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Tom Jones' Two Cents: Shooting from the lip

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

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Someday I'll stop writing so much about how good ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is. Maybe when he stops being so good.

Each week he is on, he is so compelling that one cannot write a column about the best announcing of the weekend and not go on and on about him.

Sometimes he rants. Sometimes he raves. On Sunday, he went on a controlled diatribe about the problems of the Lakers, particularly Dwight Howard. Van Gundy has blown up Howard on recent telecasts, and it's no secret that he isn't happy that Howard had much to do with Stan Van Gundy, Jeff's brother, getting fired as the coach in Orlando.

But Jeff Van Gundy spent much of Sunday's weekly Howard speech talking about just how good Howard is, adding: "I would love to coach a guy with his talent and basketball IQ. … He's the best center in the NBA."

Van Gundy's larger point was that Howard is spending too much time talking about and fretting over off-the-court comments about team chemistry.

"Man," Van Gundy said, "just make it easy on yourself and play ball."

Oh, Van Gundy said he sympathized with Lakers star Pau Gasol, who isn't starting these days, but added, "If Manu Ginobili can come off the bench in San Antonio and not say one word, so can you."

Best and worst coverage

Nice touch by Sun Sports to carry Friday night's pregame ceremony in which the Lightning honored captain Vinny Lecavalier, left, for his 1,000th NHL game.

On the other hand, I'm not a fan of the network's studio show for road games for one reason only: studio location. For Lightning road games, the studio show with host Paul Kennedy and Chris Dingman airs from South Florida. (The Rays' road games also had a studio show from the South Florida location.)

You might say, what's the difference if Kennedy and Dingman are in a room inside the building where the Lightning is playing or a room 500 miles away? They are still doing the same things: analyzing and showing highlights.

Fair enough. But it just feels … weird. Feels like they are broadcasting from the moon.

Biggest jerk

I didn't need to hear this story to believe that Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini, left, seems like a guy I wouldn't want my son to play for. His hair-trigger temper is legendary, but now it's also classless, if you believe this report from the Orlando Sentinel:

A top recruit decommitted and at least had the decency to call Pelini and receivers coach Rich Fisher to inform them himself. The recruit said the coaches were "very mad." Pelini, according to the recruit, said: "Best of luck. You're going to need it." Fisher said, "I can't believe you!"

Really? A teenager changed his mind while trying to make a tough decision that will affect his life and you're going to give him a hard time? Shame on those two.

Oh, and if it is true, then I think it's only fair that neither of those guys ever leaves Nebraska for another coaching job. Only seems fair, don't you think?

Best criticism

My favorite tennis analyst is John McEnroe because of his combination of candor, humor and insight. His brother, Patrick, above, is second on my list.

During the women's semifinals of the Australian Open on ESPN, Victoria Azarenka got a case of the jitters and could not close out Sloane Stephens despite having five match points in the second set. All of a sudden, Azarenka had a medical issue. She took a 10-minute timeout, and no one is clear what for. It might have been a panic attack. It might have been that she was overheated.

Or, just maybe, she needed time to settle her nerves. Azarenka calmed down, returned to the court and closed out the match.

But Patrick McEnroe saw right through it and called her medical leave "bush league." Later, he tweeted: "So let me get this straight. She had a lot of nerves and that's why she left the court. Unbelievable."

Azarenka's reputation took a huge hit and her opponent in the final, Li Na, was the crowd favorite even as Azarenka won.

Meantime, the midmatch injury timeout issue now has some tennis followers wondering if such timeouts should be allowed.

Worst luck

Poor CBS. Its luck went from really good to simply awful on Saturday.

CBS was supposed to kick off its 2013 PGA coverage and it caught a huge break when ratings giant Tiger Woods took a two-shot lead going into Saturday's third round of the Farmers Insurance Open, the first time in five years that Woods had the 36-hole lead to himself.

But the first day of CBS's golf season was wiped out because of dense fog.

So CBS dusted off the broadcast of a 2011 tournament and aired that instead on Saturday. I don't get it. You're a major network. Golf tournaments frequently have weather delays. Can't you put together original golf programming ahead of time and have it ready to run in case there are weather problems?

And this isn't to point the finger at CBS. All the networks simply pull out tape from a recent tournament.

You know, the networks see their ratings dip when the superstars, especially Woods, are not in the running. Why not use these weather delays to introduce viewers to up-and-comers on the PGA Tour and, perhaps, viewership wouldn't fall off the cliff whenever Woods doesn't play or isn't in contention.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Not a great time to be a Boston sports fan. The Red Sox are coming off two embarrassing seasons. The Patriots lost the AFC title game at home and now haven't won a Super Bowl since February 2005. And now the Celtics' run appears to be over with the news that point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

2. It is a great time to be a San Francisco bay area sports fan with the 49ers in the Super Bowl, the Giants winning the World Series and terrific starts by the Warriors and Sharks.

3. Gregg Williams agreed to become the Titans assistant head coach even though he still is suspended for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal? How does that work?

Biggest switch

The big news out of ESPN last week was reporter Rachel Nichols, who has been with the network for nine years, leaving for CNN/Turner Sports. She will cover all sports for CNN, including the Olympics and the upcoming Super Bowl. Most notably, Nichols will anchor a weekend sports program that will debut this year.

It's definitely a blow to ESPN, which has lost several high-profiled women in recent months. Reporter Erin Andrews left for Fox, show host Michelle Beadle departed for NBC and SportsCenter anchor Cindy Brunson left when her husband, former ESPN anchor Steve Berthiaume, took a job as announcer for the Diamondbacks.

ESPN still has female voices left — Hannah Storm, Sage Steele and Lindsay Czarniak, among others — but the departing personalities will be missed.

According to reports, ESPN made a strong offer to keep Nichols, who also attracted attention from other networks.

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Shooting from the lip 01/27/13 [Last modified: Sunday, January 27, 2013 10:19pm]
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