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Tom Jones' TV Two Cents: Big changes at Spectrum Sports ... compelling Rays weekend

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

 

Biggest changes

Spectrum Sports, the bay area TV channel that concentrates mostly on high schools, will cease over-the-air programming at the end of the year.

The channel, previously known as Bright House Sports, will continue with some programming after this year online. The announcement came last week, along with the news of about a dozen layoffs between the Spectrum Sports channels in Tampa Bay and Orlando.

It's possible that Bay News 9, the local 24-hour news channel, could end up with a regular sports news show, but coverage of prep games likely will shift to online only.

Spectrum Sports also has popular fishing programming. No official word on what will happen to it, but it likely will cease as well.

 

Best interview

Solid job by Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry with her interview of Rays owner Stuart Sternberg during Sunday's Rays-Yankees broadcast.

I wish she would've followed up when Sternberg said that this is pitcher Alex Cobb's "last season'' with the Rays and that trading Cobb was possible. Overall, however, she did a commendable job of getting Sternberg's thoughts on the recent wave of Rays trades and how the club is positioned to make a playoff run going forward. Also, a nod to those in charge who let the interview run without interruption of play-by-play.

 

Best/worst coverage

The Rays' loss Saturday was due in part to a lack of communication between pitcher Brad Boxberger and third baseman Tim Beckham that allowed a bunt to roll between them and load the bases in the ninth inning. The Yankees won on the next at-bat.

In a fascinating scene, Fox Sports Sun smartly scanned the dugout and caught Beckham having a conversation with bench coach (and longtime infielder) Tom Foley. The two, one would assume, were talking about what happened on the bunt. The conversation looked to be getting more intense and more interesting when Fox Sports Sun, frustratingly, cut away to show a highlight of the winning hit.

Best feature

ESPN's Sunday morning E:60 continues to shine. The latest example is Shelley Smith's haunting and heartbreaking piece on former basketball star Schuye LaRue. The feature, called "Searching for Schuye,'' was filmed over two years as Smith had on-and-off contact with LaRue, who is homeless and has schizophrenia. LaRue was the 1999-2000 ACC rookie of the year at Virginia. She played in Italy briefly and then was drafted into the WNBA. But she never played a game in that league, mostly because of her mental health issues.

Smith's on-camera encounters with LaRue were difficult to watch but showed Smith's talent for storytelling and, more important, her compassion. It was incredible stuff. Go to espn.com to see for yourself.

Media tidbits

Showtime's Inside the NFL is adding former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to its panel. Really? Did the Showtime guys not watch Lewis when he was awful on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown?

The Sporting News is reporting that ESPN has targeted Fox's Charissa Thompson to join Mike Greenberg on its morning show that is scheduled to start early next year. If true, that suddenly makes for a much more interesting show than originally anticipated.

Look for Tampa's Aaron Murray, who played quarterback at Plant High and Georgia, to call college games this fall for CBS Sports Network.

The Big Ten Network announced last week that Lisa Byington will become the network's first woman to call play-by-play for football. She will debut Sept. 16 when Northwestern plays Bowling Green.

ESPN averaged only 385,000 viewers for the recent X Games telecasts, leaving us to wonder about the Games' future as a live televised event. It might work better in edited, taped-delayed form.

Best hire

As the Times' Matt Baker reported last week, ESPN will add former Bucs defensive lineman and Tampa radio host Booger McFarland to ABC's college football studio coverage this season. Smart move by ESPN. McFarland is perfect for the studio and already has one of the most interesting voices in college football. Frankly, ESPN (ahem), I'd rather see McFarland on College GameDay instead of Desmond Howard.

Lamest excuse

Yeah, that theory that Colin Kaepernick and his protest of the national anthem hurt the NFL's TV ratings last year? Hogwash. In a poll of 9,2000 people by consumer analytics company J.D. Power, only 3 percent said they watched fewer games because of Kaepernick. Drop in the bucket.

Ratings game

Good news for golf as it continues to find out what life is like without Tiger Woods. NBC drew 4.91 million viewers for the final round of the British Open on July 23, making it the major's most-watched final round since ABC drew 5.55 million in 2009. That's the year Tom Watson's unlikely run at age 59 ended with a playoff loss to Stewart Cink.

Jordan Spieth, one of the players most often mentioned as a replacement for Woods as golf's marquee name, won this year's event, lending some credibility to those who believe fans are more interested when one of the so-called name players is in the hunt.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Despite the Rays' recent flurry of trades to add a power bat and help for the bullpen, it's still frustrating for fans. How come? Though there are still rumors the Rays could trade starting pitcher Alex Cobb, the Yankees are talking about going out and getting pitcher Sonny Gray.

2. Watching David Price's meltdown with the Boston media comes as no surprise. He wasn't quite as ornery here in Tampa Bay, but he could be difficult from time to time for seemingly no justifiable reason.

3. Feels like Adrian Beltre's 3,000 hits snuck up fast. He might be the most underrated third baseman ever, but by the time he's done, you could argue he belongs in the top five all time along with Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Eddie Mathews and Chipper Jones.

tom jones' two cents

tom jones' two cents

Tom Jones' TV Two Cents: Big changes at Spectrum Sports ... compelling Rays weekend 07/30/17 [Last modified: Monday, July 31, 2017 8:34am]
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