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Tom Jones' Two Cents: 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.

Strongest comments

The horrific shootings at an elementary school Friday in Connecticut were very much a part of the sports world over the weekend. Moments of silence were held before the start of NFL games. In addition, in a memo obtained by, ESPN brass told its staff not to use Twitter over the weekend to tweet about sports and to refrain from using the word "shooter" at all. ESPN sent out a follow-up memo at noon Sunday telling employees they could begin tweeting about sports again.

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica used his portion of the "Parting Shots" segment on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday to speak out against guns.

"In the aftermath of these tragedies we always hear about our right to bear arms and a Second Amendment written for muskets," Lupica said. "But what rights did these children and their teachers have in small-town Connecticut? In a country fast-becoming a shooting gallery? We also hear that we should have a national conversation about gun control, when the truth is there's no such thing in America."

Best analysis

You might think that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been cut off at the knees because former commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently vacated the player suspensions Goodell handed out for the Saints bounty scandal. In addition, Goodell's suspension of Ravens safety Ed Reed was reduced to a fine.

But Fox NFL Sunday analyst Howie Long, left, said: "I was with Roger up in Oakland and you would think that given Tagliabue's decision and the overturning of the Ed Reed suspension, he might be on his heels. He's dug in, folks. As a matter of fact, he's been given the responsibility of taking care of the game both on and off the field.

"Fines aren't getting it done according to Roger Goodell. It's now going to move to suspensions, and if you think it's controversial now, wait until people start losing 200, 300, or 400 thousand dollars a week in a check and losing a game."

This is outstanding work by Long. He took information picked up in a conversation with Goodell and then passed that information along to the viewer. Long showed he's always on the clock, and the show benefited from that.

Worst ratings

Canada's Globe & Mail reported last week that the number of Canadians watching television at home on Saturday nights is down about 800,000 — that's roughly the population of Edmonton. Hmm, wonder why such a drop. Oh yeah, there's no Hockey Night in Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., which airs Hockey Night in Canada, was showing classic games during the Saturday night time slot, but only about 10 percent of the normal HNiC audience was tuning in.

Saddest news

Larry Merchant called his final fight card for HBO on Saturday after a 35-year career with the network. Merchant, 81, did some work on shows such as Inside the NFL, Real Sports and the old Inside Boxing, but he was best known for sitting ringside for HBO's boxing coverage.

The network did a cool retrospective of Merchant's career, then let Merchant say goodbye with a brief monologue.

I'm sad to see Merchant go. Sometimes I disagreed vehemently with his opinions. Sometimes, his style was holier-than-thou. Sometimes he acted like he was the smartest guy in the room.

But, always, he was straight-forward. He said what he believed and made no apologies for it. And he was as intelligent of a broadcaster as you could find.

Reports are that Merchant and HBO are parting on good terms, so, hopefully, HBO will have him back from time to time.

Best comeback

A few weeks ago, CBS's NFL Today stumbled badly by not leading off its pregame show with the news of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then himself. But the next week, the show led off with the disturbing news that the Cowboys' Josh Brent was allegedly driving while impaired and had a crash that killed passenger and teammate Jerry Brown.

Then Sunday, the show appropriately and respectfully looked around the NFL to see how teams and players were paying respect to the victims of Friday's school shootings in Connecticut.

Best counter argument

I love Jeff Van Gundy's work. The ABC/ESPN NBA analyst will say anything, and he doesn't care who he tweaks, upsets or snubs. Take last week when he tore into the Lakers and blamed the players, not the coaches.

"Mike Brown, unjustly blamed," Van Gundy said. "They were actually good on offense, percentage-wise, when he was fired. He was a terrific coach. Then Bernie Bickerstaff took over. Now they're on their third coach (Mike D'Antoni). It's not a coaching issue for L.A., and it never has been. It's a players issue."

Know who has been saying just the opposite, that it is a coaching issue? None other than Magic Johnson, a co-host on ESPN/ABC's pregame show. Van Gundy hardly cared that he was contradicting an analyst on his own network.

That's why I love Van Gundy's work.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Hey, did you see the two college football bowl games over the weekend? Yeah, me neither.

2. Speaking of bowls, did you realize there are six bowls that have something to do with food, and that does not count the Fight Hunger Bowl?

3. Every time I see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Don Fehr, I want to clank their heads together Three Stooges style.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Hey, did you see the two college football bowl games over the weekend? Yeah, me either.

2. Speaking of bowls, did you realize there are six bowls that have something to do with food, and that does not count the Fight Hunger Bowl?

3. Every time I see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Don Fehr, I want to clank their heads together Three Stooges style.

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Shooting from the lip 12/16/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 16, 2012 10:22pm]
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