03/27/15 The Heater
New Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred visited the Rays last week and also turned up on WDAE 620-AM. While discussing the Rays future in Tampa Bay, Manfred said the usual yada-yada about the team needing support from local government, corporate sponsors and the fans.
The area is 0-for-3. The city of St. Petersburg plods along, really coming up with no solutions so far in dealing with the Rays request to explore stadium locations in Tampa. The area seems to lack the number of rich corporate sponsors that most baseball teams need to thrive. And, as far as the fans, let's face it, not enough people go to the games....
All the best stories have a villain. • Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter. The Joker. • Same with sports. It's more fun — and, when you think about it, often more emotional — when you root against one team rather than root for another. • Everyone loves to root against somebody — the Yankees, the Cowboys, Notre Dame, whomever. • And that brings us to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which resumes tonight with 16 teams left playing for the title. • Normally there is no program more loathed, more despised, more hated than Duke — that goody-two shoes program run by the most loathed, despised and hated coach in the land in Mike Krzyzewski. And if these were normal circumstances, most college hoops fans would be pulling out their voodoo dolls and whipping up their whammy curses to make sure Coach K and Duke limped back to Tobacco Road well short of a national championship. • Not this year. This year is anything but normal. This year, fans have another target, another team and another coach to detest: • Kentucky and coach John Calipari....
03/22/15 Lightning Strikes
Last week the Panthers' Jaromir Jagr scored his 718th goal to move past Lightning founder Phil Esposito for fifth on the NHL's all-time list. It's too bad Esposito has fallen out of the top five, though the guess is Espo won't think it's that big of a deal. But it's moments like this when we have to remind ourselves just how much of a beast Esposito was as a player. In these parts, we think of Esposito starting the Lightning and now being a fun analyst on Lightning game broadcasts on the radio. We think of that big smile, his hilarious stories and the way he is so approachable....
03/21/15 Lightning Strikes
• For the first time, ESPN was the nation's most-watched cable network in prime time, averaging 2.3 million viewers for 2014. The USA network was the most watched for the previous nine years.
• Most nationally televised NHL playoff games this spring will air on NBC and the NBC Sports Network, but look for a few to end up on USA.
• Starting Monday, Highly Questionable, the show hosted by Dan Le Batard; his dad, Gonzalo, and Bomani Jones, shifts from ESPN2 to ESPN. It will air at 4:30 p.m....
It always seems ridiculous to suggest that a college team could beat a pro team in any sport. You could take the very worst team in any pro sport and have them go up against the best college team ever and the pro team, I always believed, would absolutely destroy the college team.
But last week, SMU coach Larry Brown not only suggested that this year's Kentucky basketball team could win a game against an NBA team, but win a lot of games against a lot of NBA teams....
03/21/15 The Heater
Former big-leaguer Orestes Destrade, now a Rays pre- and post-game analyst on Sun Sports, is known for holding a baseball while on camera. When he started doing this in 2012, I wrote an item in the Tampa Bay Times calling it "annoying'' and "distracting.''
Well, Destrade told me last week that he had no plans on making it his "thing'' but changed his mind when he saw the item in the Times. Then he decided to do it all the time....
Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, whose program is in trouble with the NCAA for various violations, says he might stay on for another three seasons. What an awful idea. Boeheim built the Syracuse program. He is Syracuse basketball, and you can understand that he wants to go out under his own terms. But if he truly cares about the program, he needs to step down. Right now.
How in the world is he going to recruit when everyone knows there's a ticking clock on his career? Hanging on as a lame-duck coach can only send the program into a spiral....
It's very difficult to believe that the NFL is cool with FSU quarterback Jameis Winston not going to the draft next month. Reports are that Winston might stay at home in Alabama so he can celebrate likely being the No. 1 overall pick by the Bucs on April 30 with family and friends.
The NFL is now farming out the draft to various cities to drum up even more interest in it. This year's is in Chicago. So you have one of the league's marquee events in a new venue and the NFL doesn't mind that the featured star of opening night is not going to be on hand for the biggest moment?...
An estimated 40 million people filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket this week. But there aren't 40 million people watching college basketball games every week. Heck, only 4.2 million watched a recent game between Duke and North Carolina, typically one of the great showdowns and most-viewed games of the season.
Which leads me to this conclusion: It's not college basketball that we love. It's March Madness. We love the NCAA Tournament....
03/17/15 Lightning Strikes
The Lightning's dominance of division rival — and potential playoff foe — Montreal continued Monday night and there were three sequences that cemented Tampa Bay's 4-2 victory.
First period: Steven Stamkos, off the dumbest yet prettiest pass you'll ever see from Montreal's Max Pacioretty, cranked a wicked slap shot past MVP-candidate goalie Carey Price to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead....
PALM HARBOR — He graduated in 2011. High school, that is.
So, yeah, he's really just a kid, a mere 21 years old. And most 21-year-olds have no idea what they want to be when they grow up.
But Jordan Spieth knows. He wants to the best golfer in the world. Better than Tiger. Better than Phil. Better than Rory.
Better than everyone.
It's not the crazy dream of some foolish kid who doesn't realize how hard that is. When you watch Spieth do the things he did Sunday at the Valspar Championship, you start to think he's well on his way to fulfilling it....
Be sure to check out ESPN's newest 30 for 30 documentary, I Hate Christian Laettner. Debuting at 9 Sunday night, it is a look at one of the most hated players from one of the nation's most hated college programs, Duke. Directed by Rory Karpf, the film is a fun walk down memory lane through Laettner's time with the iconic Duke teams of the early 1990s. But it also does a nice job looking into the psychology of why fans hated Laettner and Duke....
Who is the baddest (in a scary way) person on the planet? Hands down, it's Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy.
I bring her up because she just signed a contract extension with CBS Syndicated. It's believed the deal is for $188 million, which averages out to about $47 million per year. The web site, Sports Grid, figured that makes her better paid than Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw ($30.7 million per year), Nats pitcher Max Scherzer ($30 million), soccer star Wayne Rooney ($26 million) and new Cubs ace Jon Lester ($25 million)....
Lots of controversy last year at Fox when NFL reporter Pam Oliver was taken off the No. 1 announcing crew and put on the No. 2 announcing team. Erin Andrews was put with the top crew and there were allegations that Oliver was demoted because of her age (she is now 54) or because of looks — that Fox wanted what it might have perceived as a more attractive Andrews on the No. 1 announcing team. I thought those claims were unfair. Maybe the real issue was Oliver's work didn't warrant her being on the top announcing team....
On Thursday, actor Will Ferrell suited up for 10 major-league teams and played all nine positions. However, former NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden had a big problem with it.
"I hate it,'' Madden said during a radio interview with KCBS-AM. "That's a lack of respect, that's a lack of respect for the game."
Madden needs to grab a cheeseburger and relax over there away from the rest of us. First off, Ferrell's day was to raise money for college scholarships for cancer survivors....