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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Verne Lundquist not ready to step away from broadcasting altogether

Verne Lundquist, right, talks with Barack Obama, center, and Clark Kellogg, left, during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke in 2010.

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Verne Lundquist, right, talks with Barack Obama, center, and Clark Kellogg, left, during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke in 2010.

NEW YORK — Verne Lundquist went on a month-long cruise from Cape Town to Singapore and gave speeches the entire time. He has been calling college basketball games since January. He was in New York on Thursday getting ready to work this weekend's East region of the NCAA Tournament. After that, he's off to his annual gig at the Masters.

These days, he goes home to Colorado just long to kiss his wife, Nancy, and grab some clean clothes. Then it's another plane, another hotel room, another sporting event.

This is retirement?

"What the heck?'' Lundquist, 76, said. "What about the porch and swing and all that stuff?''

Lundquist might no longer be calling SEC football for CBS. Last season was his 42nd and final season calling college football games. But he's not ready to completely walk away from broadcasting.

"I'm semi-retired,'' Lundquist said. …

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CBS analyst: Adjustments have been huge for Gators

The guy CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel really likes? Chris Chiozza, whom Spanarkel calls "wild card.''

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

The guy CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel really likes? Chris Chiozza, whom Spanarkel calls "wild card.''

NEW YORK - Lost in the Gators' run in the NCAA Tournament is that they are doing it without big man John Egbunu. When the 6-11 transfer from USF went down with a torn ACL in February, most thought he took Florida's postseason hopes with him.

After all, he was averaging nearly eight points and seven rebounds a game. Plus, he was playing intimidating defense, which has been the cornerstone to Florida's success this season.

"Anytime you lose a big guy in college basketball ... you have a void to fill,'' CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel said. "And it's a clog in the middle defensively that can bring so much to the table even if he's not blocking shots. As long as he knows where he's supposed to be on the floor, he's clogging the middle of the floor that guys on the other team have to worry about.''

That's what Egbunu did.

"The adjustments are huge for (Florida),'' Spanarkel said.

But the Gators have made them and Spanarkel has been impressed with the Gators even without their big guy.

"There a pretty good team without him,'' Spanarkel said. "I like their team. I like their speed when they go up and down. I like (Devin) Robinson. (KeVaughn) Allen and (Kasey) Hill play very well when I see them.'' …

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East Region field less attractive but wide open

The Florida Gators take on Wisconsin in Friday's nightcap.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

The Florida Gators take on Wisconsin in Friday's nightcap.

NEW YORK — The World's Most Famous Arena doesn't have the world's greatest regional. Not on paper anyway.

The East region of the NCAA Tournament has come to Madison Square Garden, but a couple of college basketball heavyweights did not make the trip.

No Villanova. No Duke.

Oh no.

The top two seeds and two of the most glamorous programs in the country are home after falling victim to upsets in the second round of the tournament last weekend.

That leaves MSG with a less-than-attractive, yet wide-open field comprised of third-seeded Baylor, fourth-seeded Florida, eighth-seeded Wisconsin and 11th-seeded South Carolina.

But what the region might lack in names, it makes up for in competitiveness. Any of these teams are capable of getting to the Final Four.

"I think if you're any of these four teams, I'm not even looking at the seeds,'' CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel said Thursday morning from MSG. "I think it's meaningless that one is higher than the other at this point. So you're a three and I'm a seven? Big deal. I think all that gets thrown right out the window.'' …

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Thursday: Chat with Tom Jones, 12:30

Want to talk about the start of hockey season? The NFL playoffs? College basketball? Sports on TV/radio? Join Tom Jones for a live chat Thursday, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Can't make it? Leave a question in the "Comments'' area below, then check back afterward to replay the chat.

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Shooting from the lip/Jan. 14th edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports

tebow.Best next analyst
There's already a buzz that if no NFL team is interested in Tim Tebow then he might be able to make the jump to television. Actually, the more likely scenario is Tebow would be willing to play a position other than quarterback if that's the only way he could stay in the league, and plenty of teams would be interested.

But let's just say he can't stay in football. Maybe ESPN could hire him. To make room, they could dump Merril Hoge.

Speaking of Tebow, you do realize he has won more playoff games than Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform, right?

vangundy.jpgMost entertaining attack
Please, Jeff Van Gundy, never take another coaching job. Don't hit the lottery. Don't go on a yearlong eat-pray-love trip to find yourself. Don't do anything except what you're doing right now. You need to be calling basketball games on TV the rest of your life.

ABC/ESPN's NBA analyst is already elite, and now he's starting to put distance between himself and every other sports commentator on television. Here's the latest from Van Gundy: …

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Dec. 20: Chat live with Tom Jones, 12:30

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Shooting from the lip/Dec. 10th edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

army.Best coverage
The annual Army-Navy football game is one of sports' greatest traditions, although the game itself has lost a bit of its onfield pizzazz because of Navy's recent dominance. The Midshipmen won their 11th game in a row in the series Saturday.

But when you watch the pregame pageantry, you can't help but acknowledge just how special this game is. CBS did its usual splendid job covering Army-Navy more as an "event" than a "game.''The result of the game certainly matters to the teams and those who are and were in the military, but for the rest of us, Army-Navy is about those serving this country.

That sentiment was expressed perfectly before the game by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with CBS’s Tracy Wolfson.

"Every year this game seems to get better and better,'' Dempsey said. "And I know (Army was 2-9 going into the game). But it's the spirit of the game and the way that spirit defines us as a military. … It's really about the soul of the military.'' …

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Shooting from the lip/Dec. 3rd edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

chiefs.Strongest comments
The story of the weekend was the tragedy in Kansas City, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shooting and killing the mother of his child and then driving to Arrowhead Stadium and killing himself.

The NFL made the decision to play Sunday's Chiefs-Panthers game as scheduled, and it appears the league took its cue from the Chiefs, who wanted to go forward with the game.

Was it the right call? Personally, I don't think so. This is bigger than the Chiefs. Out of respect for Kasandra Perkins, the 22-year-old woman killed, as well as sending a message that some things should take precedence over football, I think the league should have postponed the game until a later date. Then again, I'm not a Kansas City player, and I didn't lose anyone close to me Saturday.

carter.jpgMany analysts weighed in on the topic Sunday, but no one was more compelling that ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown analyst and former player Cris Carter:

"One of my best friends, my roommate Jerome Brown, died in a car accident (in 1992). Philadelphia Eagle, great player, great person. … I was in the league (for) 9/11, and I didn't think we should play. And we didn't play. …

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Shooting from the lip/Nov. 26th edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

suh.Strongest comment
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is a heck of a player. A heck of a jerk, too. Seems we can't go more than a few games without Suh doing something dirty. The latest incident was kicking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving Day -- the second straight Turkey Day that Suh used his foot against an opposing player.

Even worse, perhaps, than facing punishment by the league, Suh has lost the respect of many who played the game. That includes CBS NFL Today analyst Boomer Esiason, who laid into Suh.

"This is supposed to be a brotherhood,'' Esiason said. "You're supposed to have respect for one another. Bruce Smith, I could always shake his hand. Reggie White, I could always shake his hand after a game. I would never shake this guy's hand because, once again, he has crossed over the line, and it's obvious it was on purpose.'' …

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Shooting from the lip/Nov. 12th edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

martin.Best praise
How fun to finally see the Bucs get attention from the national media. Over the past couple of seasons they have been ignored by the networks, and you can certainly understand why. Not only were they bad last season, they were, worse yet, boring.

But after a solid start to the 2012 season, the Bucs are getting noticed. CBS made the Bucs a big part of its pregame show, sending Bill Cowher in to do a feature on coach Greg Schiano and his team.

Meantime, after his 251-yard rushing game, Doug Martin has become the talk and toast of the NFL.

"Doug Martin is an every-down back, and we don't have many in the NFL,'' analyst Marshall Faulk said on the NFL Network's GameDay Morning. "With Vincent Jackson and Josh Freeman, they have their triplets.''

Best prediction
Talking about the Falcons-Saints game, ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown analyst Mike Ditka said: "I can see the Saints pulling off an upset. They've got to outscore them. Their defense is not going to stop Atlanta’s offense.''

Ditka was right all the way around as the Saints beat the Falcons 31-27. …

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Shooting from the lip/Nov. 5th edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

sandy.Saddest fact
Mike Ditka of ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown was trying to say the right thing, so I'm not jumping on him, exactly.

But in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Ditka said, "One great thing about sport in the history of our country: It's an outlet. … So for 2½, three hours today, it's going to be football as usual, life as usual. I wrote down one thing: Life doesn't stop after a disaster like this, but it sure slows down a lot.''

As much as I'd like to think that sports is a great diversion from a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, it really isn't. Ultimately, those most affected by disasters and tragedies can't find a diversion in anything, including sports.

Like I said, Ditka was trying to say the right thing, and sports ultimately do help us return to a sense of normalcy after something tragic. But to suggest that sports erase the awful things in life, even for a couple of hours, just isn't true.

rg3.Most brow-raising comment
The NFL Network's Sterling Sharpe spouted off about comparisons between Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. …

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Shooting from the lip

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

danielson.Best coverage
Saturday's Florida-Georgia game wasn't the best-played college football game ever. Actually, it was a dog with both teams playing sloppily.

But CBS's broadcast was superb. Leading that charge was analyst Gary Danielson, who had his best day of the season. Danielson's analysis was spot-on all day, and he was excellent in his anticipation.

His finest moment: In the first quarter, Danielson noticed how a Georgia defensive end crashed toward the running back on a quarterback option play. Danielson pointed out that Gators QB Jeff Driskel could have had a big run if he had held on to the ball and to look for that play later in the game.

Sure enough, in the fourth quarter, Driskel held the ball, that same end crashed the middle, and the quarterback raced for a 20-yard run.

Danielson also had the best line of the weekend. When talking about whether or not a play should be reversed on a video replay, Danielson talked about the different philosophies of replay officials: "Sometimes,'' Danielson said, "they won't overturn anything unless it's obvious to 10 guys in a bar.'' …

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Wednesday: Chat with Tom Jones, 12:30

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Shooting from the lip/Oct. 22nd edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

buck.Best announcer
NBC's Al Michaels remains the best play-by-play announcer in the country, but Fox's Joe Buck is the most prominent. Michaels mostly does one thing: Sunday Night Football. But Buck has become not only the second-best NFL announcer, behind Michaels, but the best national play-by-play voice for baseball.

Here's how you know an announcer is at the top of his game: When you hear him, you immediately know you're watching a big event. When you hear Buck, you know that game is key, whether it's baseball or football.

Fox took criticism last week by giving Buck double duty on the same day. He called the Giants-49ers football game Sunday afternoon, then rushed across San Francisco to call the Cardinals-Giants National League Championship Series game that night. Sure, it was partly a publicity stunt, but that's fine. I wanted to hear Buck calling both games.

The cool thing is Buck was humble about it. "It's not like I was in the pentathlon,'' he told Sports Illustrated. "I just sat there and talked. It's cute for Fox, but beyond that, people just want to watch the game.''

Well said -- just like everything he says. …

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Shooting from the lip/Oct. 15th edition

Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

junior.Most ill-advised comment, Part I
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. sought medical help for a concussion last week, and that led to him being shut down for two races. Then driver Jeff Gordon said he hated to admit it but he probably would keep quiet if he had concussion symptoms so he could keep driving.

I suppose Gordon should be given credit for his honesty, and he's probably not the only driver who feels that way. However, Gordon needed to keep his mouth shut on this topic. Though he likely didn't intend to question Earnhardt or suggest drivers should keep injuries quiet, that's the way he came off. Earnhardt should be praised, especially because his concussion issues affect his fellow drivers as well. If I was a driver, I'd be a little nervous driving 180 mph next to Gordon, knowing he would go out there even when he didn't feel well. …

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