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St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
Published Sep. 14, 2009

What a treat for football fans to have Matt Millen, below, back in the broadcast booth. Millen is doing college football games for ABC/ESPN. He made his return Saturday with Sean McDonough for the Oklahoma State-Georgia game. (Millen also will call Thursday night games on the NFL Network this season.)

At one time Millen was known as "Baby Madden'' because he was thought to be the heir apparent to John Madden. Millen then left the booth for a stunningly bad turn running the Detroit Lions. The question he faces now is credibility. Why should viewers trust his analysis when he was so bad at running the Lions?

It's apples and oranges. Many factors went into the Lions becoming one of the NFL's worst teams. Millen knows football, and he knows how to relay what he knows to viewers in an informative, entertaining fashion. He's strong and quick with his opinions, and is constantly giving viewers information to chew on. That's what a good analyst does, and Millen is one of the best in the business.

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Best show

Again, HBO's four-part boxing series 24/7, which follows training for upcoming fights, was the most compelling viewing on TV, even during the opening weekend of college football. The show now is following Floyd Mayweather, above top, and Juan Manuel Marquez, above left, as they prepare for their Sept. 19 fight. Saturday's second installment featured what ranks as one of the most bizarre and repugnant things seen on television. Marquez, as a part of his training routine, drank a glass of his urine.

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Weirdest plug

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King, who also is an analyst on NBC's Football Night in America pregame show, has a regular NFL update spot during halftime of NBC's Notre Dame coverage. And it was so uncomfortable to listen to King give his NFL news and then have halftime host Jimmy Roberts, with King right next to him, say, "The best way to keep up with the NFL is with Pro Football Talk and Mike Florio on''

NBC has a new deal with Pro Football Talk, but don't you think King might argue that the best way to keep up with the NFL is to follow him at Sports Illustrated?

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Funniest exchange

During Saturday's Fox baseball broadcast of the Red Sox and White Sox, cameras caught the White Sox's mascot teasing 5-foot-4 sideline reporter Ken Rosenthal. Announcer Kenny Albert said, "Ken, are you old enough to ride that ride?"

Rosenthal quickly answered: "The question is, am I tall enough?"

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Best exit

Thank goodness Maria Sharapova was knocked out of the U.S. Open on Saturday. Nothing against Sharapova's game, but her matches have become unwatchable because of her shrieking on every shot. I watched much of her match with my finger on the mute button. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal is almost as annoying with his grunting. Seems to me that if tennis wanted to eliminate this stuff, it would start awarding points to screamer's opponents. Bet it would take less than a set to solve the problem.

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Most underrated analyst

While John McEnroe and Mary Carillo carry CBS's coverage of the U.S. Open (and carry it very well), one of the big networks needs to pay attention to the work being done by Martina Navratilova on the Tennis Channel. At one time, Navratilova was as good at tennis as any athlete has been in his or her sport. She was as good at tennis as Michael Jordan was at basketball and Babe Ruth was at baseball. When you were that good at something, and you know you were that good, then you aren't afraid to say anything. Navratilova is respectful of players, but she also isn't afraid to offer brutally honest criticism. And she doesn't do it arrogantly. Bottom line: She tells it like she sees it. In the future, she needs to be calling Grand Slam finals for one of the major networks.

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Best point

As the Rays' bullpen was melting down again Sunday, Rays radio announcer Dave Wills pointed the finger exactly where it needed to be pointed. Sure, Wills said, Russ Springer gave up a losing grand slam to the Tigers' Brandon Inge, but it was set up by walks issued by Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell. "Those were the killers,'' Wills said. Team announcers - including the Rays' sometimes - often try to make excuses for the home team, but it was refreshing to hear Wills go out of his way to point out what had gone wrong. And kudos, too, to TV sideline reporter Todd Kalas for mentioning that if the bullpen had done its job in the past month, the Rays might be only a game or two out of a playoff spot.

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Best sight

Less than four months after having a stroke, ESPN's Lee Corso, below, was back in his familiar spot between Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit on College GameDay on Saturday. Minor signs of his stroke are evident. Corso speaks a bit slower and with a slight slur, but they're barely noticeable because Corso's mind, enthusiasm and opinions remain as sharp as ever. Desmond Howard, the fourth member of the GameDay crew, had more of a role than in the past, perhaps to take some of the burden off Corso. As Corso's health continues to improve, ESPN needs to go back to having just Fowler, Herbstreit and Corso dominate the conversation. Those three are responsible for making College GameDay as good of a sports show as there is on television.

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Funniest line

"What this proves to me is Penn State would win the Mid-American Conference very easily.''

ESPN's Lou Holtz, during highlights of Penn State's 31-7 victory against Akron

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Strangest line

"Atlanta is a mecca for college football.''

ABC's Brent Musberger

Atlanta? Really? A mecca? South Bend, Ind., is a mecca. And State College, Pa. And Austin, Texas. And Ann Arbor, Mich., and, these days, Gainesville. Atlanta just has a really nice domed stadium. Nice city, but not the first place you think of when you think of college football, is it?

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Three things that popped into my head

1. I'm sick of hearing about how good the Rays' bullpen ERA has been for most of this season. And I'm also sick of hearing people blame manager Joe Maddon for the bullpen's woes. It's not like he is looking into the bullpen and pointing to Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon or even Brian Fuentes.

2. Oregon's LeGarrette Blount deserved to be suspended for the season for punching a Boise State player Thursday. But that player - Byron Hout, left - deserves to be suspended for a game for taunting Blount and inciting the whole mess.

3. Just wondering, but is it possible that the Tampa Bay Lightning might turn out to be the best pro sports team in the area this year?