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At least he's got faith in U.S. golf
By SHARON GINN
Published September 22, 2006
You would think one of the most outspoken analysts in sports would do what most other pundits have done to the U.S. Ryder Cup team this year: criticize, pile on, then criticize some more.
The skepticism about how the Americans will match up with the Europeans has been deserved, certainly. But NBC's Johnny Miller has a bit of a different take.
"I really think the U.S. is due to have a good Ryder Cup," Miller said during a conference call Thursday. "There's no real reason to say that. I just feel (it).
"It might be the weakest team in who knows (how long), at least on paper, but they've still got enough great players that if they play clutch golf and play together as a team, they can win. And I believe they will."
Sure, Miller and the NBC crew might be trying to pump up the team in hopes of pumping up the ratings during the early frenzy of football season (though that doesn't usually seem to be Miller's style).
On the flip side, however, the TV talking heads have had access to the team this week and say they see a difference from 2004, when the Europeans crushed the Americans 18½ points to 9½ points in a tournament that was over well before Sunday.
"I would say (the U.S.) victory last year in the President's Cup has done a little to restore their faith in themselves," course reporter Roger Maltbie said.
"They are loose, which is good to see, but there's no question they have something to prove. I think there's a certain sense of urgency on their part. ... I do like their frame of mind entering the competition."
So does Miller, although characteristically he was not shy about his assessment of the team assembled by captain Tom Lehman. He summarized them as "three guys firing 50-millimeter cannons" - those being Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk - "and nine guys shooting BB guns."
What should make the difference, Miller said, is how well the teams of Woods/Furyk and Mickelson/Chris DiMarco play together.
"The U.S. is not going to win the Ryder Cup unless those guys win 70 percent of their matchups," he said.
"You look at this one and you say with the rookies on the team, 'Hey, I don't see any way they can win.' But somehow, I just believe in the law of averages. At some point Woods and Mickelson have to have a great Ryder Cup."
Woods, especially, seems to finally believe in the importance of the Ryder Cup, Miller said.
Normally Woods and Mickelson have a hard time getting up for a September event after a long season on the PGA Tour, but Woods has been so dominant that he knows the outcome could rest on his performance, Miller said.
"Knowing Tiger Woods, he's finally thinking that this is his team," Miller said. "The patriarchs of the team are all gone now, and ... Lehman has even said (to him), 'This is your team.' "
Today's tape-delayed coverage begins at 8 a.m. on USA and airs until 6 p.m.
Saturday's coverage from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on NBC (Ch. 8) will be tape delayed, but Sunday's coverage from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on NBC will be live.
There won't be much new to the broadcast, other than the fact that NBC's Dottie Pepper is part of the coverage for the first time as a reporter. This event isn't about showcasing technology anyway, producer Tommy Roy said.
"It's about covering the drama," Roy said. "It's the one time (players) really bare their souls for us."
CHECK IT OUT
Monday Night Football, which looks like a ratings winner for ESPN, is airing the unbeaten New Orleans Saints' sure-to-be-compelling return to the Louisiana Superdome on Monday as they take on the Atlanta Falcons (2-0 as well). Most of ESPN's programming, including SportsCenter, Cold Pizza and Pardon the Interruption, will originate from New Orleans.
This week's Monday Night Football game (Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars) had higher ratings than the season premiere, which had been the network's most-watched show ever.
Monday's game earned a cable rating of 10.6 and was seen by 13.3-million, Nielsen Media Research said. That's 800,000 more viewers than the previous week. Locally, the game had a 9.2 cable rating.
Meanwhile, in the battle of badly beatens, Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson will call the Carolina Panthers at Bucs game for Fox (Ch. 13) at 1 p.m. Sunday. The game will be aired in 17 percent of markets nationwide.
- Fox made it official this week, saying Fox NFL Sunday analyst (and former Miami Hurricanes coach) Jimmy Johnson will serve as main studio analyst for its coverage of the Bowl Championship Series, alongside host Chris Rose. The lineup will be filled by one or two active, yet-to-be-determined college coaches.
- OLN, formerly Outdoor Life Network, becomes Versus on Monday, reflecting its emphasis on NHL coverage. Versus begins its hockey coverage Oct. 4 with the Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes.
- ESPN's College GameDay (10 a.m. Saturday) will include an interview with Florida quarterback Chris Leak by contributor Desmond Howard and a report from Miami on the heat on Hurricanes coach Larry Coker.
- For those who love lovable losers, HBO will air Wait 'Til Next Year: The Saga of the Chicago Cubs (10 p.m. Tuesday). The network examines why the team remains in the top 10 in attendance year after year and what has transpired in the 98 years since it won a World Series title.
- On ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown (11 a.m.), reporter Greg Garber examines Chris Simms' performance in the first two weeks and the relationship between Simms and Bucs coach Jon Gruden.
Sunday's NBC broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys' 27-10 victory over the Washington Redskins earned solid ratings.
Sunday Night Football earned an 11.9 household rating, 10 percent higher than Monday Night Football's Week 2 broadcast of the same teams last year (the Redskins won 14-13).
HE SAID IT
"The offense reminds me of those offenses that wore orange a long time ago."
- JEROME BETTIS, NBC analyst, on the Bucs' woeful start
COLFB: UF-Tenn., CBS 12.9
COLFB: Notre Dame-Mich., NBC 5.4
COLFB: Auburn-LSU, CBS 4.8
COLFB: Miami-Louisville, ABC 4.1
COLFB: Cincinnati-Ohio St., ABC 2.4
MLB: Red Sox-Yankees, Fox 2.2
COLFB: Ark.-Vanderbilt, Ch. 38 1.3
COLFB: Duke-Va. Tech, Ch. 44 1.1
COLFB: Nebraska-USC, ABC 1.0
COLFB: Clemson-FSU, ESPN 5.3
PGA: Lumber Classic, ESPN .6
COLFB: BYU-BC, ESPN2 .6
COLFB: Ariz. St.-Colo., TBS .5
COLFB: Texas A&M-Army, ESPN2 .3
COLFB: Texas-Rice, ESPN2 .2
MLB: Rays-Blue Jays, FSN FL .1
COLFB: Marshall-Kansas St., SUN .1
NFL: Bucs-Falcons, Fox 25.7
NFL: Redskins-Cowboys, NBC 12.7
NFL: Patriots-Jets, CBS 12.4
NFL: Bills-Dolphins, CBS 3.5
Pro Bull Riding, Fox 2.8
NASCAR: N.H. 300, TNT 2.7
MLB: Red Sox-Yankees, ESPN 1.6
PGA: Lumber Classic, ESPN .3
MLB: Marlins-Braves, TBS .3
MLB: Rays-Blue Jays, FSN FL .2
MLS: Chicago-D.C., ESPN2 .1
National television ratings for this past weekend were not available.