Jeff Gordon breakout star of Fox's Daytona 500 broadcast

Published February 22 2016
Updated February 22 2016

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best addition

When it comes to camera work, graphics, direction and production, it's hard to find a much better sports broadcast than what Fox does with NASCAR, and in particular, the Daytona 500.

My gripe with Fox's coverage always has been with the broadcasters, who seem a little too cozy with NASCAR and the drivers when it comes to on-air comments. But you get the sense that the addition of Jeff Gordon (left), who retired as a driver after last season, will help. He's already a favorite. After a little warmup last week with Daytona qualifying, Gordon jumped into the deep end on his first full-length race and was splendid on Sunday's Daytona 500 coverage. He sounded like he has been calling races for years, and even better, the entire lead crew sounded like they had worked together for years. You could not tell that Gordon was working his first race with Mike Joy and analyst Darrell Waltrip.

The three were never at a loss for something to say, and yet there was no talking over one another. Though the finish was incredibly close, the race wasn't so exciting that the broadcasters had an easy time.

What is really exciting is that Gordon will get even better. Fox's NASCAR coverage has a chance to be really special with the addition of Gordon. We could be seeing the beginning of sports' next great analyst.

One more thought: I loved that Fox called injured driver Tony Stewart on the phone to get his thoughts on Daytona before and during the race. Hmm, how about Joy next season with Gordon and Stewart, who says this one is his last as a driver?

Best coverage

What an outstanding job by NBC on Sunday's outdoor game between the Wild and Blackhawks at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. What makes it so impressive is that NBC does two or three of these games a season and always in a different location. That means the network is essentially doing these games on the fly, and hockey is not one of those sports that you want to be doing on the fly.

The only nit Sunday occurred when Chicago's Michael Rozsival crushed Minnesota's Jason Tucker on a hit that left Tucker injured with a possible concussion. Instead of breaking for commercial as it did, NBC should have stayed with the broadcast. When the network returned, viewers saw Rozsival being given a game misconduct.

Analyst Eddie Olczyk was the one who walked viewers through the replay, and he needed to do a much better job giving his opinion on whether the hit was dirty. All he said was the hit was a little high but instead focused on Tucker's head hitting the ice. We saw that. We needed an analyst telling us what he thought of the hit, and that's what Olczyk needed to do. That's his job, and this was a rare misstep for the highly capable Olczyk.

Other than that, a solid job covering the game, as you would expect, by NBC.

Best second team

One of the side benefits of ABC carrying a Saturday prime-time NBA game is that viewers get to listen to one of the most insightful announcers in the business on ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcasts. With Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson doing a sensational job calling the Saturday night games, the Sunday games are handled by Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown. Tirico is a real pro, but the star of the broadcast is Brown, who is 82 years old. Yep, 82, proving age is nothing but a number.

Brown called Sunday's Cavs-Thunder game, and as always, he teaches even those who closely follow today's NBA something new every game. Doesn't matter if it's X's and O's or current players, Brown knows as much as anybody.

Strangest take

There was a bizarre discussion on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday about Peyton Manning and the sexual harassment allegations made against him while he was at the University of Tennessee in the 1990s. Don't know if it was the intent, but some of the panel made it seem like Manning was a victim and that social media is to blame for the recent revival of the story. Sports Reporters rarely has a bad segment, but that was one of them.

Three things that popped into my head

1 New Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who had one of baseball's all-time great mustaches as a player (see him left in 1987), is banning facial hair? Donnie Baseball has become Donnie Business. Lighten up, Don. Don't be an old fuddy-duddy. Maybe having long hair (the Mets' pitchers) and crazy thick beards (Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper) aren't so bad.

2 Favorite line of the weekend came from Fox Sports Sun Lightning analyst Brian Engblom. Talking about how unafraid 5-foot-9, 175-pound Lightning forward Jonathan Marchessault is on the ice, Engblom pointed out how Marchessault didn't back down from Winnipeg bruiser Dustin Byfuglien in Thursday's game: "Byfuglien probably has lunches bigger than Jonathan Marchessault.''

3 Listing areas that would be a perfect host for an outdoor hockey game, Sports Illustrated has Tampa Bay high on the list. With technology, it would work, and SI says Raymond James would be the ideal spot. Let's do this!

tom jones' two cents