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Tom Jones: Shooting from the lip

tom jones' two cents

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

Best next analyst

There's already a buzz that if no NFL team is interested in Tim Tebow, then he might be able to make the jump to television. Actually, the more likely scenario is Tebow would be willing to play a position other than quarterback if that's the only way he could stay in the league, and plenty of teams would be interested.

But let's just say he can't stay in football. Maybe ESPN could hire him. To make room, they could dump Merril Hoge, an outspoken Tebow critic.

Speaking of Tebow, you do realize he has won more playoff games than Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform, right?

Most entertaining attack

Please, Jeff Van Gundy, never take another coaching job. Don't hit the lottery. Don't go on a yearlong eat-pray-love trip to find yourself. Don't do anything except what you're doing right now.

You need to be calling basketball games on TV the rest of your life.

ABC/ESPN's NBA analyst is already elite, and now he's starting to put distance between himself and every other sports commentator on television. Here's the latest from Van Gundy:

During Friday night's Thunder-Lakers game, Van Gundy went on one of his best rants ever, laying into Lakers big man Dwight Howard.

"Let's face it, let's not beat around the bush: Some of Dwight Howard's comments about having to play together? Those are veiled shots at Kobe Bryant," Van Gundy said. "And to me, I would have much rather seen Howard go into the locker room and say, 'Hey, listen, I think we need to do this, this and this.'

"You don't go in the media and take veiled shots at Kobe Bryant. I guarantee he thought the grass was greener other than Orlando. Now he's disenchanted with his offensive role (on the Lakers) it seems. When's the guy going to be happy?"

Let's be fair here. Van Gundy's brother Stan was fired in Orlando after last season because he couldn't get along with Howard. So, Howard supporters would argue that Jeff Van Gundy has an ax to grind. Then again, are there any Howard supporters?

Or how about this: Is there anything Van Gundy said that you would contradict?

Van Gundy's commentary got even better. Play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, outstanding in his own right, suggested to Van Gundy that Howard and Bryant were trying to get along, but Van Gundy interrupted him.

"I'm not buying that," Van Gundy said. "I'm not buying that Twitter picture. When you have to go and start taking pictures to say that your relationship is okay, I guarantee you your relationship is flawed. They don't have to be best friends. They don't have to like each other. You don't have to announce that you're friends because you don't need to be friends. You need to work well together and get good results. That's what you need to do.''

Then came the killer last line from Van Gundy: "And believe me, if Dwight Howard took on Kobe Bryant's serious-minded mentality, everybody here would be better served."

The willingness to be brutally honest and to possibly offend to make a point that needs to be made is what makes Van Gundy, arguably, the best sports analyst on television.

Biggest switch

All along, Fox's No. 2 NFL announcing team was considered to be Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are the top team.)

So it was surprising to see Thom Brennaman, top left, and Brian Billick, bottom, calling Sunday's Falcons-Seahawks game. Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks was quoted as saying that this is much ado about nothing, that Fox really doesn't have a No. 2 team.

I must say, I'm glad Fox went with Brennaman and Billick. Albert is an excellent play-by-play man, but I can do without Moose (Johnston) and Goose (Siragusa).

Oh, an interesting side note about Billick working Sunday's game. Billick is the brother-in-law of Falcons coach Mike Smith. Conflict of interest? Maybe. Nothing Sunday suggested that Billick was favoring the Falcons, but that is something Fox needs to think about in the future.

Coolest idea

MLB Network still has some more time to fill before spring training gets cranked up, so it has come up with a neat idea. It will run a five-week series showing classic baseball movies and host Bob Costas will have half-hour interviews with those who helped make the films. The series kicks off tonight and runs for the next five weeks.

Tonight's debut will be Cobb with Costas interviewing actor Tommy Lee Jones and director Ron Shelton. Other movies and interviews include the Bad News Bears (actor Tatum O'Neal), A League of Their Own (actor Geena Davis and director Penny Marshall), Eight Men Out (director John Sayles) and The Natural (director Barry Levinson).

Final results

This year's Outback Bowl was one of the better games of the college bowl season as South Carolina beat Michigan 33-28 in Tampa. However, the game was just the fourth most-watched non-BCS bowl game with 7.583 million viewers on ESPN. The Cotton Bowl (Texas A&M-Oklahoma) on Fox was the most-watched with nearly 12 million viewers.

Worst reversal

Last week, CBS NFL Today analyst Bill Cowher told Newsday's Neil Best that he would consider returning to coaching at some point. Then Cowher, left, said over the weekend: "Contrary to reports, I have no plans on coaching. I plan on being with one team and that is this team here at CBS."

Okay, so maybe Cowher isn't coming back to coach anytime soon, but to say, "contrary to reports" makes it sound like Best got the story wrong. And anyone who follows the work of Best knows he wouldn't get something like that wrong. Best is one of the best in the business.

Cowher should have handled it better because I have no doubt he told Best that he was interested in coaching again.



Biggest risk

A big story in the newspaper industry last week was what the New York Times did the day after no players were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for only the eighth time in history. The paper ran a headline that said, "And the Inductees Are … '' with a three-quarter page of blank space underneath.

Reaction was split, from those saying it was an inventive way to display the news to others saying it was a waste of space.

It was a daring idea, but ultimately, I think the New York Times made its reaction to the story bigger than the story itself. The paper became news, and that's a no-no in this business. Plus, I would have rather read what some of the paper's talented writers had to say instead of looking at a blank page.



Best career move

Michelle Beadle left ESPN last year to join NBC and, so far, it seems like a good career move. She did an outstanding job as co-host of ESPN2's SportsNation, and now she's doing work on Access Hollywood. Last week, USA Today reported that Beadle will co-host a new NBC Sports Network show called The Crossover, which makes its debut Jan. 28.

Beadle told USA Today: "I'd be lying if I said we're reinventing the wheel. I came from a show trying to not take anything too seriously, which is easy for me. I don't know if we'll introduce anything mind-dropping. But we'll be there for people who don't want arguments or yelling."

Watching Beadle last week talking about the Oscars on the Today show, I couldn't help but wonder if she has the career that former ESPN sideline reporter turned Fox studio host Erin Andrews wishes she had.

Three things that popped into my head

1. ESPN newcomers Seth Greenberg and Bruce Pearl do superb work on the college basketball studio programs. They are extremely energetic, knowledgeable and charismatic. They are so good, you almost hate to see halftime end.

2. Great to see Hannah Storm return to ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday. She made her first appearance on ESPN since suffering serious burns in a backyard grilling accident last month.

3. This was one of the best NFL playoff rounds in recent memory and yet the best thing I saw this weekend, by far? The new movie Zero Dark Thirty.

Tom Jones: Shooting from the lip 01/13/13 [Last modified: Sunday, January 13, 2013 10:11pm]
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