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Shooting from the lip

It was a busy few days, so let's get right to it as Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

By TOM JONES
Published May 28, 2007


It was a busy few days, so let's get right to it as Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best story

ESPN's Outside the Lines usually is one of the sports highlights of the week, but Sunday was chilling, disturbing and, quite possibly, the best work the show has ever done. The subject was Michael Vick and dogfighting and featured a confidential police informant who placed Vick at dogfights. A federal investigator vouched for the informant, calling him "extremely reliable."

Reporter Kelly Naqi did a masterful job with the questions.

Kelly Naqi: "How deep into dogfighting is Michael Vick?"

Confidential informant: "He's a pit bull fighter; it's not about how deep you are, if you're this deep or you're that deep. He's a pit bull fighter."

KN: "What does that mean?"

CI: "He likes to fight dogs."

KN: "What's his reputation?"

CI: "He brings a good dog and he's going to bet and he's going to bring a nice sum of cash. ... He's one of the ones that they call the big boys. That's who bets a large dollar. And they have the money to bet large money. As I'm talking about large money, 30 to 40 thousand, even higher. He's one of the heavyweights."

KN: "Michael Vick is?"

CI: "He's one of the heavyweights, yes."

KN: "How do you know that?"

CI: "Because I've seen it."

One final thought: OTL chose to show numerous examples of brutal dog fights with lots of gore and, in one video, what appeared to be a bloody dog wobbling to his death. It was extremely difficult to watch, but I think ESPN made the right call showing the footage to make viewers realize just how vicious and obscene dogfighting is.

 

Best game

Sad, but true: The whole Duke scandal might have been the best thing ever to happen to college lacrosse. Seriously, do you ever remember this much coverage before the mess at Duke?

Having said that, Duke's 12-11 victory over Cornell in the national semifinal Saturday was something to watch. Cornell overcame a 10-3 fourth-quarter deficit to tie it at 11 with 17 seconds left. Then Duke won with three seconds left to advance to today's final against Johns Hopkins.

The only thing that bugged me was a-little-too-boisterous ESPN announcer Dave Ryan saying, "Incredible victory overcoming all the off-field issues!" I realize some Duke players were falsely accused of crimes they apparently did not commit. Let's not act, however, as if the players did nothing wrong. They held a keg party that served alcohol to minors and involved strippers. So forgive me if I'm rooting for Johns Hopkins to win today because Duke's feel-good story doesn't feel all that good to me.

 

Worst coverage

I'm finally convinced. There's no doubt in my mind that ESPN's lack of NHL coverage is directly tied to the fact that the network no longer has a contract with the league. How else can you possibly explain that during its showcase two-hour Sunday morning SportsCenter there was only a passing reference during the Plays of the Week that the Stanley Cup final starts tonight?

I saw Arena Football League highlights and several clips of an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. I saw a preview of the NBA draft, which is a month away. I saw more lacrosse highlights in two hours than I've seen in my entire life. But not even a two-minute segment acknowledging a championship of a major sport is about to start? ESPN should be embarrassed.

 

Biggest lie and best comeback

Floyd Mayweather stopped by ringside during ESPN's Friday Night Fights and was asked whom he was fighting next.

Mayweather: "Floyd Mayweather is officially retired."

ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas: "Okay, great. Let me know when you're coming back."

 

Best hustle

ABC's Indianapolis 500 coverage was top-notch, and what made it top-notch were the analysts and the pit interviews conducted by a solid crew of reporters. The coverage lasted more than seven hours and everything said into a microphone was intelligent.

 

Best adjustment

Friday night's Florida-Texas A&M game in the NCAA softball playoffs on ESPN was unwatchable because the centerfield camera was set up directly behind the pitcher, making it impossible to see where the ball crossed the plate because the pitcher was in the way. You don't realize how annoying that can be until you literally can't see if it's a ball or strike or even how hard the ball is hit off the bat. Either someone at ESPN noticed or it was slammed with complaints because the angle for Saturday's game was slightly different. And better.

 

Best commercials

The first half of ABC's Indianapolis 500 coverage featured side-by-side commercials. In other words, half the screen stayed with the race while the other half showed the commercials with sound. What a brilliant idea. More big events should consider doing it and the advertisers should encourage it. Why? Because I found myself staying with the race and paying attention to the commercials. I think I'm a fairly typical sports viewer and had the race had regular commercials, I would have done what most typical sports viewers do: channel-surfed until the race was back on.

 

Most annoying coverage

Can someone please show me the law that states there must be a rock concert at every major sporting event? We all tuned in to watch the Indianapolis 500, and we have to sit through some group called Daughtry doing an awful live version of its song It's Not Over. My interest in the race was Nearly Over when I saw that.

 

Worst timing

Once again, a golf tournament ran out of network air time and had to be bumped to the Golf Channel. CBS' coverage of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial went well past 6 p.m. - the time it was switched so CBS affiliates could go to local news. It seems as if this is happening almost every week.

Usually it's weather-related (as it was in Fort Worth, Texas), but the networks need to figure out how to adjust and the golf tours have to speed up play. Whatever the solution, it needs to be found because switching channels mid-event is maddening to viewers, particularly those who TiVoed or taped the broadcast because they couldn't watch it live.

Meantime, the Golf Channel's coverage of the Crowne Plaza interrupted its tape-delayed coverage of the LPGA tournament.

We've seen these problems with hockey and horse racing on NBC and in other events, and it's becoming apparent that networks are just jamming too many events into their weekend programming.

 

Best Joe

The more I really listen to Rays TV analyst Joe Magrane, the more I like him. I think he's one of those guys you take for granted because he's always there, but I can't imagine there are more team broadcasters who are as honest, even if it means being critical of the home team.

The latest example was Friday night when he jumped on Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who bunted into an out with a runner on first, one out and the Rays down by three.

"I don't understand that play, " Magrane said immediately. "It's like gift-wrapping an out. Even if he gets down a good bunt, he's not going to beat it out because he can't run well. Not a good play."

Most interesting quote

It was 10 years ago when the Celtics had the best chance (37 percent) to win the NBA lottery and have a shot at Wake Forest center Tim Duncan. Instead, the Spurs won the lottery, took Duncan and are six victories from their fourth NBA title with Duncan.

On ESPN's The Sports Reporters, Bob Ryan, the longtime Boston Globe columnist, said: "About two years after the 1997 draft, Rick Pitino told me that if he had known he was not going to get Tim Duncan, he would've stayed at Kentucky."

 

Final thought

A stat that stopped me over the weekend: San Antonio's Tim Duncan has as many NBA titles (three) as Larry Bird.