tom jones' two cents
Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Silly me. • How dare I question the great and powerful Oprah? • Last week, I suggested that I would have rather have seen Bob Costas or Jeremy Schaap interview disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong instead of Oprah Winfrey. I wondered if Oprah had the backbone to get tough with Armstrong, one of the most notorious liars and bullies we have ever seen. • But give Winfrey an A for her interview. Right out of the gate, Winfrey asked a series of yes-or-no questions, demanding only yes-or-no answers. That tactic served two important purposes. It immediately got Armstrong to admit he doped and, just as intelligently, it established Winfrey as the one in charge of the conversation. • There were a few occasions when Winfrey cut off Armstrong when it sounded as if he was about to say something interesting, but that happens in lots of interviews. • If Winfrey could have done one thing a little better, she should have hammered on his responses about Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former teammate, and masseur Emma O'Reilly. He talked about how he sued them, treated them unfairly and needs to make amends with them, but Winfrey should have asked for more details. For example, Armstrong made ugly accusations about O'Reilly, calling her a prostitute (and worse), as well as an alcoholic. I think Winfrey let Armstrong off the hook on that. • Overall, however, Winfrey did a solid job. • I should have known she would.
No. 13 Butler stunned No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday when Roosevelt Jones stole an inbound pass at halfcourt with 3.5 seconds left, drove into the lane and hit a runner just before the buzzer. Of course, you know who was sitting courtside calling the game on ESPN2: Dick Vitale. His call went down like this: "Ohhh. Ohhh. OHHHH! OHHHHHH! I can't believe it! I can't believe it! Are you serious? Are you serious, America?" Some don't care for Vitale because they believe he's too much of a cheerleader, but in moments such as Saturday when he was going crazy among the Butler fans, Vitale made the moment even more special. And his boisterous call wasn't self-promotion. It was a genuine celebration of college basketball and a special moment. Vitale told me Sunday, "That's one of the five greatest moments I've had in my 34 years at ESPN."
Most touching moment
The Los Angeles Kings brought a family that lost a child in the Newtown, Conn., shootings last month to help them raise their Stanley Cup banner before Saturday's season opener. Great job by NBC to bring everyone the ceremony before switching its coverage to regional telecasts.
When I first heard that Katie Couric had been picked to conduct the first on-air interview with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o since it was revealed that his deceased girlfriend never existed, I thought, "Okay, that will be good." Couric is an experienced journalist and skilled interviewer.
But this is somewhat troublesome: According to reports, Couric is represented by a publicist named Matthew Hiltzik, who was hired by the Te'o family last week. So Couric and Te'o are represented by the same firm.
As much as Oprah Winfrey is getting good reviews for her interview with former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, it should be pointed out that Armstrong was a willing subject. For the most part, he answered all of Winfrey's questions and she didn't really have to push him too much, particularly on the basic questions of whether he cheated. If Te'o isn't quite as willing and cooperative when it comes to the difficult questions, will Couric get tough? Will she follow up? Will she push a little?
Couric has a stellar reputation. You would hate to see it take a hit over a story that, ultimately, really isn't important in the grand scheme of things.
Notre Dame claims to have done its own investigation into the Manti Te'o controversy. According to a report in the South Bend Tribune on Sunday, that so-called investigation did not include any interviews or review of emails or cellphone records. The story also reported that investigators did not even speak with Te'o, let alone his family or anyone associated with the person allegedly involved in the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Gee, what did these people do, just Google Te'o's name?
Seriously, did Fox really call its NFL postgame show on Sunday the "Yippie Kay Yay" postgame show because it was sponsored by the newest Die Hard movie? Ridiculous.
Good thing the show wasn't sponsored by some new Star Wars movie. Then it would have been called the "Let Our Self Respect Be With You" postgame show.
Then again, I do wish this year's Super Bowl was on Fox instead of CBS. That way we could listen to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman instead of Jim Nantz and the suddenly verbose Phil Simms.
ESPN anchor Stuart Scott announced on Twitter last week that the cancer he was diagnosed with in 2007 and recurred in 2010 has, again, returned. Scott continues to work, missing only Mondays when he was receiving chemotherapy. Meantime, Scott told USA Today that regardless of Lance Armstrong's admission of doping he is appreciative of the work Armstrong has done on behalf of cancer awareness.
"I don't care about a bike race," Scott said. "I'm fighting cancer and I'm trying to stay alive for my daughters. … His efforts that affected millions of people with cancer is his legacy. And you're not going to argue me off that."
Good stuff by CBS NFL Today insider Jason La Canfora on Sunday. This offseason, eight NFL head coaching jobs came open and none were filled by an African-American even though the "Rooney Rule" requires teams to interview at least one African-American candidate. La Canfora pointed out that many of the openings have been filled by offensive coordinators and there are few African-American offensive coordinators, so the Rooney Rule could be expanded so that African-Americans are considered for coordinator jobs as well as head coaching jobs.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I found it odd that people were surprised that Lance Armstrong didn't show much emotion or contrition in his interview with Oprah Winfrey. Isn't that the way this guy has operated his entire cycling career?
2. It's interesting that every day brings a new detail in the Manti Te'o controversy and whatever that detail is changes the general perception of whether Te'o was a victim or a perpetrator of the hoax. Here's the only thing I know for sure: I don't know anything.
3. Man, did I miss hockey.