That's the real us, `SportsCenter,' the state that so relishes jousting


July 15, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

SPILLING OUT the notebook and offering up small pieces of my mind (which is about all I can afford to give up):

On Sunday, ESPN begins its "SportsCenter Across America" summer tour, in which various anchors fan out across the country, appearing at sporting events in all 50 states on 50 consecutive days. We'll get plenty of baseball drop-ins - from the majors to minors to youth league - and a few more off-the-beaten-track appearances, such as from skydiving, freestyle Frisbee and pie-eating events. Maryland's shot falls into the latter category, with Matt Winer reporting from a jousting tournament in Port Republic on Aug. 27.

During Tuesday's All-Star Game, the Los Angeles Angels' Vladimir Guerrero almost seemed to be listening to Fox analyst Tim McCarver and swinging accordingly. As McCarver was saying, "He doesn't have a strike zone; he has a strike area, a strike district," Guerrero first offered at a pitch that nearly hit the ground and then bounced out by hitting another so far inside it broke his bat and might have struck him had he not swung.

Terry Francona, what a kidder. During his in-game interview with Fox's McCarver and Joe Buck on Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox manager said he planned to pitch Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings against the National League and that he really didn't think his New York counterpart, Joe Torre, would mind.

So, do you think McCarver had any clue what Buck was talking about when he passed along the information - "for all you Napoleon Dynamite fans" - that the Cincinnati Reds' Felipe Lopez was wearing a "Vote for Pedro" T-shirt under his jersey? Because only the hippest of the hip read this column, of course, you all are familiar with the Napoleon movie. At least Buck didn't push the envelope by saying Comerica Park was the home of the Detroit Ligers.

On yesterday's Mike and Mike Show, ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg ended up sounding hopelessly out of touch when he expressed ignorance over some of the names on the list of Emmy nominees. And here I thought it was an ESPN requirement for all personnel - perhaps Chris Berman excepted - to stay current on pop culture.

Because the titular host of The Mark Viviano Show on WJFK (1300 AM) comes across as rather bland most of the time, the true voice of the program is his canine-monikered sidekick, Damon "Bulldog" Yaffe. Working himself into a lather or peppering his speech with the mildly off-color language common on sports talk, Yaffe dominates air time. And if we can't get Bob Haynie to come in on WNST (1570 AM), some of us are left wondering what Colin Cowherd is up to on ESPN Radio.

When free agents debate which teams to join, it can be a matter of choosing the money or the better chance to win. Al Michaels may be in that kind of situation now. He's being courted by NBC to become play-by-play voice of its new NFL Sunday night package, starting in 2006, while also considering an offer to stick with Monday Night Football as it goes from ABC to ESPN. Michaels must weigh what is reportedly a great deal more money from Disney, which owns ABC and ESPN, against the opportunity to move to what already is perceived as the better, higher-visibility NFL package.

The firm of Costas and Collinsworth? Sounds like a good choice to handle NBC's NFL studio show. The program certainly won't be short on opinions.

Coming this fall: The Horse Channel. Available 24 hours a day, competitors try to match each other's shots on the basketball court, with each miss recording another letter - H-O ... Hey, Terry Francona isn't the only kidder. The channel really will feature equestrian events, rodeos and other horsey-type activity. Mr. Ed reruns? Hey, who knows?

And now that the NHL will be coming back, let me offer this suggestion to NBC and anyone else carrying the games: Bring back the illuminated puck. As long as you can keep it from showing up in the fans' laps, that is.

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