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Shooting from lip: Collinsworth's kiss-up, analyzing Dez Bryant catch reversal

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers gets a little too much game-day love from Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers gets a little too much game-day love from Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Published Jan. 12, 2015

tom jones' two cents

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

Boldest announcer

Questioning play calls. Putting people in the Hall of Fame while they are still playing. Offering excuses for injured players (well, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, anyway). Man, Fox NFL announcer Joe Buck sure sounds like an analyst, not a play-by-play man.

Not saying that's a bad thing. Buck is a sharp guy and has called enough games to know what he's watching, and you want him to relay pertinent, interesting thoughts. Just saying he's a little more out there than most announcers.

Buck and partner Troy Aikman went way overboard praising Rodgers for dealing with a calf injury and playing well against the Cowboys in Sunday's NFC playoff game. What, Rodgers is the only guy who has played an NFL game while banged up?

Best stiff arm

Wow, if Hannah Storm should ever lose her job as an ESPN anchor, she might make it as an NFL running back, judging by her excellent stiff-arm skills. On Sunday morning, Storm was surprisingly put on camera just as a makeup person was trying to apply something with what looked to be a lip pencil. Storm, realizing she was on camera, shoved away the person's arm. The shove was hard enough that Storm had to explain it on Twitter:

"The makeup artist (a good friend of mine ) would have gotten in major trouble had she been seen on air. Hence, the stiff arm to protect her.''

Hey, at least she gives better quotes than the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch.

Worst imitation

Sunday's NFC playoff game between the Cowboys and Packers was the first time the teams met in the playoffs at Green Bay since the legendary Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship Game. The temperature in that game reached 15 degrees below zero. It was cold Sunday in Green Bay, but not that cold. Temperatures were in the mid 20s. It was warm enough that Fox probably shouldn't have tried to refer to the game (including in graphics) as "Ice Bowl II.''

ESPN's NFL Postseason Countdown (the playoff version of Sunday NFL Countdown) did a feature on the Ice Bowl. Legendary Packers Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer were in it. It was a nice walk down memory lane, but there was really nothing new. That's not a big knock against ESPN. After all, the network knew for only a few days the teams would meet Sunday.

Worst moment

On one hand, you want to give NBC and the announcing duo Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth credit for bringing up a sensitive topic, which was the official report, released last week, reviewing the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice (right) domestic abuse case. The two, who I believe make up the best announcing team by far in football, did so while calling Saturday night's Patriots-Ravens AFC playoff game.

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But the whole thing turned into an embarrassing mess for NBC, and especially Collinsworth.

First, Michaels sounded as if he was speed reading from a statement. That was bad enough.

It got worse.

I was stunned to hear Collinsworth say, "The decision to suspend initially Ray Rice for two games was a mistake. Roger Goodell (right) has admitted that, but I never once in all my dealings with the commissioner ever doubted his integrity, and I think that came out in the report as well."

I half-expected the commissioner's face to pop on the screen with the voice-over, "I'm Roger Goodell, and I approve this message.''

Look, it's doubtful this topic was the idea of Michaels and Collinsworth. And Collinsworth is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he should know that he sounded like a total lackey for Goodell and the NFL.

It was a bad and rare misstep for the usually tight NBC broadcast.

Best criticism

While NBC's Cris Collinsworth was kissing up to the NFL during Saturday night's Patriots-Ravens AFC playoff game, ESPN's Jemele Hill brought out the big hammer to crush the NFL over the Mueller report, which investigated the league's handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case and was released last week.

On Sunday's Sports Reporters, Hill let the NFL have it: "A big lie wasn't told, but make no mistake, a deception occurred. (Commissioner Roger) Goodell assured the public the NFL did everything it could to get to the bottom of things, but this report shows that he nor his lazy operatives cared that a woman was abused. So congratulations, NFL. You aren't liars. You're just heartless and incompetent.''

That's how you do it!

Best feature

Nice work by ESPN's Jade McCarthey on her story about Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (right). The piece looked at how Anderson's college work in philosophy has helped to give him a renewed purpose in life. It also focused on what an avid reader Anderson is. That's good stuff, especially for kids to see how a great athlete enjoys reading.

Best guest

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (right) joined ESPN on Sunday to serve as a guest analyst on Postseason NFL Countdown. He did a pretty good job. The best part, however, was when he was interviewed by Wendi Nix, who asked Stafford about the controversial noninterference call in the Lions' loss to the Cowboys in last weekend's wild-card round of the playoffs.

"It's still tough to swallow, but it is what it is,'' Stafford said.

Don't people say "it is what it is'' when something really bad has happened? You never hear someone who just won the lottery say, "Yeah, well, it is what it is.''

Stafford added, "The thing that frustrated me most was that it was called … and then it was brought back kind of inexplicably.''

To Stafford's credit, he pointed out that the Lions still could have found other ways to win that game.

Biggest call

Superb work by Fox to get all angles on the controversial call of Sunday: the Cowboys' Dez Bryant (right) making a catch inside the Green Bay 1-yard line, then having the call overturned by replay in the NFC playoff game.

Based on the letter of the law, my initial instinct was that the replay got it right, that it should not have been a catch. During the postgame show, Fox brought in rules official Mike Pereira, who did a great job explaining why that should not have been a catch.

Having said all that, I'll add this: That should be a catch. The league has gone overboard with some of these rules and needs to use common sense. Common sense says Bryant did catch that ball.

Before the Cowboys say that call cost them a game, remember two things. One, they got a big break last weekend against the Lions. And, two, the Packers still would have had time Sunday to win that game, and frankly, I think the Packers would have gone down and scored to win.

Three things that popped into my head

1. The Lightning's Tyler Johnson absolutely deserves to be an All-Star, although I'm surprised (pleasantly) that he was selected for the game.

2. Think of all the popular athletes Tampa Bay has lost in the past couple of years: Ben Zobrist, Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, David Price and Davin Joseph.

3. Now that Zobrist has been traded, who is the best-liked athlete in Tampa Bay? Based on the emails I get, maybe Gerald McCoy (top right), maybe Steven Stamkos.

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