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Shooting from the lip

Why does everyone hate the Yankees? Which NBA star admits he is a misfit? Whatever happened to the 1995 American League MVP? And why do we have to watch bull riding? Times staff writer Tom Jones answers these questions and more as he looks back at a weekend of televised sports.

By TOM JONES
Published May 14, 2007


Why does everyone hate the Yankees? Which NBA star admits he is a misfit? Whatever happened to the 1995 American League MVP? And why do we have to watch bull riding? Times staff writer Tom Jones answers these questions and more as he looks back at a weekend of televised sports.

Most interesting insight

Just as Saturday's Devil Rays-Blue Jays game was getting underway, Rays TV sideline reporter Todd Kalas pointed out that the Rays gave B.J. Upton his first-ever start in centerfield because they thought the roof at Rogers Centre was going to be open. If the temperature is above 61 degrees it is opened. Game time temperature was 58 degrees.

Kalas' report didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but then Upton made a blunder in center that cost the Rays the game. It had nothing to do with the roof being closed, but it was still an intriguing what-if story.

 

Upon further review

As time goes by, the whole Roger Clemens thing makes me more and more sick. C'mon, standing in George Steinbrenner's box, making an announcement during the seventh-inning stretch? Then hearing the replay of Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman squealing like a schoolgirl getting asked to the prom by the star quarterback? And the Yankees and their fans wonder why they are so hated. Because they are good? No, because of stunts like this.

 

Most bizarre (but honest) comment

It's one thing for the media or fans to call a player a wingnut, or underachiever, or malcontent or something negative. It's another when a player puts the label on himself. That's what Pistons wingnut/underacheiver/malcontent Chris Webber did during an interview on NBA Access. "This is a team of misfits, " Webber said. "So that's what I needed to fit right in."

 

Schedule change

If flex scheduling is a sign that a league has finally made the big time, well, apparently the Arena Football League has hit the big time. Tonight, the AFL Game of the Week (8:30 on ESPN2) was supposed to have the New York Dragons (2-7) against the Philadelphia Soul (4-5). Instead, the schedule was switched so the World Wide Leader could show the Chicago Rush (8-1) against the Dallas Desperados (9-1).

I'm going to exercise my own flex scheduling. Instead of watching the AFL, I'm going to switch to The Sopranos.

 

Not again

You can't run. You can't hide. Any attempt to fight them is futile.

Just when Fox gave us a break from showing the Yankees on the Game of the Week (it showed Phillies-Cubs), we still couldn't escape the Bronx Bombers. This Week in Baseball, which airs on Ch. 13 right before each Game of the Week, had a long feature on Alex Rodriguez as well as the whole Roger Clemens announcement.

By the way, who is on the next Game of the Week? Yankees-Mets.

Best flashback

Speaking of This Week in Baseball, the show did a neat piece on former major-leaguer Mo Vaughn. Remember him? The 1995 American League MVP was eventually driven out of baseball because of injuries. Vaughn, you might recall, wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. These days, Vaughn is involved in rehabilitating distressed properties. His latest project involves fixing up a property once built as affordable housing by his hero, Jackie Robinson. Cool story.

 

Most interesting point

New York Times columnist Selena Roberts - always a welcome sight on ESPN's The Sports Reporters - made this point: "One thing that this (NBA) playoff season has taught us - that this is the end of the mega-watt star in basketball. I don't think you need a Jordan-like performance. ... I don't think you have (to have a player) carry a team anymore. I think the Pistons show that. I think the Jazz shows that. The Warriors show that."

 

Biggest conflict

I still do the slow burn every time I see Charles Barkley's T-Mobile commercials with Dwyane Wade. Barkley is a TV analyst of the league, paid to hand out kudos and criticism when necessary. Wade is a player in the league, a subject Barkley must surely need to put under his microscope now and then. Am I the only one who sees a conflict of interest here?

 

Best new announcer

Joe Beninati, who calls games for the Washington Capitals during the regular season, is making a name for himself by calling NHL playoff games on Versus. He has been every bit as good as Mike Emrick, who is generally regarded as the best in the business.

Best graphic

On its scouting report for Blue Jays Sunday starter Shaun Marcum, left, the Rays' TV broadcast had:

1. Bulldog.

2. Great changeup.

3. Don't charge the mound!!

"He was an all-state wrestler in Missouri, " color man Joe Magrane explained. "You don't want to fight him."

Question of the week

I don't understand why Versus is so quick to cut away from the Stanley Cup playoffs, particularly when a game runs long. For example, Saturday night the Senators won in double overtime and the network cut away to bull riding less than five minutes after the winning goal was scored. The NHL is Versus' signature sport. This network eventually will be made or broken by the NHL and it just doesn't make sense to not milk it for everything it is worth. I would've hung around for a half-hour postgame show. Instead, as soon as bull riding came on, I flipped over to Saturday Night Live.

Best debut

Former U.S. soccer star Julie Foudy, below, made her debut as a serious reporter on ESPN's Outside the Lines. Her strong piece, Pregnant Pause, was about issues facing college athletes who become pregnant. Most schools don't have a policy, and Foudy uncovered seven athletes at Clemson who had abortions because they feared losing their scholarships. Some schools force athletes to sign contracts that state pregnant athletes will lose their scholarships, which appears to be a violation of, among other things, Title IX. The feature told the stories of several athletes on all sides - those who had abortions, those who had children and continued their careers and those whose careers came to an end.

We have no way of telling what was left out of the story, and all in all, Foudy's piece seemed balanced, but I did wonder if Foudy was the right choice for this story considering she has long been an outspoken advocate of Title IX as well as the former president of the Women's Sports Foundation. So I asked Foudy herself.

Reached by telephone Sunday afternoon, Foudy said, "We had a great team of people working on this, not just me, so I think we made sure we covered all sides. Even though this is new to me, I know that you can't do your job as a reporter unless you look at it from all sides. I think we did consider what people who might be watching were thinking, and I don't think we took a stance one way or the other."

By the way, look for an extended interview with Foudy later this week on Page 2C.

Biggest star

If you were listing the greatest players in NBA history, how many players would you list before getting to Spurs big man Tim Duncan? Be honest, most of you wouldn't have him in your top 20, maybe not even your top 30. It's only the second round of the playoffs, but the Spurs look like they're going to take out the Suns and then they would be heavy favorites in the Western Conference final. I know I'm getting way ahead of myself, but this guy could be on the verge of his fourth NBA title. That should put him in everyone's top 10.