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Weekend's sports TV highs and lows

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best idea

We're now three episodes into HBO's 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic.

It's entertaining but not quite up to the level of the previous ones leading up to the New Year's Day outdoor game. It's starting to feel a little stale with the same stuff over and over. You can stand only so many expletive-laced intermission pep talks from coaches and only so many shots of players at home with their families.

The parts of the show I find most interesting are the things said by players, officials and coaches on the ice during the game. The highlight of Saturday's episode was listening to Toronto's David Clarkson (top left) and Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi (bottom left) in an R-rated conversation about a water bottle. Bertuzzi hit the bottle that normally sits on top of the Leafs' net.

Clarkson: "(Expletive). Don't hit (the goalie's) bottle."

Bertuzzi: "His water bottle was on the (expletive) ground."

Clarkson: "I don't give a (expletive)."

Bertuzzi: "Don't worry about a (expletive) water bottle."

Clarkson: "I am worried about a (expletive) water bottle. It's our (expletive) water bottle. Don't (expletive) touch it."

Bertuzzi: "I'll buy you one."

Clarkson: "Okay, perfect, you buy me one."

Later, the two argued more about the bottle, and the conversation was hilarious. And mesmerizing.

This again prompts me to suggest an idea that is not original but is worthwhile for a league constantly trying to attract more fans. The league already has games on NBC and the NBC Sports Network. Keep games on them for family viewing but have some games simulcast on a pay channel such as HBO or Showtime. Those broadcasts would have microphones to pick up every uncensored conversation that goes on between players, coaches and officials. You wouldn't watch that?

Most tasteless

It's not surprising that Fox NFL Sunday gets the award for the most inappropriate comment of the weekend. I missed it the first time around, but during a review of the year in predictions with comedian Rob Riggle, the show ran a joke involving the improper use of a CPR dummy.

Now, I'm not a prude, and I am a fan of Riggle, but this comment was made during the noon hour on a Sunday. Think maybe kids might have been watching? Shame on Fox. Time to grow up, boys, and make this a show you can be proud of.

One list

Fox NFL Sunday reporter Jay Glazer said today's "Black Monday'' won't be as dark as in years past, with not as many coaches being fired as you might think.

Glazer reported that the Bucs' Greg Schiano is "safe,'' as are Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Tom Coughlin (Giants) and Joe Philbin (Dolphins).

Among the coaches Glazer said he believed would be fired: Leslie Frazier (Vikings), Jim Schwartz (Lions) and Mike Shanahan (Redskins).

In the "maybe'' category were Dennis Allen (Raiders), Rex Ryan (Jets) and Mike Munchak (Titans).

Meantime, after the Jets beat the Dolphins, CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf said it would be an "utter folly'' if Ryan was fired. And it looks like he won't be.

Strongest comment

CBS NFL Today analyst Bill Cowher said Peyton Manning (above) is the greatest quarterback who has ever lived, and he said it while sitting next to Dan Marino.

"I will say he is the greatest, with all due respect to all the quarterbacks, because for what he did for 15 years,'' Cowher said. "He called the plays. He set the protections. He was, indeed, an offensive coordinator and did it for 15 years throwing nothing less than 26 touchdown passes. … He doesn't have to win another championship, in my mind, to be the best ever.''

Me? I'll still take Joe Montana. And Tom Brady. And John Elway. I'll take all those guys ahead of Manning.

Worst idea

There were five nationally televised NBA games on Christmas Day, and the ratings were strong despite a bunch of bad games involving a few worse-than-expected teams. But you know what? The NBA should scrap these games. I know it's tradition, but do we really need games on Christmas? Can't that be the one day during the year when we can leave our TVs off and, I don't know, talk to our families or maybe go out and do something nice for someone else?

Here's another reason to not have games on Christmas. Think of all the people who have to work. Not the players or coaches or even media. I'm talking about the concession workers and ushers and parking lot attendants and so forth. These people can't afford to take even one game off. And we're making them work on Christmas?

The NHL doesn't play on Christmas, as well as the day before and the day after. The NBA should follow suit.

Most boring

The name of the game in any professional sport is to win, so you can't blame any team for doing whatever it takes to win.

Having said that, man, are the Montreal Canadiens boring to watch. Watching them play Saturday night against the Lightning was like watching ants crawl.

It's no surprise the Canadiens are 21st in the 30-team league in scoring and 23rd in shots on goal.

Over the years I've covered some boring Lightning and Wild teams that had little interest in trying to score goals. The Canadiens are right there with some of those teams on the snooze-o-meter. They're a far cry from the proud, exciting, high-flyin' Canadiens of the old days.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Know what has to be frustrating for Rays fans? Japanese pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka becomes available and the Rays can't even afford the $20 million posting fee, let alone the fat contract it would take to sign him.

2. The big UFC card Saturday night sounded like a big deal if you follow MMA. Problem is, the UFC still is a niche sport and needs to think about putting a couple of these major cards on free TV. Going pay-per-view for the biggest cards is what boxing did, and boxing's mainstream popularity is way down compared with 20, 30 and 50 years ago.

3. The old Ray Lewis pregame pep talks in the NFL have been replaced by Drew Brees pep talks. This is to say the networks feel obligated to show every one of them, and every one of them is surprisingly bad and completely annoying.

tom jones' two cents

Weekend's sports TV highs and lows 12/29/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 29, 2013 9:28pm]
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