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Shooting from the Lip

By Tom Jones
Published: February 18, 2018 Updated: February 18, 2018 at 08:18 PM
WILL VRAGOVIC | TimesTampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (23) throwing the first inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.

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

Worst news
Saturday night could not have been fun for Rays fans. Their team traded solid pitcher Jake Odorizzi and essentially let go of 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson. While they did pick up a first baseman with some pop, C.J. Cron, the Rays do seem to be building for more for the future than the present.

It should come as no surprise because we've been hearing rumors all offseason about slashing payroll and how Odorizzi and Dickerson likely weren't going to be here by opening day. And, we shouldn't be shocked if others, including closer Alex Colome, are next out the door.

But it doesn't make it any less depressing for Rays fans.

Ultimately, building for the future and turning to younger players might be the best tactic for the Rays. But it certainly leaves some major concerns about how competitive the Rays will be in 2018.

Worst comments
There are few things more insulting in this world than telling someone to shut up and that they shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion. It's degrading and downright un-American to tell a citizen that they can't speak because of what their education or profession is. But that's exactly what Fox News contributor and syndicated TV/radio host Laura Ingraham did when she told NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant to "shut up and dribble'' because they made critical comments about President Donald Trump.

While Ingraham has every right to disagree with James and Durant and even criticize their remarks (after all that's her right to speak out), it's absolutely wrong to tell anyone that they should shut up.

Meantime, Ingraham went even further in her aggressive and condescending tone, saying, "Must they run their mouths like that?'' She also suggested that James and Durant's comments were "barely intelligible," even though James comments seemed perfectly understandable to anyone who watched his the ESPN interview that set off Ingraham's attack.

As Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long pointed out, Fox News has interviewed actor Chuck Norris about climate control, musician Kid Rock about President Barack Obama, former basketball coach Bob Knight and actor Jon Voight about supporting Trump and musician Ted Nugent about the violence in Charlottesville. Yet, Ingraham feels James and Durant should only have opinions about basketball?

In the ultimate hypocrisy, Ingraham now is asking James to come on her show.

This idea that anyone should "stick to sports'' or "stick to acting'' or "stick to whatever your job is'' is insulting. We all have the right to speak up about whatever we wish. It's okay to disagree with someone. But it's not okay to say someone doesn't have the right to express their opinion.

I think I read that somewhere. I think it might have been the United States Constitution.

Best and worst coverage
Fox does the Daytona 500 about as well as any network does anything on sports, but a good broadcast was nearly spoiled by a bad ending to the coverage on Sunday.

As usual, there was a lot to like about Sunday's broadcast. Yeah, sometimes the broadcasting crew is a little too chummy when it comes to NASCAR and its drivers. But that's the nature of broadcasting that sport and I probably should give up the fight on NASCAR broadcasters changing their ways to be more critical when it calls for it.

But when it comes to the production and direction of the Daytona 500, Fox has it down pat. Usually, the best part of the Fox's NASCAR coverage is breaking down crashes with excellent replay and commentary and that was evident again for most of Sunday. Meantime, Jeff Gordon, now in his second season, is outstanding and he has a nice chemistry with fellow analyst Darrell Waltrip, even if Gordon occasionally lets it be known he doesn't always agree with Waltrip.

Perhaps even better than the race coverage was the pre-race show. The Walking Dead actor Ross Marquand did spot-on impressions of celebrities in a fun piece introducing what's new in NASCAR this season. Also, Gordon's interview with Jimmie Johnson and his team was insightful, as was Gordon and Larry McReynolds breaking down the new pit stop rules.

And does anything beat in-car camera views and interviews with the drivers during the race?

But the big nit was Fox failing to react to what happened to Aric Almirola, who crashed (or was crashed, depending on your viewpoint) on the final lap. Specifically asked if Almirola was robbed, analyst Michael Waltrip talked around the subject, never giving a definitive answer. That shouldn't happen. And the post-race interview with Almirola avoided asking Almirola specifically if he thought he was cheated. That cannot happen.

Controversial moments are where Fox needs to improve. I would have given Fox an A for Sunday, but it is dropped to a C for failing to address the Almirola crash in a timely manner.

Strangest comment
I like Nick Faldo, but during CBS's coverage of the Genesis Open on Sunday, the analyst said, "… so many of you (viewers) have'' walked the Riviera Country club. Uh, no Nick, so many of us have not been on one of the most exclusive private golf courses in the world.

Three things that popped into my head
1. Shame on Blackhawks fans near the penalty box who chanted "Basketball'' at Caps forward Devante Smith-Pelley, who is black. The fact that junk like this still happens at anytime is frustrating, but this also happens to be Hockey Is For Everyone Month in the NHL. The fans were ejected and the Blackhawks and NHL issued apologies.
2. Prediction: the Bruins will win the Atlantic Division, meaning the Lightning and Maple Leafs will play each other in the first round of the playoffs. That could be one heck of a fun series.
3. It was long overdue, but thanks to the #MeToo movement, we are more aware than ever of the abuses and harassment women have suffered over the years. With that in mind, don't you think it's about time Sports Illustrated drops its annual swimsuit issue? After all, let's be real, that issue is not put out to show off the latest styles in bikinis. The latest swimsuit issue, published last week, has a section where the models have words of empowerment written on their bodies. And while the intent might be admirable, the bottom line is this remains an issue where Sports Illustrated's primary goal to make a ton of money over the objectification of women.