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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Shooting from the lip
Looking back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
By TOM JONES
Published February 26, 2007
Who is TV's newest most valuable performer? Who actually invented hockey? What team proves any publicity is good publicity? And what broadcast team sank to an embarrassing low Saturday night? Answers to these questions and more in a look back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
MVP of the weekend
I was never a big fan of Stephen A. Smith's recently canceled Quite Frankly on ESPN. But giving the bombastic Smith an expanded role on Sunday morning's SportsCenter was a brilliant move.
Smith is the show's version of Steve Nash: He can smoothly set up other reporters with solid questions or, if no one is open, he can take the shot himself. Sunday, for example, Smith made smooth transitions in separate and various segments with reporters John Clayton (NFL), Steve Phillips (baseball), Michael Wilbon (NBA) and Tim Cowlishaw (NASCAR). What I liked best is Smith challenged his guests without hogging the segment or embarrassing them. Then, late in the show, he gave his trademark, no-holds-barred commentary by saying Titans cornerback Pacman Jones, who recently was throwing money like confetti at a Vegas strip joint, should be suspended for a year.
Most awkward moment
On ESPN's Sports Reporters, the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan made fun of the NFL combine just minutes before ESPN had a live report from ... the NFL combine.
Least funny moment
I still cry myself to sleep at night knowing ESPN Classic no longer is making new episodes of the bitingly funny Cheap Seats by twins Randy and Jason Sklar. But the Sklars' new segment (the Bracket) on SportsCenter is forgettable stuff. For example, they had a bracket of the best acting jobs by athletes. (Dennis Rodman beat Shaq in the final, by the way.) The segment is too short and the topics aren't good enough to show off the Sklars' comedic talents. Bring back Cheap Seats!
Third time a charm?
Everyone is making fun of the Chargers for giving Norv Turner his third crack at being an NFL head coach. Maybe it's a mistake, but I can't help but think of how Joe Torre was considered a mediocre manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals then turned into a Hall of Famer when the Yankees gave him a fourth bite at the apple. Torre wasn't great until he got a great team. Maybe the same thing will happen with Turner.
Not really game of the year
The Ohio State-Wisconsin game would have been a lot more fun Sunday if it were like the old days when the conference winner made the NCAA Tournament and second place likely was NIT-bound.
Was it me or did NBC's coverage of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday seem to last about six months? From the time it came on until it was finished, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, cut the grass, played a round of golf myself, took a nap and shaved twice. In other words, here's a vote to cut the final from 36 holes to 18.
Thanks for coming
With Dwyane Wade out for, it looks like, the rest of the regular season, coach Pat Riley should feel free to take another sabbatical. The Heat is done and the Pistons can now make reservations for the final.
Most interesting idea
On ESPN's Outside the Lines, Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight spoke out against the rule that allows basketball players to enter the NBA one year after leaving high school. Knight points out that a player who knows he is going pro can take six hours of classes in the fall semester of college and not attend class in the spring and still remain eligible.
Knight's proposal: A high school senior who wants to go into the NBA has to declare for the draft by June 1 of his senior year and cannot play college ball. If he wants to leave after his freshman year of college, he wouldn't be eligible for the draft until after his sophomore year. That way, he at least has to take 24 credit hours if he hopes to continue playing college ball through his sophomore season. "Being a student is the most important thing about a kid going to college," Knight said. "And anytime a kid doesn't have to be a student then he should not be playing in college."
Bob Ryan, on ESPN's Sports Reporters: "What's the difference between Alex Rodriguez and my golden retriever? The answer is nothing because they both want to be petted eight hours a day."
Had to mention this
I know few people out there get the NHL Center Ice package, but I do and I just had to point out that Saturday night's Buffalo Sabres coverage on MSG was simply embarrassing. The intermission studio crew of Kevin Sylvester, Rob Ray and Mike Robitaille spent almost all of its camera time still crying about how Sabres star Chris Drury was knocked out of the lineup by Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil in a fight-filled game Thursday. (The teams played again Saturday.)
Then they ganged up in an interview with Ottawa Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch, who had the (insert sarcasm) audacity to say he thought the hit was clean. (The NHL, by the way, agreed because no penalty was called and Neil was not suspended.) So frustrated, the Sabres trio acted as if Garrioch were a Senators employee and eventually cut him off.
At the least, they were unprofessional. At worst, a joke.
Look, it's something about lacrosse
Proving there is no such thing as bad publicity, check this out: Duke's lacrosse team returned to play Saturday after sitting 11 months because of the rape accusation scandal. The Blue Devils opener drew around 6,500. Last year's opener had a crowd of 425.
Not included in this year's big crowd were the players who lost their senior season to the scandal. They attended the home opener at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I. Why? The Bulldogs are coached by Mike Pressler, who resigned as Duke coach last year when the scandal broke.
ESPN's Jeremy Schaap did a fascinating piece on historians George and Darril Fosty, who make a strong case in their book, Black Ice, that modern hockey was invented by African-American sons and grandsons of slaves in the late 19th century. They've found extensive proof in old newspaper articles in Nova Scotia, where the slaves escaped to via the Underground Railroad, that there was something called the Colored Hockey League that existed from about 1895 to just past World War I. They also make the claim that, at the very least, the modern slap shot was first used in this league. Despite all the evidence, however, you won't find a word about the Colored Hockey League in the Hockey Hall of Fame, although the Fosty brothers did meet with NHL officials last month to unveil their findings.
The best (and worst) of Burwell
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had more good moments than bad on ESPN's Sports Reporters. His best comment was for those University of Illinois fans who are protesting the school retiring their mascot, Chief Illiniwek: "These people will stand up so strongly for a fake Indian but have such utter disregard for the authentical ones." Right on!
His worst moments came when the panel talked about the relationship between Derek Jeter and A-Rod of the Yankees. "Nobody out there cares," he said. And later: "Why are we talking about this?" First, I think a lot of sports fans, regardless of how they feel about the Yankees, find this to be a juicy story. And, more so, it's probably not a good idea to question whether a topic is good enough for the half-hour show.