
A little arguing on live TV can make for good television, and ESPN even encouraged it Sunday during the NFL draft by pitting draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay against one another on various subjects. But then McShay crossed the line when the subject of Jason Taylor being traded by the Dolphins came up. When discussing whether a team made a mistake not trading a second-round pick for Taylor, McShay asked Kiper if he "knew" if the deal was for a second-round pick. Kiper said he "believed" it was for a second-round pick.
That's when McShay pounced and said, "So you're making that up."
A debate is fine, but do you really think ESPN wants one commentator questioning the credibility of another commentator?
Mike Lupica on ESPN's Sports Reporters: "When the Raiders found out Darren McFadden got into a few bar fights, he moved up on their draft board."
Check it out
Not a whole lot of chances to pump Arena Football, but tonight is a special occasion.
The 8-0 Philadelphia Soul hosts the 7-0 Dallas Desperados in what is being called the "Broad Street Brawl." Don't know about that name, but we do know this: It's the first time in Arena Football history that teams with records of 7-0 or better will meet. The game is on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.
In Sunday's pregame for the Rangers-Penguins, NBC tried to play up the controversial penalty on the Rangers that lead to the Pens' winning power play at the end of Game 1. NBC showed the play and mentioned how some thought Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby embellished the call. Yet commentators Pierre Maguire, Mike Milbury and Ed Olczyk never gave an opinion on if they thought it was a penalty or whether Crosby took a dive on the play. Olczyk did say, "Sidney Crosby is not a diver," but it would've been nice to hear the NBC guys weigh in on the actual play … seeing as how they are the ones who brought it up.
of the weekend
Someone uttered this line during the NFL draft and I nearly fell out of my chair: In the 43-year history of the franchise, the Atlanta Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons.
Funniest line (runnerup)
TBS baseball announcer Chip Carey, during Sunday's Indians-Yankees broadcast, talking about the pitching woes of the Texas Rangers: "They might need Nolan Ryan to come out of the front office and pitch in the pen."
was she at?
Versus' Chris Simpson is one of their better sideline reporters. Her brother, Craig, is a former NHL player, she does her homework, and she knows the game and the players. But when interviewing Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby after Friday's game, she mentioned how the Pens trailed 3-0 and the building was "silenced.'' In fact, it was just the opposite. Fans cheered even more, and some players even pointed to the crowd rallying around the Pens when they were down.
Wingo line of the weekend
ESPN NFL draft host Trey Wingo, after the Bucs drafted quarterback Josh Johnson, left, in the fifth round: "Some people collect stamps. Jon Gruden collects quarterbacks."