St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
It seems odd that ESPN is interested in bringing in former Florida coach Urban Meyer to be an analyst. Obviously, Meyer knows football and speaks well. But, at least in his public persona, Meyer comes off as a bit of a wet blanket. He seems to have little or no sense of humor and can't really be considered charismatic or dynamic. In addition, he just isn't, well, likable. Gators fans, of course, love him, but for the rest of the country, Meyer has always come off as arrogant, dry and a bit of a downer. Arrogance isn't necessarily a bad thing. Jon Gruden and Brian Billick are loaded with arrogance, but they have become excellent announcers because of their humor and upbeat personalities. Meyer seems to be lacking in those departments, so all you're left with is that I-know-more-than-you-do attitude. And if there's anything that viewers dislike more, it's when they feel as if they are being spoken down to. Maybe Meyer will prove the doubters wrong as Tony Dungy did. The thought was Dungy wouldn't be a great broadcaster because of his quiet personality. But he has proved to be a pleasant surprise and one of the best analysts on television because of his honesty and humility. Dungy's reputation is so solid that when he speaks, he has instant credibility and people want to hear him. It remains to be seen if people are interested in anything Meyer has to say if he has no interesting way to say it. Meyer gets his first shot tonight as a part of ESPN's coverage of the BCS Championship Game between Auburn and Oregon.
On Saturday afternoon and evening, the MLB Network's crawl at the bottom of the screen read, "SI.com senior writer Jon Heyman confirms a report that a deal is in place for the Cubs to acquire pitcher Matt Garza from the Rays."
So, wait, does that mean if Heyman hadn't confirmed the report, then the MLB Network would not have run the crawl even though media outlets throughout Tampa Bay and Chicago had been reporting the story for more than 24 hours at that point? That it couldn't be true unless Heyman had confirmed it? Can we get him to confirm that the Giants did, indeed, win the World Series?
This isn't to pick on just the MLB Network because most networks do this sort of thing. But it doesn't make it right to mislead viewers about who is breaking stories. And in the end, do viewers even care?
Is it possible for the NFL pregame shows to go even one week without showing Ravens LB Ray Lewis giving his inaudible, screaming, foaming-at-the-mouth pregame speech? It was cool the first 46 times we saw it, but it has sort of lost its punch. Oh, and it would be nice to get through a Falcons game without a shot of owner Arthur Blank on the sideline.
Favorite line of the weekend came from Lightning analyst Bobby "The Chief" Taylor during Saturday night's Lightning-Senators broadcast on Sun Sports. With the Lightning looking listless through two periods, there was a shot of Lightning coach Guy Boucher. Taylor said, "Guy Boucher is trying to come up with some (new line) combinations — or maybe a Taser — to get these guys going."
Partner Rick Peckham deadpanned, "Let's hope it doesn't come to that."
The New York Daily News reported that ESPN offered Joe Torre a spot in the Sunday Night Baseball booth, but Torre turned it down. That's too bad because before Torre revived his managerial career with the Yankees, he was a heck of a broadcaster. After Torre said no, ESPN went with Bobby Valentine to join Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman in the Sunday night booth.
Meanwhile, the Daily News reported that Brett Favre wouldn't mind joining one of the NFL networks as an analyst, but the whole text scandal and the fear that fans are turned off by Favre's post-Packers career have the networks a bit hesitant.
But I think Favre would make a heck of an analyst. He has a ton of personality, a good sense of humor and that good-ol'-boy personality that viewers relate to and worked so well for popular analysts such as Terry Bradshaw and Dandy Don Meredith.
Michael Farber, the fine hockey writer from Sports Illustrated, has come out with his midseason NHL awards and has a couple of Lightning members on his list. He has Marty St. Louis as his Lady Byng winner for most gentlemanly player, and he lists Guy Boucher as his coach of the year.
Farber wrote, "Maybe he hasn't reinvented the wheel, but he certainly has hitched the horses to the wagon. The Lightning has been rejuvenated, buying whatever Boucher, one of the bright young minds, has been selling. He's organized and upbeat, a breath of fresh air on a team that had grown musty. And now he actually has a goaltender in 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson. This won't shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference — even though the Lightning was nipping at Philadelphia's heels despite relying on the Mike Smith-Dan Ellis tandem for much of the first half — but it should make Tampa Bay a difficult playoff out."
Can we work it so that NBC's Al Michaels, top right, and Cris Collinsworth call every NFL playoff game? Maybe get NASA working on some sort of hot tub time machine or crank up that Back to the Future DeLorean to take the two from one city to another in a flash? I've always thought the two were, by far, the best NFL broadcasters in the business, but during Saturday's Jets-Colts game, I specifically tried to find a flaw, a mistake, a bad pun, something. And there was nothing.
Michaels has perfected the art of calling a game, realizing that fans can see what is happening and, thus, he never gets ahead of himself or guesses. He never gets carried away with his call, always having the appropriate amount of excitement in his voice as opposed to some announcers out there (CBS's Gus Johnson comes to mind) who go crazy once a minute.
Meanwhile, Collinsworth teaches viewers something every game and is never an apologist for players. He doesn't take cheap shots, but he's honest enough to question coaches and point out when players have made a mistake. He truly does call 'em like he sees 'em, and that's all you can ask from an analyst.
Now the sad news: The two are done for the rest of playoffs. Fox and CBS take over from this point on out with Fox handling the Super Bowl.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I don't care how many times he explains it, Colts coach Jim Caldwell made a boneheaded decision calling a timeout with 29 seconds left on the Jets' winning drive Saturday night.
2. Speaking of the Colts, doesn't it seem more and more likely that QB Peyton Manning, who turns 35 in March, is going to finish his career with only one Super Bowl title?
3. What's the over-under on the length of tonight's Oregon-Auburn game, 41/2 hours?