Staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Too bad that most of us around here were consumed by the Rays and Bucs all weekend because the coverage of America's victory in the Ryder Cup was outstanding. NBC, as expected, had its A game, showing once again it covers golf better than any network. And ESPN's coverage was thorough and thoroughly engrossing. ESPN also gets a pat on the back for its outstanding all-day coverage of the final game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Most forgotten event
The Davis Cup used to be as much a part of the sports landscape as any event. This weekend, if you didn't know the semis were being played, you wouldn't have known it at all. They were completely lost, at least in the United States, among baseball, pro and college football, NASCAR and the Ryder Cup. In case you missed it, and you probably did, the United States-Spain semi was played in what has to be the coolest stadium in the world, Las Ventas, which hosts bullfights. Oh, and the U.S. lost when Rafael Nadal beat Andy Roddick in singles.
Gary Danielson is a pleasure to listen to each week, and he is maybe a half-notch better than Todd Blackledge and Kirk Herbstreit, both with ESPN/ABC, as the best of the college football analysts.
His best line from Saturday's Florida-Tennessee game: "The anticipation of (Florida QB Tim) Tebow playing — it's like a Mike Tyson fight when he was knocking out those guys in his prime. You gotta watch it. You can't take your eyes off this guy.''
The unfortunate part about the Rays clinching a playoff spot Saturday was that longtime Rays TV announcer Dewayne Staats didn't get to make the call because the game was nationally televised on Fox. We were stuck listening to Fox's Mike Joy, who should be called Mike Joyless. Joy could not have been less dramatic if he tried. He called the entire game as if it were a spring training, split-squad game.
After Evan Longoria caught the final out, I couldn't tell if someone turned off Joy's microphone or Joy fell asleep. Too bad Rays fans were robbed of a thrilling final call.
That's it. From now on I'm calling Fox baseball host Jeanne Zelasko by another name. Let's call her Jean Zelasko. Or just J. Zelasko. Or how about Peggy?
As long as Peggy is going to keep calling the Rays by the wrong name — as she does week after week after week — then maybe we should just call her by the wrong name. Peggy did it again Saturday, calling the team the "Tampa'' Rays five times in the pregame and postgame shows.
This is something I've written about four or five times already, and I'm not the only one who notices. My e-mail was flooded Saturday by readers complaining about Peggy relocating the team.
For most of this season I've thought she was just being lazy. But I'm starting to wonder if she's just incompetent. After the Rays clinched a playoff spot Saturday, Zelasko said, "A congratulation to Tampa the city.''
This is plain inexcusable because she does this every week. At some point, doesn't someone at Fox say something to her so she stops embarrassing herself?
Fox football analyst Terry Bradshaw laid into Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart for not being happy about backing up Kurt Warner: "I believe he should be starting, but he has acted like a quarterback diva. He's acting like he's the star, like he earned that right. He got beat out, and I'm disappointed in him for getting beat out. I think the Cardinals are sending him a message: Get in that study room and be the professional we expect you to be. Or I think Arizona will move on and get another new quarterback."
Howie Long then hammered the point home: "Terry, it's simple. He's not starting because he's not as good as Kurt Warner."
Once we got past Jeanne Zelasko's geographically challenged comments, Fox pregame analysts Kevin Kennedy and Eric Karros had good insight and high praise for the Rays.
First Karros said, "I think … the manager, Joe Maddon, impacts this team more than any other club in baseball.''
Then Kennedy showed he really paid attention, reminding everyone of spring training when Rays prospect Elliot Johnson bowled over Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, breaking Cervelli's wrist and drawing the ire of Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.
"I think it goes back to spring training with Joe Maddon backing up his guy … and saying, 'Hey, we play to win in spring training.' I talked to a lot of people, and they absolutely agree with that. That was the turning point, right there in spring training.''
Best letting up
After the Miami game, I criticized the Gators for kicking a late field goal. So it's only right that I point out they didn't run up the score, even though they could have, against Tennessee. On their final drive, they ran the ball up the gut even though they could've tacked on a field goal. But still, what is quarterback Tim Tebow doing in the game with three minutes left and the Gators leading by 24?
CBS's Gary Danielson thought the same thing. "I don't agree with this, I have to say,'' Danielson said as Tebow scrambled. "I don't care about the running up the score. It doesn't matter to me. But I just don't understand my quarterback getting hit in a game that's over.''
And even though coach Urban Meyer says Tebow was still in because his backup was hurt, Florida has only two quarterbacks?
Florida State-Wake Forest on Saturday night might have been the worst college football game ever played. This could've been the game that turned Florida State's fortunes around, but it only reminded us of how far the Seminoles have slipped. "What's different about this Florida State team?'' ESPN2 analyst Bob Davie asked. "So far, nothing.''
We tend to get caught up in the Rays, but Mike Lupica made a great point on ESPN's Sports Reporters: "There's nothing not to like about the Rays. There are so many parts about this that are like the '69 Mets. But the Cubs winning the World Series — when they win the World Series … is the last big thing in sports.''