Shooting from the lip

Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, handing off to Doug Martin, was a focus of Sunday’s national pregame shows, from speculation about whether he wants to leave Tampa Bay to the significance of him not being named a team captain this season.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, handing off to Doug Martin, was a focus of Sunday’s national pregame shows, from speculation about whether he wants to leave Tampa Bay to the significance of him not being named a team captain this season.
Published Sept. 16, 2013

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

Strongest point

Hey, here's good news: The Bucs were all the buzz on the national pregame shows. The downside: It was for all the wrong reasons.

Josh Freeman's standing and future with the Bucs were the focal point. CBS's Jason LaCanfora reported that Freeman is so unhappy that he wants a trade.

Meantime, Fox's Michael Strahan said the quarterback not being named captain was a big deal.

"If he were never a team captain, then it would be something," Strahan said. "But the fact that he was (the previous three seasons) and was voted out by the players, it says a lot about maybe not just on the field, but maybe what they think of him off the field."

Best point

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has become Public Enemy No. 1 in the NFL for his repeated dirty hits, including one just a week ago in the season opener when he undercut a Vikings lineman with a low block and was fined $100,000. (By the way, CBS pregame analyst Boomer Esiason called the fine "woefully soft.")

But Fox analyst Howie Long said, "If Ndamukong Suh lined up next to me in 1985, he'd be revered. Someone needs to show him a newspaper. It's 2013 and the reality is, they're going to take your money and inevitably they're doing to sit you down."

Best idea

Looks like moving the men's U.S. Open tennis final to Monday was a good idea after all. Not only did the move alleviate the complaints of players who felt the schedule near the end of the tournament was unfair, but it apparently didn't impact the television ratings either.

The Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic final drew a 2.2 rating, which was up 22 percent over last year's final and also up from 2011 and 2010, although it should be noted that all those finals also were held on Mondays because of weather.

Still, a 2.2 rating isn't bad and certainly good enough that the U.S. Open likely will stick with the Monday men's final.

Best bragging

Not to endorse trash-talking, but you got to love a guy who actually trash talks about his trash-talking.

During an interview with NBC's Bob Costas for Football Night in America, 49ers wide receiver and former Florida State standout Anquan Boldin said, "If you see me get to jawing, it's probably not a good situation for whoever's on the other side."

Worst decision

Fox is showing support for NASCAR analyst Michael Waltrip despite the scandal surrounding the race team he co-owns. His team was fined $300,000, general manager Ty Norris was suspended and driver Martin Truex was removed from the Chase for the Championship after his team's late-race actions last week went against what NASCAR said was the spirit of competition.

Waltrip is a Fox prerace analyst and, apparently, the network will stick with him. In a statement, Fox said it was disappointed in what happened, pleased with NASCAR's swift and severe action, and called Waltrip a "man of integrity."

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Still, this incident again amplifies just how ridiculous that a driver/owner is serving as an analyst on a major network's pregame show. Could you imagine Fox paying an NFL owner such as Daniel Snyder or Jerry Jones to comment on other NFL teams? Wouldn't it wrong if NBA owner Mark Cuban or even star player LeBron James was working on TNT's pregame NBA show?

So why does Fox think it's okay to have Waltrip on, particularly after what just happened? I would think other Fox commentators would have a hard time criticizing an on-air colleague, which puts the credibility of the whole broadcast under question.

Worst idea

ESPN's Pardon the Interruption started this thing a while back that, during the commercial break, viewers would get a live peek-in at what hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were doing and saying.

Usually, it's a snippet of some sports-related talk, and it's actually quite entertaining for just a few seconds.

Well, Fox Sports 1 decided to try the same thing, but analyst Terry Bradshaw quickly showed a flaw in the idea. He dropped the trump card of swear words.

Fox had to apologize.

The ratings game

Saturday's showdown between Alabama and Texas A&M on CBS was the network's highest-rated afternoon regular-season college game in 23 years. (Not counting SEC Championship Games.)

The game drew an overnight rating of 9.0 with a 21 share. That means 9 percent of U.S. households with televisions and 21 percent of televisions on at the time were tuned into the game.

As far as the broadcast itself, the quality depends on your view of the announcing team of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson. If you like them, you thought Saturday's broadcast was fine. If you don't, then you likely hated it.

I'm a fan of the two, but I thought they had a so-so game. Danielson is suddenly fond of popping one-liners, which aren't bad, but aren't nearly as funny as Lundquist's guffaws make them out to be.

Three things that popped into my head

1. On one hand, I would hate to see cheater Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs, but on the other hand, the playoffs are much more interesting when the Yankees are involved. Wouldn't you love to see the Yanks and Rays in a one-game wild-card showdown? Sure beats Rays-Rangers.

2. Maybe Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (above) isn't the best guy in the world off the field, but on the field, I can watch him all Saturday long.

3. Florida State plays Bethune-Cookman this weekend. Really? Bethune-Cookman? Wasn't Plant High available? Or USF?

tom jones' two cents