Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
The sports world was rocked last week when ESPN laid off nearly 100 employees, most of them writers, reporters and analysts. The list included Ed Werder, Danny Kanell, Jay Crawford and Trent Dilfer.
There are plenty of places on the Internet if you're interested in detailed stories about ESPN's financial situation and how it got to the point where it decided it needed layoffs. But I'm going to use this space to address a few other aspects of the ESPN story.
• Political views of the ESPN employees had nothing to do with ESPN's financial woes. ESPN's problems have everything to do with enormous rights fees and cord-cutting — people choosing to view television by means other than cable. To suggest that the so-called "left-leaning'' view of on-air talent is a reason why ESPN is in the shape it is in shows a complete ignorance to what is going on.
• Some rejoiced at the layoffs of ESPN talent, and that is pathetic. These are real people with real families, and to rejoice in seeing hard-working and decent people lose their jobs because you don't like some of the things ESPN does is disgusting.
• I heard this: Why does so-and-so get laid off and this other person over here keep his job? The one person who seems to be a lightning rod is Stephen A. Smith. Ultimately, only ESPN knows why some people were kept and some were let go. But I will defend Smith here. I'm a fan. And clearly ESPN values his ability to talk about any sport, any subject, any topic with authority. Going forward, it would seem that ESPN places the highest value on those who have diverse talents and interests. Smith is among that group.
• Everyone laid off had value, but I have a special shout-out to some of my favorites. That includes Jayson Stark, Jane McManus, Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz, Johnette Howard and hockey writers Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald and Scott Burnside. Some are friends of mine, such as the hockey guys and McMurphy, a long-time writer at the Tampa Tribune. All will be missed at ESPN.
Good for NFL Network's Mike Mayock for criticizing the Colts using an orangutan from the Indianapolis Zoo to reveal some of their draft picks, including USF's Marlon Mack. After Albany State's Grover Stewart was selected in the fourth round, Mayock said, "If we're going back to the zoo, I'm walking off the desk. I've about had the zoo, okay? Enough. I mean, is this good TV?"
Mayock is right. The Colts made a mockery of a great moment in the lives of several draft prospects.
"I think we've got to be a little respectful," Mayock said. "It's a big day for Grover Stewart, and rather than talking about that chimp, let's get back to some football here."
The strongest broadcasting of the weekend was the work of NBC's top hockey team of Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire during Saturday night's Pens-Caps Game 2. First, the camera work by NBC, showing a really bad goal allowed by horribly positioned Caps goalie Braden Holtby just as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby was skating through the frame, was the best camera work of the playoffs. To start the third period, Holtby was pulled and the crew wasted no time dissecting the move.
"I like the move,'' Olczyk said. "When you need a save, you've got to get a stop.''
While Olczyk was saying this, NBC's production truck quickly called up a montage of the goals allowed by Holtby in the past two games. Then, during the next break, just a few seconds later, the truck dialed up all the great saves made by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. This was masterful work all around by NBC — in the booth and in the truck.
Oh, this should be mentioned, too. Maguire was on the call Saturday night in Washington then Sunday afternoon in Nashville, sounding fresh, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
Best BA moment
This feels like a record on repeat in this column, but every weekend, Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson teaches me something new. The latest? During Saturday's Rays-Blue Jays game, he pointed out that Matt Andriese was losing the feel for his changeup and curves because — get this — he was throwing too many changeups and curves. You would think the opposite would be true.
"If you keep throwing change and curves, you arm speed slows and you lose your feel for it,'' Anderson said. "You have to mix in fastballs.''
Andriese did throw back-to-back fastballs and then came back with an excellent curve for a strike, proving Anderson's point.
Most football fans know the back story of Joe Mixon. He's the former Oklahoma running back who punched a woman in the face, knocking her out and breaking bones in her face, in July 2014. A first-round talent, Mixon wasn't picked until the second round by the Bengals. As soon as Mixon was selected, ESPN made an interesting choice. It showed video of his assault. The network warned viewers of the graphic violence and then discussed Mixon while showing the video.
ESPN should be applauded for the decision. Video of the event was available and viewers should be reminded in the strongest way possible why Mixon slipped in the draft and the questions teams have about him.
Three things that popped into my head
1. The Clippers choke again. Five straight years that they have been eliminated in a series in which they once led. Time to blow that thing up.
2. Who's having a worse season? Is it the last-place Blue Jays at 8-17? Or the last-place Mets, who are 10-14 after losing 23-5 on Sunday when ace Noah Syndergaard left the game in the second inning with arm issues? Both were supposed to be good, but I have to think Mets fans are really depressed.
3. Know who else is having a bad season? Newly signed Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is hitting .210 with one hit in his past 32 at-bats. Might be time to give KK a day off.
tom jones' two cents
tom jones' two cents