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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.

Most uneven debut

Fox Sports 1, the 24-hour network that hopes to put a dent into ESPN's dominance of the sports television world, made its debut over the weekend. And with the talent it has acquired, the sports rights it has and the money it is investing, it's obvious Fox is to be taken seriously.

However, there are kinks to be worked out.

In particular, Fox Sports 1's flagship show, Fox Sports Live, was all over the place.

The show debuted Saturday night and, after watching the first 60 minutes, I felt relieved that I did not suffer a seizure.

For starters, viewers were overloaded with too much information. There was a ticker running on the bottom and another set of notes and graphics above that ticker and still another set of notes and graphics running down the right side. Then, there was more written information in the middle of the screen while anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole were talking over the highlights.

There was so much information for the viewer to absorb that one could not possibly retain any of it. As a viewer, I wasn't sure whether to focus on the bottom, the side, the main screen or the anchors' voices and, instead, I ended up doing none of the above.

The experience was not unlike watching a financial news program on a cable news channel such as Fox Business.

The highlight portion was similar to ESPN's SportsCenter. It was interesting how much Fox Sports Live dedicated the program to UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and soccer highlights, showing it might be going for a slightly younger demographic than the typical SportsCenter viewer.

Sprinkled throughout the show were panel segments when Charissa Thompson moderated a discussion of regular analysts such as Donovan McNabb, Andy Roddick, Gabe Kapler, Ephraim Salaam and Gary Payton. Think of it as a shortened version of Fox Sports' old Best Damn Sports Show. I like Thompson because she is quick and witty, but the panel ranged from looking nervous to offering no insight. Thompson, a former ESPN host, seemed to be the only one comfortable. That's what you get when you hire analysts with next to no television experience. They need time to jell.

Overall, the whole night suffered from just too much and too many. Too many graphics, too many cast members, too much of everything. If Fox can scale things back a bit, they might be on to something.

I'd have fewer graphics and my panel discussion would be limited to Thompson and maybe two analysts.

Then again, maybe this is their plan: give viewers a much different experience than watching SportsCenter. And, yes, judging the show after one hour isn't totally fair. I can't remember, but I'm guessing the first SportsCenter hit some bumps in the road.

If it were me, I'd rely even more on Onrait and O'Toole. They clearly were the stars of the show. They're likable, funny and don't mind poking fun at themselves. They are worth watching Fox Sports Live, as long as you focus on them and not the hundred other things that are bombarding the screen.

Biggest concern

Halftime of Friday night's Fox telecast of the Bucs-Patriots game featured a panel made up of those who will be prominently featured on Fox Sports 1's new daily NFL show, Fox Football Daily. Hosts Curt Menefee and Jay Glazer were joined by former Bucs great Ronde Barber, Brian Urlacher and Randy Moss.

The former players seemed awkward in front of the camera, especially Urlacher and Moss. Barber was much better here than his game analyst debut on Ch. 8 in the Bucs preseason opener. They are all new at this, but I wonder if Fox is holding its breath a bit, wondering if they will develop into strong broadcasters.

Best debut

NBC Sports Network had a strong opening weekend televising the Barclays Premier League. Ratings were decent, especially considering the matches were early in the day. But the product and NBC's coverage were outstanding. It's early, but NBC seems to have made the right choice in tabbing Rebecca Lowe as co-host of the Premier League Live studio show. She knows her stuff and, I know this will come off as silly, but I love that someone with an English accent is hosting soccer coverage.

Strongest comments

Did you see recently that Jim Buss, who took over part-ownership of the Lakers after the death of his father, Dr. Jerry Buss, said it was his father, on his deathbed, who insisted the Lakers hire Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson as head coach last season? Some close to the situation say the elder Buss was far too ill to make such a decision.

That hardly matters, according to ESPN's Sports Reporters host Jeremy Schaap, who blasted the younger Buss on Sunday:

"The larger point is that as a matter of simple decency, you don't throw your dead father under the bus,'' Schaap said. "If the Lakers had won the title this spring and the D'Antoni hire was viewed as a stroke of genius, I wonder if Jim Buss would have been so eager to deflect credit.''

Most annoying

ESPN's SportsCenter runs a graphic on the left side of the screen to tell viewers what stories, in order, are coming up next. Great idea, except when Sports­Center doesn't follow the order. In fact, it's infuriating to sit there waiting for a story that never comes.

I realize that sometimes there is breaking news, and that stories often have to be shuffled or delayed. But, far too often, stories don't arrive as promised and then they disappear from the graphic. Example: Friday night, the graphic said a story coming up was the Rays' walkoff victory. But the story didn't come up and, eventually, ESPN removed the Rays tease and replaced it with another story.

Again, this was not an isolated case.

If ESPN can't stick to its list or breaking news too often interrupts the schedule, then the network needs to abandon the tease list.

Another baseball replay flaw

Here's yet another potential flaw of baseball's proposed instant replay system.

The replays that Major League Baseball would use would be provided by the local team's television production crew. Some of those local networks are actually run by the teams, the Yankees' YES Network, for example. And even networks that are not owned by the local team still have a vested interest in how the local team does. For example, Sun Sports' ratings most certainly are better when the Rays are winning and in contention. That's true with any network and team.

As New York Daily News media columnist Bob Raissman points out:

"With all these entangled alliances, would it be surprising if a crucial replay, one under 'review' that affected the outcome of a game, was suddenly 'lost' by a producer or director and not available to the review crew in New York?''

Interesting, huh?

Three things that popped into my head

1. Bucs QB Mike Glennon (right) looks good in the preseason. Josh Freeman, not so much. But don't be ridiculous. The only way Glennon plays ahead of Freeman during the regular season is if Freeman gets hurt.

2. Ronde Barber is right: RB Doug Martin is more valuable to the Bucs than QB Josh Freeman. I'll go further. Martin is more valuable than any player on the Bucs.

3. Anyone else tired of seeing stories about Robert Griffin III even though he isn't even playing?

Shooting from the lip 08/18/13 [Last modified: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:22pm]
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