Some notes collected while adjusting my antenna:
Most surreal TV sight of the day: The computer graphic that pops up on my Time Warner cable still said, "NFL Football." And for a second, with the music and the polished graphics and the big CBS Sports logo, I thought maybe a settlement had been reached.
But no. It was the 1 p.m. start of SMU taking on Memphis in Conference USA men's soccer on the CBS College Sports Network. The weirdest thing was that the announcers were so hyped up the introduction of the contest that you would have thought it was an NFL game.
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Painful picture-in-picture: Denny Hamlin went hard into the Talladega wall (and would be hospitalized overnight) on ABC at almost the same exact minute Trent Edwards went hard into the University at Phoenix Stadium turf on CBS.
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Blitz's best: Chris Berman has his faults ("The Swami?" I forsee the same self-indulgent schtick he did last year!), but there is no more entertaining place to get the NFL highlights than "The Blitz," the quasi-show built into ESPN's Sunday night Sportscenter after the NFL put the kibosh on the classic NFL Primetime a few years back.
In a few minutes, you get a few laughs along with your key plays and some quality analysis by Tom Jackson. It's the perfect combo of serious yet fun -- this is sports, after all.
Berman dropped oldie-but-a-goodie "Marshall, Marshall, Marshall" when Terrell Owens tied Marshall Faulk on the all-time touchdown list [speaking of oldies but goodies, check out sportscenteraltar.com for the explanation of that catchphrase as well as an impressive database of others from a few years back -- I just spent a good eight minutes reliving Craig Kilborn's heyday. Pardon me for a moment ... Jumanji!].
Berman warbled a little "Moon River" for Keith Rivers of the Bengals after he made an interception, but his best line was ripped from today's presidential-race headlines. When Ravens running back LeRon McClain pounded into the end zone, the call was "McClain, he's a maverick, Tom!"
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No fuego: On a less entertaining highlight show, ESPN refugee (or is it evacuee?) Dan Patrick just couldn't resist during the highlights of the Colts-Texans game during halftime of the Sunday Night game on NBC. Sage Rosenfels fumbled twice while getting knocked to the turf, so Patrick emphasized the last stumbling-esque syllable, as in Rosen-FELL for each miscue. Here's another turnover: that was far from sage wordplay.
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Debating debating: Speaking of "Football Night in America," I think CNN may have done some sign-stealing this year -- it calls its debate coverage "Debate Night in America," and somehow fits more pundits in its studio than NBC does on Sunday night or NFL Countdown did at its zenith (it went something like -- Jim Kelly, Tom Jackson, Chris Mortensen, Steve Young, Chris Berman, Sterling Sharpe, Mike Ditka, Stuart Scott ... ).
You'll notice, CNN and NBC, that ESPN has trimmed it down quite a bit since then. We viewers can only listen to one person (or exchange) at a time, so stuffing your studio with various schmoes just ends up being overwhelming.
I think CNN had nine people at two different desks, plus at least three people (including WNY native and University at Buffalo grad Wolf Blitzer) walking around during its pre- and postgame shows. No wonder Anderson Prada -- I'm sorry, Anderson Cooper -- has that 360 after his name all the time. The guy must get dizzy.
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Working for the team: Ever listened to an audio broadcast of a game over the Internet (I do it all summer at mlb.com) and have the choices of listening to two sets of announcers -- one for the home team and one for the away team? I thought of that when I was flipping back and forth between Fox News and MSNBC in the hour or so following the vice presidential debate Thursday.
The only difference is that during the games, the more bush-league of the baseball announcers will use the pronouns "we" and "us" to describe the home teams. When it comes to Fox News and MSNBC, those righty and lefty (southpaw?) networks don't use pronouns for the political parties. But the way their main anchors conduct themselves, they might as well.
Try out the flipping game (or PIP-ing game) Tuesday night after the presidential debate (to put it in sports terms, it's Game Two in a three-game series). You'll see more spin than a Sunday's worth of spirals, every breakaway of Denis Savard's career or Tim Lincecum's curviest curveballs.
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Mute button alert: And I thought Kevin Harlan was loud -- you know, "[Insert NBA player dunking here, often LeBron James] has NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE!" Then I stumbled upon Bill O'Reilly shouting down congressman Barney Frank on his Fox News show before the VP debate. Yikes.
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TBS's "Inside MLB" had a few big hits over the weekend.
The best was Saturday night, when host Ernie Johnson announced that it was Dennis Eckersley's birthday. Then the highlight of Kirk Gibson's home run started to roll, and you thought that it was classic "Inside the NBA"-esque ribbing of its panelists.
It was even better. The crew edited the highlight so that after Gibson hobbles to the plate and connects with Eckersley's pitch, we cut to a shot of the outfield ... where Jose Canseco makes a sliding catch. Good stuff [I tried finding it at TBS's "hot corner," but seems like they only put the boring clips online].
After Sunday night's game, the postgame show was on until 1:15 a.m. Monday after the Angels' extra-inning victory. "Ernie's Neat-O Stat of the Night" was that the last time that NLCS foes Dodgers and Phillies met in the playoffs, it was 1983. That was followed by a graphic that showed what the panelists were doing in that year.
Cal Ripken was 23 and won the MVP and World Series for Baltimore. Eckersley was a 29-year-old with the Boston Red Sox, and the graphic read "5.61 ERA (career worst)." The punch line was supposed to be that current Tiger Curtis Granderson (who is very smooth - he must have been a broadcast journalism major or something) was only 2 years old back then, in diapers in Blue Island, Ill.
But when Eckersley -- whose career turned around when he got sober after entering alcohol rehabilitation following the 1986 season -- saw his not-so-great numbers up on the screen, he yelled in mock outrage, "I almost quit that year! Sent me to rehab for crissakes!"
Now that is some good late-night postgame TV -- the NBA show's Charles Barkley should be proud.
Earlier, Eckersley threw some, as he would say, "high cheese" for a strike by calling irksome A.J. Pierzsinski "Mr. Congeniality" as a replay showed Pierczinski waving his bat in front of fellow catcher Dioner Navarro while Navarro was trying to throw out a runner attempting to steal.
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Not "The Jerk": Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson, who bears a resemblence to a certain comedian/actor, had just finished an ESPN interview following Saturday's big win over Auburn in which he talked about trying to remain calm on the sidelines.
When it got thrown back to the College GameDay studio, host Rece Davis zinged that Johnson was "a wiiiiiild and crazy guy."
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Miss Victory Lane: I believe this is a new phenomenon that happens after Sprint Cup races. Apparently it is the job of an attractive female, wearing makeup, a perma-grin and a black-and-yellow Sprint firesuit to strategically position herself in the immediate background of the television interview of the winning driver in victory lane.
So while Tony Stewart was talking about his big Talladega win, there's this girl in the black firesuit in the background just lurking and smiling. I've seen races where the firesuited female will nod along with something either asked or answered, as if in agreement. Very strange. Maybe the Sprint Cup girl is there at the Sprint Cup races because Sprint wants to remind us who sponsors the Sprint Cup.
But seriously folks, there was a time when NASCAR would have beauty queens greeting winning drivers up on the podiums, but I thought that practice had died out -- a good thing for a family-friendly, sponsor-friendly sport which is seeing more and more female drivers. This new victory lane tactic is at the very least goofy, more than a little creepy and definitely tacky. At worst, it probably falls under the objectifying women category. Cheerleaders are what they are, but at least they're actually doing something -- and they don't have sponsors stitched right under their smiles.
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