Once upon a time, the NFL preseason was no big deal. You had the first game - the Hall of Fame Game - and maybe a nationally televised game here and there. Fans got to watch the hometown team play its four games, and that was about it. By the time the regular season rolled around, you had had just enough of the appetizer to leave you hungry for the regular season.
These days it seems like you've already had a hearty main course before the real season starts. By the end of the preseason, ESPN will have shown four games. Fox will have shown three. NBC and CBS will have shown two each. That's 11 games, plus three additional Bucs games shown locally, making 14 games that have been available to local fans. The list doesn't include a slew of games available to those who get the NFL Network.
That's too many. You could simply change the channel, but you have to question whether the NFL is oversaturating the market and lessening enthusiasm for the start of the regular season. TV ratings in the preseason and regular season suggest otherwise. Put football on TV in August or December and any time between, and people watch.
Still, wouldn't it be nice if the networks didn't show so many games that don't count so we could save our fervor for the ones that do?
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Last week, Sports Illustrated declared its issue "Brett Favre-free.'' The magazine put sprinter Usain Bolt on the cover, but in the upper-left corner was a purple and yellow No. 4 with a line through it. Inside, the magazine wrote a short story about the battle for the Vikings' backup quarterback job but did not mention Favre.
It was a funny idea even if it was a little dig at the national media, including one of its own. Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King supposedly has a close working relationship with Favre.
Speaking of Favre, many are now pointing out that Fox has hit the jackpot in the past few weeks with two of the more intriguing names in the game - Favre and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick - joining NFC teams. Fox shows NFC games, and the two QBs could give the network a ratings boost.
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Former Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson is no stranger to controversy, and Reggie, apparently, believes controversy has no statute of limitations. He went on a Miami radio station last week to complain about the ESPN movie about the Yankees' 1977 season, The Bronx Is Burning, which came out two years ago.
Jackson said he was never consulted by the filmmakers and that much of the film was a lie. He added that he considered suing ESPN.
"It was the most embarrassing portrayal I've ever had in my life,'' Jackson said. "I was humiliated. Um, sickening. I can't think of any more. ... I can't, I can't respond. I was sick to my stomach."
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Gators quarterback Tim Tebow gave a rather lengthy Q&A to the New York Times last week. He discussed topics including football and his decision to return to Florida (credited in part to Patriots coach Bill Belichik, who convinced him to do what he wanted to do), but the most interesting exchange revealed that Tebow, left, won't exactly be burning the midnight oil in the library in the fall. Check it out:
Q. How close are you to graduation?
A. I'm going to graduate in December.
Q. A light semester coming up, I assume?
Q. Ballroom dancing, like Matt Leinart?
A. (laughs) Easier.
Q. What do you have?
A. I guess the class that I would have is senior seminar. It's one hour and one credit. It's on Tuesday afternoons, and we have practice. I'm going to work around that with the professors. I'm going to do whatever my counselor sets up. I'm a football player this semester.
Q. The year that Matt Ryan, Colt Brennan and Dennis Dixon were seniors, all of them barely took classes. I realized what an advantage that is.
A. I'm really looking forward to that. I'll be in here just like a coach. I'll be in every game-plan meeting. I love that. I love being around everything.
Q. What's your GPA?
A. 3.72 in family, youth and community Service
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Speaking of Florida's Tim Tebow, add New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica to the list of those who worship at the Church of Tebow and the Gators. On Sunday's Sports Reporters, Lupica called Tebow among the greatest players in college football history.
"With all due respect to (Oklahoma QB) Sam Bradford and (Texas QB) Colt McCoy,'' Lupica said, "there have been a lot of Sam Bradfords and Colt McCoys. There has never been anybody ... like Tebow.''
Lupica wasn't done.
"I think that they can win again,'' Lupica said of Florida. "I think Florida has the best football coach, either pro or college, working today in Urban Meyer. If they win three (national titles) in four years, they take their place with the greatest teams ever.''
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Starting Tuesday, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, below, will begin a regular weekly appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning. The show can be heard locally on 1040-AM and seen on either ESPN2 or ESPNews from 6 to 10 a.m. Vitale is scheduled to be on around 7:30.
Vitale was recently chosen to be honored at the first John Wooden Pyramid of Success Awards, which celebrate athletes, executives, community leaders and others who make significant differences in their communities. The honorees also include Celtics forward Paul Pierce, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner and the late Rod Smith, who founded an NCAA-sanctioned summer amateur basketball league in Southern California. The awards banquet is Sept. 12 in Los Angeles.
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Three best things on TV over the weekend
1. The debut of the four-part HBO boxing series 24/7, which is counting down to the Sept. 19 fight between Floyd Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez. The first episode featured this classic line from the 39-0 Mayweather: "All 39 had a game plan. All 39 came up short.''
2. CBS's coverage of the Barclays golf tournament. Tiger Woods being in the running helped, but CBS didn't turn the broadcast into the "Tiger Woods Show,'' something that would've been easy to do and something that would've ruined the broadcast seeing as how Heath Slocum won.
3. CBS's coverage of Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the U.S. Open. The highlight was a highly entertaining skills competition for charity that included Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and actor Will Ferrell.