Revenge, it is said, is a casserole best served deep-frozen. On Saturday, Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows received a seven-course banquet of gotcha' on ice - courtesy of Hockey Night in Canada. The feisty winger racked up two goals and four points as the Canucks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3. With the Canucks-Hockey Night feud over Burrows' treatment by host Ron MacLean barely settled, Burrows got grudging vindication from the Hockey Night crew - plus a glassy-eyed, I'm-only-doing-this-to-spite-you interview with Elliotte Friedman between periods.
As an eagle-eyed reader notes, Hockey Night was so unstrung by Burrows and the Sedin twins dismantling the home team (er, the Maple Leafs), that it couldn't even get the three stars right. On TV, it was 1) Burrows 2) Daniel Sedin 3) Henrik Sedin. On the CBC website, however, it was 1) Daniel Sedin 2) Phil Kessel 3) Burrows. A harsher person than Usual Suspects would say Burrows dived from first to third in CBC's estimation.
When we left CBS's golf coverage last summer, Tiger Woods was the holiest of holies, club grooves were square and host Jim Nantz was a model of broadcasting decorum. As the network began its 2010 season coverage at the Buick … er, Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on the weekend, that cozy world has capsized. Woods has been revealed as a philandering cad, those diabolically effective club grooves had ensnared Phil Mickelson in charges of "cheating," and Nantz has publicly suffered through a messy divorce, plus claims he'd breached his journalistic objectivity by appearing in a TV commercial with Peyton Manning.
So Usual Suspects tore ourselves away from Don Cherry-Ron MacLean Butchering the Bard in Stratford, Ont., to CBS's opening telecast on Saturday. How would the see-no-evil CBS crew handle so much turmoil? As it turned out, not badly. Nantz's personal issues were ignored, but CBS made a smart call in letting Nick Faldo take on the twin elephants of Woods and Mickelson. He's already a maverick, with few friends to alienate - perfect for the job.
On Woods, Faldo knows the scandal sheet, having gone through several spectacular divorces himself. Describing Woods as "No.1 [subject of]gossip in the world," Faldo suggested Woods's aura of invincibility - "two up on the first tee" - is shattered, and this man who ordered his world so carefully can't predict what will happen next. As for what Woods can expect when he walks between the ropes again, Faldo sees a big adjustment from the man who had cameras smashed and hecklers ejected.
"He's a very sensitive man," Faldo noted. "Not just to criticism, but to comment. … Can he have the same self-esteem he had before?"
To do so, Faldo suggested, Woods may need to change Team Tiger - his close retinue of caddy Steve Williams and his handlers. "He needs to get back on the course," Faldo stressed. "Let his clubs do the talking. … This is where his whole career was created. … Golf is his life."
CBS waited a full hour to the deal with the charge from pro Scott McCarron that Mickelson had cheated by using clubs that don't conform to new technical standards imposed by the PGA Tour. Faldo found McCarron's use of the word cheat "a bit harsh." Mickelson's clubs fit into a loophole that made them comply technically, Faldo explained. But the winner of six majors also expressed the opinion that everyone should comply on a level playing field. Translation: To Faldo, Mickelson was mocking the spirit of the rule by using an old Ping wedge grandfathered into competition.
Nantz's role in the Super Bowl next Sunday has been called into question after his appearance in a TV commercial alongside Manning. Critics say Nantz's credibility will be damaged when the Indianapolis Colts' star plays in the big game against the New Orleans Saints.
"Why should we trust anything Nantz has to say about Manning ever again?" Tom Jones of the St. Petersburg Times writes. "Even if Nantz has every right to defend Manning after a play, why should we believe him after assuming the two hung out together and socialized during a commercial shoot?"
Nantz says nonsense. "Twenty-five years in my career that has never been a factor, so I'm not concerned about it all," Nantz told Sports Illustrated.
But it's not for Nantz to judge. That assessment will come from the fans and his colleagues. Perception matters as much as reality in such issues, and the money Nantz received from the commercial is not worth the hit to his integrity.
Finally, hockey media scrums are a curious animal. Example: Dion Phaneuf met the media yesterday after his trade to the Maple Leafs. Phaneuf repeated - at least three times - that he was excited about joining the Leafs. Next question? "Are you excited to be going to Toronto?" Next question, "So where do you go from here, Dion?" Answer: "Toronto."
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