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Saturday night's NASCAR race at Bristol set to air on ESPN locally

If the Buffalo Bills' preseason game sells out and airs on Ch. 7 Saturday night, NASCAR fans in Buffalo will still be able to see the Sprint Cup race at Bristol.

According to an e-mail sent to The News from ESPN Communications, "arrangements have been made for the race to air on ESPN in the Buffalo area."

NASCAR coverage is airing on ABC throughout the country. If the Bills' 7 p.m. game is on Ch. 7, the entire NASCAR telecast, which begins at 7 p.m. with prerace coverage, will be aired on ESPN in the Buffalo area. The green flag is scheduled for 7:48 p.m. 

What is set to air on ESPN Saturday night? A high school football game between schools from South Carolina and Virginia. I think it's safe to say that ABC/ESPN made a great move here.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

Sabres in HD coming to FiOS next month

Verizon announced today that it expects to provide MSG Network channels in high definition by mid-December.

The Federal Communications Commission ruled in September that MSG could not withhold HD feeds of its programming from Verizon and AT&T. MSG sports programs include Buffalo Sabres games, which have been available to Verizon FiOS viewers only in standard definition.

A federal court last week upheld the FCC ruling, which compels MSG to negotiate with Verizon  regarding HD feeds. A statement from Verizon today says the HD programming is expected to be available by mid-December.

Sabres viewers who get their TV via the Dish Network are still in the dark when it comes to watching their team. Dish last year dropped MSG from its lineup, in a dispute over rights fees. All indications are that it won’t be coming back to Dish anytime soon.

---Greg Connors

ESPN's Everett eloquent on Penn State

Tuesday was a bizarre day, to say the least, when it came to what happened in State College, Pa. 

Some of the twists and turns were woven into the reporting of it all, including on ESPN. Foremost was Matt Millen's conflicted-to-the-hundreth-power segment with Chris McKendry in the afternoon, one in which the Penn State alum and former player for Jerry Sandusky had angry tears well up as he discussed the situation. It was stunning to watch it live. Many surely saw it later as it was given the heavy rotation treatment the rest of the day -- one that included a mini-press conferences in driveways, parking structures and out ranch-home windows as well as footage of students marching in the streets.

I tweeted this evening that "College football is the most religious zealot-like of all American sports." There's a whole conversation to be had there (one thing that always comes to mind to me is how I watched news footage of a grown adult woman fan kissing Nick Saban in an airport upon his arrival in Alabama as head coach/savior), but I think the events at Penn State -- inactions, actions, reactions -- would certainly be part of it.  

At the end of the bizarre day, Neil Everett, hosting the late-night edition of Sportscenter from Los Angeles, introduced a Penn State segment with what I thought was a superbly written and delivered piece. He nailed it -- in five sentences.

"Penn State is 8-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten, 12th in the BCS. This weekend the Nittany Lions host Nebraska.

"Whoever thought a home football game at Penn State -- one against an program as accomplished as Nebraska -- would be the diversion to something of greater importance on the campus and in the community?

"Well it couldn't happen, because nothing's bigger than football in State College, Pa.

"And therein lies the problem, that appears to have led, to the current problems."

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

Post Time: Filly Friday Forecasting

By Gene Kershner

The weather forecast for the Breeders' Cup Filly Friday has been calling for rain showers for most of the week. We'll keep this in mind as we analyze the races making up the late Pick Four, concluding with the Ladies' Classic.

We're not a very big fan of the Marathon or Juvenile Fillies Turf races, so we'll take a pass on both of those.

When reviewing last year's Filly Friday, the post-time favorite did not win any of the six races. While the favorite did hit the board in four of the six, the average odds of the winning horse was a juicy 6-1. I'm not saying one has to take a contrarian approach to the favorites, but in deep fields like the ones we'll see over the two-day world championships, horses with great value will be in the mix. Now we just have to find them!

Filly and Mare Sprint

The Filly and Mare Sprint race has drawn a full 14-horse field with the defending champion Informed Decision (7-2) looking to duplicate her effort at Santa Anita in 2009. Informed Decision is mainly a synthetic track specialist, so I'll be leaning elsewhere. The morning line favorite is the New York-bred filly Rightly So at 3-1, who has hit the board in all three races on off tracks, winning once. The Read the Footnotes filly won the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga this summer by four lengths and has decent wet track figures, so she should be around at the wire.

Trainer Tony Dutrow was confident when asked about his filly. "She's very fast and she's going to be in front," said Dutrow. "She's in excellent form."

The horse that intrigues me most is Evening Jewel (15-1); even though her last four races have been run on turf. In her lone appearance at Churchill, she lost a head bob to the Ladies' Classic favorite Blind Luck at a mile and an eighth. The cutback to 7 furlongs should be the right medicine for the Jewel. My long shot play in this race is Sara Louise, whom I look to return to her 2009 form.

1-Evening Jewel; 2-Rightly So; and 3-Sara Louise.

Juvenile Fillies

AZ Warrior, set as the morning-line favorite at 7-2, made the transition from synthetic to dirt, winning the Frizette at Belmont Park in October. The 2-year-old daughter of former Preakness and Travers champion Bernardini should be able to handle the two turns without a problem.

Trainer Bob Baffert expanded by saying "Nothing bothers her, she's got a great mind, and all of her siblings can run. None of them have won going two turns but she's by Bernardini, so I don't see why she can't. She's coming into this race training as well as she did at Belmont so I think she'll run a big race."

The surprise horse in this race will be Believe in AP (15-1), trained by Rick Dutrow. I happened to be sitting in the box next to Dutrow for her turf debut at Saratoga in July. She finished a fast closing third and Dutrow was smiling from ear to ear.

This week Dutrow noted: "She was ready to run a week after she got to our barn in the beginning of the summer and she's wanted to go long on the dirt from day one. We ran her on the turf because I couldn't get a spot on the dirt going long for her. I figured the turf races would give her some great experience as a racehorse and we would get back on the dirt when we could."

Rounding out my trifecta will be the Great Britain shipper Theyskens' Theory (10-1), who will run on Lasix for the first time, an angle I love to play.

1-AZ Warrior; 2-Believe in AP; and 3-Theyskens' Theory.

Filly and Mare Turf

This race's odds-on favorite will be defending her title in the Filly and Mare Turf. Midday (GB) made the trip back to the States after winning four of her five races since last year's Filly and Mare Turf. She will be close to even money and most punters will be singling her in vertical exotic bets. It's tough to dismiss this Euro as she should have no problem with the mile-and-three-eighths distance or a yielding turf course, should it arise.

Harmonious enters second off the layoff for trainer John Shireffs at 6-1, winning four of five turf efforts, finishing second in the other. Miss Keller (IRE) another European shipper, has turf specialist Javier Castellano in the irons. At an 8-1 morning line, I'll be using her underneath Midday in exactas and trifectas.

1-Midday (GB); 2-Harmonious; and 3-Miss Keller (IRE)

Ladies' Classic

The 11-horse field includes some classy fillies for this race to be run under the lights at 7:30 p.m. The most notabe is the Kentucky Oaks winner, Blind Luck, who finished second in last year's BC Juvenile Fillies as the post-time favorite. She lost to her rival, Havre de Grace, last time out at Parx in Philadelphia; however, she was giving up 10 pounds in doing so. While I think she'll beat her rival for the third time in four tries, I am all aboard the Todd Pletcher express with 4-year-old Life at Ten (7-2). She's a solid three for three at the mile-and-an eighth distance and one-for-one on an off track. I'm wary of the other Pletcher horse in the race, Malibu Prayer: Be sure not to leave her off the bottom of any trifecta tickets.

1-Life at Ten; 2-Blind Luck; and 3-Havre de Grace.

Jockey Bet

John Velazquez and Julien Leparoux were listed as co-second choices, at 5-1 each, behind the mutuel field at 3-1. The Jockey Bet is a wager where fans can bet on which rider will win the most Breeders' Cup World Championships races. It is a win-only wager.

"The Jockey Bet is a fun way for fans to have a wager on their favorite jockey and to have action over both days of the event," said Ken Kirchner, President of FalKirk International, which manages the Breeders' Cup wagering program.

The Field is the combined total number of wins by all other jockeys. Take the field.

Good luck, let's go cash some tickets!

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred
Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com. He handicaps the race of the week on
Friday at the Sports, Ink blog at www.buffalonews.com.

Yelling at the TV: Super Bowl XLIII

Super Bowl XLIII, the TV as-it-happened review, from pregame (6 p.m.) to commercials to halftime to the amazing end. We'd like to thank HDTV, skycams and DVR for making it quite an enjoyable evening.

If you want to check out the commercials, go to hulu.com or nbc.com. Review real-life live blogs by the News' Jerry Sullivan -- for the game -- at Sully on Sports and by Anne Neville -- for the ads -- at the Pop Stand blog.

This one might get into a little bit of both -- it's not really about the X's and O's but how Al Michaels, John Madden, NBC and company brought them to us. Early on, TV-wise, the ads get most of the blabber.

* * * 


Pregame

** John Madden opens with commentary with some teeth: The Cardinals have made him think "futility" and he says you would even forget they were in the league. Nice.

** Isn't this one of the most orchestrated, planned out events in sports? So if we're going to have cameras following the players and coaches to the field, do you think the flag-holders and the support staff can get out of Mike Tomlin's way so he's not zig-zagging through people down the tunnel?

** The Man of the Year award goes to Kurt Warner, and we have our first Brenda Warner sighting. How many of those will we get during the game?

** Jennifer Hudson seems like she's singing a decent National Anthem, but I can't tell with the loud recorded background music. Not good.

** First commercial break leads with an action army movie with Dennis Quaid leading the charge? I don't know about that. Oh, it's G.I. Joe vs. Cobra!? I think I just saw Snake Eyes! AWESOME. Ahem. Sorry about that.

** There seems to be an annoying clicking noise in the background. Hey, this is the Super Bowl. Get a man on that. (It disappeared once the game started).

** Nice nods to the important stuff in the pregame, with the flight crew from the plane that landed in the Hudson River (with one member holding a Steelers Terrible Towel) as well as Gen. David Petraeus in on the coin toss. Players and officials applauding right before the biggest game of their lives.

** During the coin toss, some cameraman must have said something funny, because Ben Roethlisberger and Jeff Reed both look over and have a did-he-just-say-that-during-the-coin-toss? smile on their face.

** Pittsburgh sideline reporter Andrea Kramer says Hines Ward was reinjected with his own blood and he feels better. Umm, isn't that also called blood doping?

** Arizona sideline reporter Alex Flanagan busts out with F. Scott Fitzgerald! Talk about shameless pandering to the NPR and public-television-watching demographic. Actually a nice touch.

* * *

First quarter

** The first flag of the game is on NBC, which showed the play clock expiring well before hand, an obvious glitch as play continued.

First commercial breaks. For many, the real start of the game

** Bud Light, always a strong Super Bowl-er, starts nicely with a guy getting thrown out a window during a meeting. Best part is when someone pokes fun at the company's own "drinkability" slogan: "Does my pen have writeability?"

** Three commercials in, two of them have guys getting thrown out of windows. I llke it. That was an Audi ad, where the car chases were cool, but the best thing was the fake billboard in the 80s advertising "The Mousse is Loose." 

** Another theme, as two commercials in a row feature traveling through generations -- Pepsi brings Bob Dylan and will.i.am together. Sort of.

** The ad for delicious Doritos, with a guy throwing a crystal ball/snow globe into a vending machine, was dopey. But they're still delicious. Man, it's tough typing with Dorito-fingers.

Back to the game: Quality video angles on the Roethlesberger non-touchdown. ... Cardinals first drive. Nothing doing.

* * *


Second commercial break.

** Conan O'Brien does a Bud Light ad that will broadcast "only in Sweden." Very Conan, very wacky, very good. Bud Light apparently has more ad execs than brewmeisters.

** Jack Black and the kid from "Superbad" are cavemen or something in "Year One." Early review: Gonna stink.

Back to the game -- Pittsburgh's second drive.

** Arizona's 'D' is the last unit to do the self-introductions at the bottom of the screen. Good to see Edgerrin James keep "the U" (Miami) in the national dialogue. I still would love to know what college alumni boards think of their star NFL alums opting to use their high schools rather than their colleges.

** Madden describes Big Ben as "being Superman" after a very outstanding scramble-around-and-completion. Superman? Maybe. Hey, it's the first quarter. After Superman, there's nowhere to go with your superhero metaphors.

* * *


End of the first quarter, Pittsburgh 3-0: Seemed like that went pretty fast. Or maybe that's my DVRing through the bad commercials.

** Bridgestone somehow courted Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head to drive a car. Just saying: I didn't see any shoulder belts on those two. ... Another Fast and the Furious movie. Thank goodness. ... Castrol gets into monkey business: I think I just saw a monkey kiss a guy. That one is the clubhouse leader for conversation-starter at water cooler.

* * *


Start second quarter

** Good Madden stuff:  "Usually for a skirmish you'll find Hines Ward in the middle of it. If there's a fight to be fought he wants to be part of it."

** A Will Ferrell movie, Land of the Lost. One movie exec says to the other, "Hey, let's have Ferrell do his schtick, but instead of being a 70s basketball player or a dumb step-brother we send him back in time with dinosaurs!" Other exec: "I love it!"

** More Doritos. This one ends with something that's always funny: a guy gets hit by a bus. Thousands of males watching with other males pause their DVRs for the first part, when Doritos gave him superpowers to remove a woman's clothes. I'm too busy writing to do that. I swear.

** godaddy.com featuring Danica Patrick in a shower, sort of. Why is Danica selling herself like this? Doesn't she have other endorsements? Doesn't she realize that she loses more and more credibility the longer she plays off her looks and doesn't win any races (in North America)?

** Lots of guys getting hurt, slapstick-style. Fun stuff. It's for Diet Pepsi Max, which inferred that men don't like diet cola. I wonder what the eight 12-packs of diet Coke in my kitchen think about that. Hmm. That reminds me, almost time for my queche dinner.

** Pedigree advertises its adoption drive. Nice scene of a pig in the backseat of a car with grandma. Animals are always Super Bowl ad winners. ... Speaking of, Budweiser's horse and dog are back. ... NBC keeps promo-ing the blank out of Heroes even though, just from the ads, you can tell the show has jumped the shark.

* * *


Steelers kickoff after taking a 10-0 lead and we're back to the commercials.

** And back to the animals. Boy horse meets girl horse. Personally, I'm done with the Bud horse. ... Another Star Trek movie? What is this, the eighth incarnation of those guys? Just goes to show you can never underestimate the amount of people who grok Spock.

* * *


Cardinals on the move in the second quarter.

** Brief mention of Kurt Warner's comeback from being Leinhart's backup. Thought they might milk that a little more -- it's a great storyline. But the night is young.

** Warner hits Anquan Boldin and he's inside the five. Excellent, we gotta game. NBC and NFL execs gotta love it.

And another commercial break. ... Gatorade commercial features Jason McElwain of the feel-good high school hoop three-point fest a couple of exits down the Thruway from a few years back. ... Cars.com ad has lots of buildup of a child genius, but no payoff. Best thing is during his negotiation with parents for later bedtime, you can see a power-point pie chart in the background which features more than half of the pie attributed to "roughhousing." 

* * *

And back to the game.

** Lovely montage of Warner tripping on handoffs during the playoffs. He's gotta love that one -- hey Kurt, here's a collection of you stumbling around. ... Madden's still got it, nice Football 101 of why chop-blocking is a penalty.

Timeout, Cardinals.

** Some screaming execs in different languages, then "Hyundai, like Sunday." Not bad. ... Infants at the computer for E-Trade. I'm done with that, too. Can ads jump the shark?

Time in for a punt ...

** Nice job by Al Michaels, calling the fact that Larry Fitzgerald has no catches the game's "stunning statistic." A little alliteration.

** Ad for a Pixar movie with an old man in a house. Hollywood makes dumb movies which are animated, too! ... Bud Light is back, now with the telestrating guy. Done with him, too.

* * *


Two-minute warning with the Cardinals coming off an interception.

** Death appears in H&R Block ad. Not funny. ... Flowers in a box. Flowers come in a box? Talking flowers tell off a girl. Big laugh at the end thanks to her cubicle neighbor. But I already forgot who it was for.  ... Jay Leno driving this time in a promo. Mr. Potato Head had a nicer chin. Baddump-bump.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our Blunder of the Game. As a graphic advertises that the halftime show wil be done from the pirate ship above the end zone (of the Buccaneers' stadium), Al Michaels references the pirate ship and says "hopefully none of them from Somalia." Al, you know the whole world heard that, right?  Wow. Awful.

* * * 

Cardinals driving late in the first half ...

** Madden nice breakdown of the Arizona backs able to take passes to the outside because Pittsburgh is concentrating on preventing Fitzgerald from going inside.

Timeout Cardinals ...

** Cheetos is a winner, with the small-town girl and Chester Cheetah (where have you been?) sending pigeons over to pester some annoying snobby girl from Long Island (I can say that about her. But you can't).

Back to the action ...

** Quality video & Madden analysis of Steelers' defending of Fitzgerald.

** Nice camera angles on the amazing James Harrison interception return -- In one of the slow-mos, you see the Cardinal cheerleaders in the background with hands on hips and huge smiles on their faces -- as their team is giving up one of the worst plays in Super Bowl history. C'mon ladies. 

** Madden: James Harrison runs "like James Brown." Groan.

* * *

And we're at halftime with Pittsburgh suddenly up, 17-7.

** Hey, something in 3-D! Cool! Where are my glasses? Um, I don't have any. You needed to pick them up in a store? Hey, Disney, Sobe, NBC and 3-D marketers out there! Want to guarantee a much larger audience actually watch? How about sticking them in the Sunday newspaper? Newspaper ad execs, get on it. I like my job.

** Bob Costas: "One of the biggest turnarounds in Super Bowl history" is right-on. Cris Collinsworth makes a great point on Arizona RB Tim Hightower being kept in to block on the play, affecting where Harrison would be. Considering all the schmoes at the desk, they're doing a good job doling out some quality info. Mike Holmgren says he would have gone for it on fourth-and-goal on Pittsburgh's first drive; Tony Dungy and Collinsworth say no. Surprisingly quality stuff when it looked like there were too many cooks on the screen.

** Heroes football ad: John Elway is really a mutant? Insert teeth joke here.

** Bruce Springsteen brings it, screaming at us to get away from the guacamole. Great start. Nice to see people -- even middle-age people -- actually enjoying the show; usually the Super Bowl imports no-nothing-about-the-artist teeny boppers to do some blind bopping. ... Bruce goes into a full slide into a camera. Ouch. ... Everyone singing along with Born to Run. A Super Bowl halftime act with some actual energy! Who knew? ... Bruce goes football on Glory Days, at the end a referee comes out to signal delay of game. Not bad schtick. Now that was a Spuer Bowl halftime show.

Back to the ads.

** Priceline. Funny. William Shatner is funny just talking, much less some guy doing Shatner ... Overstock and Carlos Boozer and some kids was a feel-gooder. ... NBC promo for Thursday night exposes LMAO Syndrome, where people are hospitalized after literally laughing their A off. Quality.

Back to Costas, who asks who would have known Harrison would be "Born to Run." Not bad -- flirting with groan territory, but he's Costas so you give him the benefit of the doubt. Jerome Bettis says at the half he gave Harrison a nod and Big Ben looked great. Thanks, Jerome. Now that's the useless information we expect from our talking heads. 

Back to the ads again, which have gone local. ... For Ch. 2, silent newscasters are holding signs. Leftover cue cards? ... Some more local ads -- the ad time must be discounted now. "Hurt in a car?" Puke. Only thing worse would be the idiot who sincerly hopes that we stay out of trouble.

* * *


Third quarter

** Great graphic to start us off - Cardinals scored the most points in third quarter this season, Steelers allowed the fewest.

First ads of the third quarter ... Coca-Cola bringing avatars together - not bad. .... Some moon buggy dudes get their Bridgestones swiped. Very funny, bonus points for bringing House of Pain's "Jump Around" back, stirring wistful memories of playing it at 4 a.m. to infuriate a college roomate. ... Denny's gives us Mobsters out to breakfast. Eh. ... Monster.com shows what's behind those trophy animal heads. Nice. ... A few breaks later, I am definitely sick of Budweiser's horse droppings. A clydesdale with an Irish brogue. Whatever.

* * *

Back to a Pittsburgh drive start.

** Shot of Cuba Gooding at the game, or is that Cardinal great Rod Tidwell? Al talks about Jerry Maguire and how they filmed scenes during MNF. Weird, but Gooding's Tidwell and Maguire have been on cable a bunch lately.

** Weak roughing-the-passer call gets appropriate I'm-not-sure-about-that treatment from Al & Madden.

** Nice block by Heath Miller helps spring Willie Parker, and nice breakdown by cameras and Madden. "About as good a block as a tight end can make."

** Dubious non-intentional grounding call -- until a good replay removes the doubt.

* * *

After a Pittsburgh field goal, it is 20-7, and more commercials. Maybe they'll tail off now?

** Transformers sequel. Awesome. ... Woman screaming in her car, a coworker saying "Hey dummy," and "if you daydream of punching small animals" and "if you sit next to this guy" (BIG warning on the visual here if you watch it), you might need Careerbuilder.com. BEST COMMERCIAL OF GAME. ... Coca-Cola goes with animated insects -- maybe because animals are tapped out? It's actually a fun one wiht all them bugs working together to steal a bottle. Nice. ... The outstanding Tina Fey does her thing with a great "if you're Conan lasts more than three hours, see a doctor" line during a Conan O'Brien promo.

* * *

Back to game: Cardinals take over late in the third.

** First Brenda Warner in-game shot! Over under on the rest of the game? I'm setting it at two and taking the over.

** Michaels says Warner "looks like he's been at the spa for a month." Huh?

** Did we really need the shot of Warner in a Rams uniform to show he didn't wear gloves back then? Weird. What we need is some then/now shots of Brenda Warner!

* * *


End of third quarter, Steelers still up, 20-17.

Usama Young of the Saints wins the NFL Super Bowl ad contest after going from Redskins sno-cone seller to the NFL. "Now I'm in the Super Bowl," he says. "It's just a commercial, son," says Dad, "now get me a snow cone." Nice. ... A Jesus (Frank) Reich sighting! Shilling Frey Electric with Laurie Lisowski. ... Enjon Development? A company apparently run by a 16-year-old. WORST COMMERCIAL OF GAME. ... LaBatt Blue Lights are brewed by a goalie with an icicle hockey stick. Interesting.

* * *

Start of the fourth quarter.

** Ed McMahon and MC Hammer for cash4gold.com! Somehow pathetic and hilarious at the same time. That looked like a Tropic Thunder-esque spoof, but I just checked the Web site and it's real. Wow. Ed's wrinkled fingers holding his gold? I'm starting to think that he's sunk to a certain level, but then again, he was at that level: he was Mr. Publishers Clearinghouse.

Back to the game ..

** Shot of sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. in the press box. He's just sitting there. I know Larry's having a quiet game, but you're making us look bad! Can we get a laptop flip or a scribble on a notebook or something?

** Vocabulary word: Al says Cardinals are going to the no-huddle, working with "alacrity." Nice.

** Another shot of Larry Sr. Still just watching the game. Somebody from the sportswriters association get ahold of him! Put a pen in his hand or something!

** Touchdown Fitzgerald! NBC shows dad, who is still stonefaced, "like a true journalist" says Al. Then a shot of Warner's wife! Booyah. One down, two to go and I hit the over.

** "A little David Tyree" in that play, Madden says of Fitzgerald's TD catch. Nice.

** Madden lauds Darnell Dockett, who then makes another great play with a 10-yard sack.

** One of the few standout ads late is a surprising version of an SNL skit: "MacGruber!" Funny stuff. 

* * *


Back to late drama. Steelers lead, 20-14. A Warner wife shot HAS to be coming up soon.

** Another great pre-call by Madden: "I think they can do business in the middle," right before Warner hits Steve Breaston -- in the middle.

** Madden says something to the effect of if the Cardinals can pull this off, Kurt Warner could be headed for the Hall of Fame. Sounds like a good spot for a Warner wife shot! But no.

** Boom! Brenda Warner reaction on a replay, and then a live shot! I win! Unless you count that as the same shot. Even so, I feel confident. Victory or despair, we'll be seeing blondey again. Definitely set the over/under too low.

** "He ought to be thrown out for that." Very appropriately strong stuff from Madden on a personal foul by Harrison on a Cardinals punt, even though he says, "I love the guy."

** More good stuff from Madden, he talks about Dockett but he leaves the game. "If I'm coaching, I want Dockett in there."

** Holding call means a safety and a 20-16 game instead of a Holmes catch to get Pittsburgh out of its end zone! Great camera angles on play, including from the ground behind the end zone, and Al speaks for all of us, "Wow!"

** Bills alert! Al says it's the first Super Bowl safety since Bruce Smith slammed Jeff Hostetler.

** Warner to Fitzgerald up the middle for a TOUCHDOWN! Are you kidding me!?!?!!?

** Warner wife shot! She's partying. Larry Sr. shot -- he's not doing much.  Great replays and Michaels voice-overs "and he watches himself go into the end zone on the big screen." Great game, great TV.

* * *


Cardinals 23, Steelers 20, but one more chance for the Steelers ...

** "This would be the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history." Good stuff from Al (or the director in his ear).

** Madden sets up the final drive: "It's funny you go through the whole season and all the stats, and Pittsburgh stats, and when you needed them to play, they didn't do it. And now, Arizona's defense, not a great stat defense this year, but now you need them to play. Are they going to it?"

** An incompletion just before the two-minute warning -- "Aaron Francisco on the coverage." Great time for Al to go with "Francisco, that's fun to say!" but he doesn't.

** We didn't need an ad like this at such a late, tense, important moment. Another lowest-common denominator ad from godaddy.com and Danica, as she joins some buxom witnesses testifying before congress about whether they are "enhanced" or not (the ad actually does very nicely to poke fun at Roger Clemens and his "misremembers" line). Danica, Danica, Danica. You should be better than this. There may have been a time for ads like this, and Maxim photo shoots and such, but if you are a major-league sports star, you don't do this. Ugh.

* * *


Back from the two-minute warning...

** Jeff Reed practicing on a very crowded sideline. The guy is only going to try and tie the Super Bowl up. Can we give him some room?

** Great looks and Madden talk about Ben's big hands bringing down on his initial pass before hitting Santonio Holmes to get inside the 5.

** Touchdown Holmes! Can you remember the days when we didn't have all these camera angles? A definite "wow" on the shots of Holmes catching the ball in the end zone, right down to his toes (although we should have seen the toes-on-the-ground angle more). Great breakdown by Madden about how they went back to Holmes on the second straight play, same play, different corner.

** Heart-breaking replay shot (for Cardinals fans) of Fitzgerald mouthing "no, no, no" and shaking his head while watching the replay on the same big screen he watched himself score on.

* * *


Game over. Wow.

** After a very nice pause, Al sums it up: "I don' t know if you could beat last year's game between the Giants and New England, but this one is in the neighborhood." Later: "It was a classic."

** Madden, too: "When Santonio Holmes had to make the  play, he made it. When Ben Roethlisberger had to make the throw, he made it. They were both perfect."

* * *


Postgame

** Cool shot of Joe Namath bringing the Vince Lombardi trophy up a path lined by Steelers who all want a touch.

** Dan Patrick MC-ing the awards presentation; one minor speaking flub but surprisingly does a solid job of getting out of the way.

** Mike Tomlin gives it up to his players, President Obama and Steeler Nation. Hearing him preach makes you want to play for the guy.

** Andrea Kraemer with Harrison: one good question (about the big runback), one not-so-good question (how does this compare with his first Super Bowl. Dud question, dud answer).

** Good questions from Alex Flanagan and some great responses from Ken Whisenhunt, particularly the last one about how noone believed in the Cardinals.

** Back to the too many cooks: Holmgren doesn't offer much; Dungy does OK, Matt Millen offers "this is what the NFL is all about." This, from a man that knows what the NFL is not all about after being the architect of debacle known as the Detroit Lions. Still not sure how he got the TV gig back. 

** Worst-commercial-of-the-day company Enjon is back with their 16-year-old CEO, who is apparently very good at using his cell phone and talking with an attractive girl from the office.

* * *

Putting the post in postgame.

** "Professional football has evolved into our national pastime," says Al (take that, baseball!). "This is the perfect way to end the season, with a classic Super Bowl."

** Madden: "That was a real super Super Bowl."

** Costas: Kurt Warner now has the three highest-passing Super Bowl games. Wow. Hello, Hall of Fame.

** Flanagan with Warner, and she does a very smooth job asking the retirement question without asking the question: "Is this something that you want to try and make it back to, a Super Bowl?" She gets a good answer, although media-friendly and well-spoken Warner probably would have had a good answer no matter what.

* * *

In the end, you gotta love sports. A live-up-to-the-hype finish that actually just might just justify everything, from the two weeks of coverage to the insane pregame show and maybe even all the bucks put into those ads. Nothing else like the Super Bowl.

Costas gets the last sound bite, and whether it was him or a teleprompter or what, a great postscript

"An incredible Super Bowl 43. Back and forth, with both teams angling for fantastic finishes, with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers finally getting the last word. A picture-perfect winning touchdown pass to the MVP, Santonio Holmes -- there it is -- with 35 seconds to go, and a record sixth Super Bowl title for the Pittsburgh Steelers: Who now rank perhaps as the model franchise in all of American sports." (Take that, Yankees!).

"We've finally reached the end of our Super Bowl broadcast ..."

And we've finally reached the end of this blog. 

---Keith McShea

Yelling at the TV: Outstanding Aussie Open (for vampires)

For the vampire sports fan, there was some outstanding stuff on ESPN2 around 4 a.m.

It was the live coverage of the women's final of the Australian Open, won by Serena Williams in just fantastic, dominating fashion over Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3, in a television-friendly 59 minutes.

On par with the brilliant performance was the commentating, particularly by Mary Carillo, one of the best color commentators in the business. Chris Fowler was a terrific foil as well.

Start with Carillo's vocabulary: Williams was "luminous," Safina had an "under-nourished performance," and she called Fowler a "cock-eyed optimist" when he offered that perhaps Safina had some hope at 0-6, 2-5.

As Williams put together one of her finest efforts to win her 10th grand slam, Carillo spoke during the match about how she wished she saw this kind of focus, preparation and performance all the time from Williams -- who has dabbled in acting and the fashion world -- and the top women's players, especially compared to some grand men's matches the tournament has seen.

It was a natural, perfect question to ask, and it wasn't done in an attempt to keep viewers watching (like forced opining you'll hear at the end of dragging baseball games). Fowler superbly volleyed some points back, saying that perhaps that training all the time isn't just Williams' style.

As the match closed, the pair revisited the conversation, with Carillo yearning: "I can't have this all the time?"

"She's doing it her way," Fowler offered.

"I love this," Carillo beamed. "I love that she's here."

"I'm sure her opponents feel the same way," joked Fowler, before going to commercial with a mini-soliloquy that made this sportswriter jealous.

"They'd like her to go away and act, or write, or do anything but hit tennis balls like this. Because when she does, no one can stay on a hardcourt with Serena Williams.

"A devastating, 6-0, 6-3 doubles and singles champion of the Australian Open in 2009 and double figures in majors."

Now that is the way to finish off a broadcast, not like those most-often hackneyed, how-long-has-he-been-working-on-them Jim Nantz one-liners at the end of the NCAA championship game. Or the Masters. Or AFC championships.

* * *


After a commercial, some more poetry, this time from Carillo as she returned to the point about the focus of Williams and other top female players.

"I love my sport with clear eyes, which is the way you're supposed to love anything, or anyone.
... I would love to see the women really just absolutely commit themselves the way the guys do. Look at the tennis we've seen from the men, round for round. They're all fit, they're all focused, they all want it so badly." 

Again, Carillo was softly challenged by Fowler, saying that a match like this "this is what I want" and later stressed that she is a huge fan of Williams' "intellectual curiosity."

Superb stuff.

* * *


Next up were Dick Enberg and Bud Collins doing a take on the final, and just when you think that they're just trotting both out as some sort of senior announcing tour, Enberg offered up serviceable sentences while Collins showed that he has plenty of zip on his strokes.

Collins went from explaining the who and why behind the names which the Aussie Open trophies are named for (the women win the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup; the men the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup), even acting out the way Brookes -- who won the tournament in 1911 -- would always hit the ball with the same side of the racquet, to proclaiming that Williams would win 5-6 more major titles, to circling back to the topic at hand by saying he was "torn" over whether she should be a full-time all-out pro, noting, and lauding, the well-rounded Williams for her efforts to build a school in Kenya.

Later, Collins had more. He sharply dressed down Safina's toss on her serve, which had plagued her during the match: "That service toss, you think she's going to kill one of the seagulls that fly around here. A terrible toss." Then promptly lauding the 22-year-old Russian and dignified post-match speech: "A terrific kid. For a loser's speech, she really was a star." 

* * *


Speaking of speeches, you have to love the way tennis does its postmatch ceremonies in the grand slams. Trophies are awarded, then the runner-up addresses the crowd, followed by the winner.

No microphones in anyone's faces, no big-voiced melodramatic questions from an interviewer who is compelled to try and have their question live up to their big postgame moment, no throngs of photographers and cameramen rushing on to the court (like in a certain football game Sunday).

It's a one-on-one between the player and the crowd, and you really get a glimpse at the athlete's personality.

Safina, just moments after she had tears in her eyes sitting in the loneliest of chairs after the match ended, was charming despite some semi-halted English:

"Not much to say, I didn't even spend one hour on the court today. ... I was just a ball boy today," she said with a self-deprecating smile and laugh.

Then she thanked the fans: "Sorry today I made you little disappointed, but I hope that next year I will come and do better. Thank you for coming and supporting me."

A huge-smiling Williams was giddy and spoke without pretentiousness, thanking a few sponsors by name "and everything else you see written out here [on signage by the court]." She did more than offer a thank-you to a beauty company, getting lots of laughs with her "Garnier, I love the sugar scrubs, my skin is like a baby."

"I think the music is going to start playing now, so I think I should close it ... but I don't feel that, I fell like I want to talk forever," she said with a big, content smile. Then she realized she almost forgot to thank the fans, and did so very graciously, adding, "I knew there was a reason I was still talking."

* * *


While I'm up, an outstanding line from Stan Verrett on Sportscenter if you are a fan of HBO's amazing series "The Wire."

"Ray Lewis leaving the Ravens? That'd be the biggest story in Baltimore since Avon Barksdale went to jail."

If you've never seen The Wire, get your Netflix on and check it out. You'll not only get the joke, you'll get an education in politics and crime in American cities, all woven together in a terrific drama with characters you'll love. Like Barksdale.

---Keith McShea

Rewinding the week

Thank God it's Friday ...

... and thank God the National League Championship Series is over, so we get a temporary reprieve from the Fox pregame show and things like Jeanne Zelasko's circa-1980 red leather jacket. She and Kevin Kennedy have been useless in the minutes before and after games for years.

In other Zelasko news (thanks, google), check out her apology to Tampa Bay Rays fans after calling the team the "Tampa Rays" several times this season (check out the comments below the story -- lest you forget that a city named St. Petersburg and a certain Bay are part of the region).

Fox will be back next week, but help is on the way -- thanks to, of all things, political campaign ads. If there's a Game Six, Obama bumps Zelasko in the pregame. Now that's a game-changer.

• • •

Greatest new commercial featuring football players: LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu going from the womb to the NFL.

Great shots, a great beat and a pretty great message (except for little-kid Polamalu stomping the living room table, I suppose). The ad is a bit bigger at Nike's site.

Most awful new commercial featuring a football player: Brian Urlacher playing down to stereotypes for Old Spice.

• • •

Most bizarre sports-related sight following Wednesday night's presidential debate: During Greta Van Susteren's post-debate show, I could have sworn I saw Mr. Met walking around in the background. Turns out that I did.

• • •

Before Game Three of the NLCS, Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight, ahem, "fame," introduced the Dodger lineup. I'm like, "this is so L.A." But Hart actually was a fan: She was quite visible sitting behind the plate in the bottom corner of my HDTV, yelling and cheering inning after inning. Then she did something very shocking for an L.A. fan: she stayed for the entire game.

• • •

Nice job by TBS, catching Stephen King reading a book in his box seat as Boston fans were bumming during the Red Sox's Game Four loss. Just when I think I'm Mr. Smarty Pants by freezing the screen with my DVR and googling the words I could make out from the cover, Skip Caray spoils my fun by telling everyone that the title is a you-can't-make-this-up "When Will There Be Good News?" (Does the book say the last three innings of Game Five?)

Better job TBS: In the postgame "Inside MLB," the guys had fun with the editing machines, having King reading the latest by noted author (and co-host) Cal Ripken.

• • •

More fun from Inside MLB: As I wrote last week, the show has had some fun with Dennis Eckersley and a certain home run he gave up to Kirk Gibson 10 years ago. In the "Ernie's Neat-O Stat of the Night" after Game Four, they did it again. At least I found a video clip this time (thanks soxanddawgs.com).

• • •

During Josh Brown's game-winning, 49-yard field goal for the Rams against the Redskins at FedEx Field, did anyone notice on replays that the two video screens on each side of the uprights were trying to distract him?

(Check it out at the end of the highlight, which I'd suggest playing with the sound down. Sorry Rich Eisen, you jumped the shark when you jumped off the worldwide leader mothership). The video screen on the left was zooming in-and-out, Wayne's-World style, and the one on the left was a rotating red spiral that came right out of a fun house. Is this legal?

• • •

Speaking of the Rams-Redskins game, it accounted for two of Chris Berman's best lines of ESPN's Blitz:

* After Richie Incognito's mouthing off nearly cost the Rams the game: "When your name is Richie Incognito, you're not supposed to be noticed! You're supposed to be quiet!"

* On the long interception return for a touchdown by the Rams' Oshiomogho Atogwe, Berman filled in some new syllables for a familiar call: "And he ... could ... go ... At ... og ... we!"

• • •

I knew Berman was going to enjoy doing the final play of the Cowboys-Cardinals highlight since Arizona's Sean Morey had the game-winning punt block. I knew this because, while working for the Ithaca Journal, I was in Providence, R.I., covering an Ivy League football game in 1997 when Morey went completely nuts (ok, three touchdowns and 221 receiving yards) for Brown University in a 37-12 rout of visiting Cornell (coached by former University at Buffalo coach Jim Hofher).

Sure enough, proud Brown grad Berman said "Sean Morey," and then set up Blitz-mate Tom Jackson with his familiar leading question "from?" "BROWN UNIVERSITY!" hollered Jackson. Fun stuff.

• • •

From the there's-always-a-Buffalo-connection department:

* When a Redskin was shouting it out on the sideline with Rams coach Jim Haslett, nobody-circles-the-wagons Berman said: "If you remember Jim Haslett as a linebacker for Buffalo, he's not backing down."

* Late in the Chargers' rout of New England during Sunday Night Football, NBC put up the graphic that noted it was the Patriots' largest deficit since their 31-0 loss in the 2003 season opener to Buffalo.

• • •

Late during Sunday Night Football, it seems like the subject matter and verbiage can loosen up a bit.

Al Michaels spoke about the Charger fans' frustration with the officials, especially in the wake of the the Ed Hochuli-gate at Denver, because fans were booing calls late in a game that was already settled.

"They felt like they got screwed," Michaels said. "And this is their way to vent ... and it's partially [because of] the other way you spell boos."

• • •

Someone should get a Web site going to create a database of which NFL players choose not to say their college during the individual introductions on Sunday Night Football, and why.

Ellis Hobbs, who was actually born in Niagara Falls (who knew?), did not say his college alma mater, which is Iowa State. I believe he said his high school, which was DeSoto (Texas). To each their own, but if I'm the Iowa State recruiting/fund-raising department and missing out on valuable exposure, I'm giving Ellis a call.

• • •

One of the best for last. "College Football Final" on ESPN is becoming some Must-See-TV thanks to Lou Holtz's enthusiasm. He thought he got a little carried away last week at the end of a segment called "The Final Verdict" in which Holtz and Mark May debate a topic before judge Rece Davis.

The premise for the segment sounds a little goofy, but it works, especially when Holtz gets so fired up -- in this case, arguing that Florida's Tim Tebow is still the best quarterback in the country.

The segment seemed like it was over, with even Davis taking off his wireless microphone, but Holtz continued to argue his case, prompting an off-camera May to ask "are we doing this again?"

They kept the cameras rolling, thank goodness. Afterwards, Holtz apologized, saying, "I'm glad we're on at 1 o'clock in the morning and all the children are in bed."

Here's the full segment and the short version.

---Keith McShea   

Rewinding Tuesday: Some sporting debate

There were no baseball games on television Tuesday night. ESPN's programming was relegated to Madden (the video game, not the "BOOM!" guy) and poker.

But that didn't mean there wasn't any sports on TV.

"You don’t run the four corners when you’re behind," said Republican media guy Alex Castellanos on CNN, yearning for John McCain to push the ball upcourt after the second presidential debate.

Baseball fans know what happens when a player reaches the base at the same time as the ball. Maybe CNN's Gloria Borger is one of them. In talking about the effect of poll-leading Barack Obama not losing the debate, she said: "Tie goes to the front-runner."

Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews' show is called "Hardball" but he and his guests had boxing on the brain.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman referenced the story of fellow Pittsburgh native Billy Conn; ostensibly (sorry, I flipped over halfway through) because Barack Obama had not gone for a knockout punch late in the debate, as Conn did against Joe Louis.

"In the 13th round when he had him on points," Matthews summarized, "[Conn tried] to take out the Brown Bomber and the Brown Bomber took him out ... you are Pittsburgh until the end, Howard Fineman."

Panelist Pat Buchanan got his gloves up, describing an Obama line (the shot about McCain's "bomb, bomb Iran") as "a solid haymaker punch which really landed."

Later, Matthews called McCain's "not you, Tom" response to moderator Tom Brokaw's question about the selection of a Secretary of the Treasury as a "suckerpunch."

The most bizarre politics/sports collision of the night was a Fox News story about a voter registration fraud probe in Las Vegas. One of the alleged violations was that a canvasser filled out forms not with the names of actual people interested in registering to vote, but with the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys, including Tony Romo and Terrell Owens.

The debate was already being described as not being a "game-changer." That term, which has been very popular throughout the political season, sounds like a sports term but really isn't.

Until now, perhaps?

Man, did you see that Reggie Bush on Monday Night Football? He's a real game-changer.

---Keith McShea

Rewinding the weekend

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.

• • •

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. 

• • •

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!"

• • •

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.

• • •

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. 

• • •

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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." 

• • •

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.

---Keith McShea

Ch. 4, Time Warner are both wrong

Here's my message to Time Warner and to LIN Broadcasting, the parent company of Ch. 4 and Ch. 23 (which nobody watches anyway): Go back to your corners, take your pacifiers out of your mouths, stop crabbing at each other and get a deal done. Now.

Ch. 4 and 23 went poof in the night at midnight off of Time Warner in a money squabble and I'm pretty surprised it got this far -- but the real Armegeddon is coming Sunday at about, oh, 4:15 if CBS College Sports is still on Ch. 4 rather than the Bills game. Read Alan Pergament's update from today about Ch. 4 filing a petition with the FCC to block Time Warner from showing the Bills game via the CBS Rochester affiliate.

Both sides are in the wrong here. How about serving the public interest, people? And Ch. 4 GM Chris Musial has come off like a pompous windbag with all these "news stories" on the Wake Up show and his station's newscasts that are nothing more than infomercials pushing his side's propoganda. And then follow-up stories on how to buy and install an antenna? Embarrassing. Wonder if Musial has noticed how his anchors -- particularly Don Postles and Jacquie Walker -- can't hide their smirks when the cameras come back to them.

The Bills game is a big problem. So is CBS' Saturday college football game. But you start messing with Sunday's episode of "The Amazing Race" and I'm done with all of you.

And I won't be calling DISH or Verizon Fios either because that's what Ch. 4 is pushing and that's the deal they've obviously made. It will be sayonara, TWC, and nose up to you, Ch. 4. I'll be calling DirecTV.

---Mike Harrington

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