ESPN2 to air Iowa-Michigan State game

September 29, 2008

ESPN2 will air Iowa’s game this week at Michigan State with Clay Matvick and Ray Bentley calling the game. It’s third week in a row on ESPN’s family of networks. ESPN2 aired the Iowa-PIttsburgh game, while ESPN Classic took up last week’s Iowa-Northwestern Big Ten opener.

Iowa will end its three-week football experiment with ESPN’s family of networks Oct. 11 at Indiana with the Big Ten Network televising the game in HD. Game time is slated for 11 a.m. The Big Ten Network aired Iowa’s first three games against Maine, Florida International and Iowa State. It also will show Iowa’s finale at Minnesota on Nov. 22.

So far, Iowa’s first seven games start with 11 a.m. kickoffs. The finale at Minnesota begins at 6 p.m.


Reports say Larson commits to Iowa

September 27, 2008

South Dakota prep Cody Larson has committed to Iowa in 2010, according to both Hawkeye Nation and Hawkeye Report.

Larson, a 6-foot-9 post player from Sioux Falls, joins Dubuque prep Eric May and Chanse Creekmur as 2010 recruits. He averaged 10 points and 7.2 rebounds a game as a sophomore last year for Sioux Falls Roosevelt. He had multiple offers from Big 12 schools (Nebraska and Baylor) and had drawn interest from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Depth chart check: Sash not starting

September 27, 2008

According to the first look at the depth chart here on Saturday, senior Harold Dalton is listed as the strong safety ahead of freshman Tyler Sash.

Sash has started the last couple of games but injured his shoulder last week against Pittsburgh. It’s undetermined whether he’ll play.

Paki O’Meara is still listed as backup running back but is hampered by a knee injury. His status also is up in the air.

NFL Network’s “Missing Rings” a hit

September 23, 2008

The quotes are just as powerful out of context as they are slotted in their correct sequence.

“You gotta be able to live with losing,” former Minnesota Vikings Coach Bud Grant said. “That’s the hardest thing — to get over it. You can’t let it eat you up.”

Grant said that during in the latest installment of “America’s Game: Missing Rings,” which profiles the 1969 Minnesota Vikings. That team won 12 straight games during the season — an accomplishment no team had done in the previous 35 years. It led the NFL in points scored, points allowed and was the least penalized.

The Vikings’ episode appears at 9 p.m. (CST) Thursday on NFL Network.

Only the Vikings’ records and statistics fail to matter on the NFL’s scrap heap of history. The Vikings lost Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7 and are forgotten along with the rest of history’s losers. It’s a familiar tone with the Vikings, who lost three more Super Bowls over the next seven seasons. The Vikings’ best team in 1998, which finished 15-1 in the regular season, will appear on a future episode as well.

“America’s Game: Missing Rings” features five of the NFL’s best teams to never win the Super Bowl. Along with the 1969 and 1998 Vikings, the five-episode series features the 1990 Buffalo Bills and the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals. The first installment, which debuted Sept. 18, showed the 1981 San Diego Chargers.

The “America’s Game” series ranks at the top of all sports documentaries, featuring every Super Bowl champion. If it’s possible, from the first two episodes, the “Missing Rings” might be better. These losing teams were even more colorful than most of the Super Bowl winners and their deficiencies were more pronounced. By the end of the episode you know the team is going to lose, but you kind of hope it doesn’t. You ask the same “what-if” questions as the team’s fans.

The 1969 Vikings episode begins with the Vikings’ transition from expansion franchise to NFL superpower. It focuses on the perpetual arguments between first coach Norm Van Brocklin and first (and future) quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Then both left, and Grant took over in 1967. He then brought in Joe Kapp, a Mexican-American, from Canada to play quarterback.

Kapp was all bravado at QB. He and his teammates joked about his throwing style, which Kapp said didn’t include using the laces. “He threw some passes that looked like ducks but they made it into the hands of the receivers,” Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall said.

The episode deals with race issues from the era, which seemed to avoid Minnesota. It included a fight between Kapp and linebacker Lonnie Warwick — “That’s what Tequilla can do to you,” Grant said. The episode documents Kapp’s seven-touchdown performance against NFL defending champion Baltimore and the ferocity of the Vikings’ defense, known as the “Purple People Eaters.”

The fierce Minnesota weather and Grant’s disciplinary style of coaching also was highlighted. But what everyone remembers is the season’s end, a loss to Kansas City. Narrator Tom Selleck appropriately describes the day for the Minnesota faithful:

“A Viking hot air balloon lost its way, and careened off course. In the first half, the same could be said of the team.”

Grant and Kapp opened critiqued the loss with pointed remarks on the passing game.

“We didn’t really have a sophisticated passing attack,” Grant said. “We were ahead in most of our games and we really didn’t have to come back.

“Our passing game wasn’t good at that point.”

Kapp said: “I don’t think we were quite as smart as we needed to be as play callers in that game. I didn’t go to the pass on first down … I could critique it to death.”

The loss hurt the Vikings’ Marshall as much as anyone. He started in all four Super Bowl losses, and despite efforts from former coaches and teammates touting him as one of the NFL’s best-ever, those losses tarnished his — and the Vikings’ — legacy.

“Those were four opportunities that we had to prove that we were the best in the world, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We got beat and in some games we got beat soundly. You never get over things like that. It haunts me every day.”

This series has possibilities for future episodes. Copy editor Sam Paxton, who follows NFL Films as closely as I do, and I looked into other installments of “Missing Rings” that could be just as rich as the first two episodes. They include:

1979 Houston Oilers, which lost two consecutive AFC title games to the Pittsburgh Steelers

1999 Tennessee Titans, the former Oilers that lost on the game’s final play to St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV

1991 Detroit Lions, a losing franchise that sneaked past everyone to the NFC title game

1980 Cleveland Browns, the best-known “Kardiac Kids” that lost on the infamous “Red Right 88” pass

1986/87 Cleveland Browns, a team that lost AFC title games in heartbreaking fashion to John Elway’s Denver Broncos

2003 Carolina Panthers, a team that went from 1-15 to the Super Bowl in two seasons and nearly knocked off an NFL dynasty.

This series leaves you wanting more at the end of every episode. It’s the very best of NFL Films.

ESPN did it right in Yankee Stadium sendoff

September 22, 2008

Most Midwesterners hate the New York Yankees. Their existence is a contradition of Midwest values, beginning with their smug arrogance and wasteful spending. ESPN’s self-importance is at times as nauseating as its vast coverage of anything Yankees-Boston Red Sox during the baseball season.

But there’s no denying the Yankees, the most successful franchise in professional sports, also deserves the respect of all sports fans. And unlike a mid-May matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees that usually receives round-the-clock coverage from their large share of Syracuse graduates, ESPN hit the right touch Sunday in its Yankee Stadium sendoff.

The network used all of its platforms to showcase the 85-year-old broken treasure, which saw its last Yankee game Sunday night. ESPN Classic aired great games at Yankee Stadium through the day, including Game 5 of the 2001 World Series (a win against Arizona) and Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series (an extra-innings win against the Red Sox in the greatest postseason series in baseball history). ESPN2 aired tributes to Yankee Stadium, which included scenes from Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Papal visits, heavyweight title fights and the 1958 NFL Championship game.

ESPN2 broadcast at least one hour of pregame without commercial interruption to show the tribute to Yankee greats. Among the last images include Don Larsen putting dirt into a cup, Thurman Munson and Mickey Mantle’s sons walking to applause and a loud ovation for recent retirees Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez. You can’t help but get choked up when you see Yogi Berra at home plate or Julia Ruth Stevens (Babe Ruth’s daughter) throwing out the first pitch to Jorge Posada. Derek Jeter addressing the fans and Mariano Rivera walking into the game to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” wrapped up the night nicely.

Yankee Stadium is the Sistine Chapel of professional sports. Its life has ended, but its moments live on. ESPN struck the right chord in this sendoff, giving baseball’s greatest venue the due it richly deserves. And the viewers reaped the rewards.

Lickliter likes championship pedigrees

September 17, 2008

Three new Iowa basketball players won high school state championships last year, a trait Coach Todd Lickliter said you can’t overlook when rebuilding a basketball program.

“There is a uniqueness to Matt Gatens, Anthony (Tucker) and John (Lickliter); they’ve won state championships,” Lickliter said. “I don’t want to downplay that. I never won the last game of the year. … For having a couple of guys that have done it, it’s a good thing. Even though it is at a different level, still I’m excited about those that are coming in and their approach to the game.”

Gatens and John Lickliter, Todd’s son, helped Iowa City High win the Iowa Class 4A state championship last year. Tucker, a 6-4 guard, scored 27 points to lead Minnetonka (Minn.) to the large-school state title. Tucker also was a member of the Minnetonka Student Leadership Honor Society.

Players like Gatens, Tucker and Lickliter seem to have winning attributes coupled with academics that Lickliter is looking for in his recruits. Freshman Andrew Brommer, who played AAU basketball with Tucker, is an engineering major from Rosemount, Minn. Freshman Aaron Fuller, one of the best players in Arizona, is a computer science major. 

“When we recruit, we look at guys who have good poise, that are skilled, that have a presence for their team. They lift up their teammates and the offense,” Lickliter said.

More than half of Iowa’s basketball team is new this year. Along with the five freshmen, junior-college transfers Devan Bawinkel and Jermain Davis also are on the team. Six players return from last year: Cyrus Tate, Jeff Peterson, Jarryd Cole, Jake Kelly, J.R. Angle and David Palmer.


BTN to Iowa: ‘I can’t quit you’

September 15, 2008

OK, probably a poor quote in light that we’re talking about football not cowboys. But even as Iowa switches networks this week with its game at Pittsburgh, the Big Ten Network will re-air two of Iowa’s greatest victories in recent memory.

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, the BTN will show the 2005 Capital One Bowl. We all know what happens, but I’m sure Iowa fans aren’t tired of seeing Drew Tate to Warren Holloway on the game’s final play to beat LSU. The network will re-air the game at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The BTN will show last week’s Iowa-Iowa State (I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a great victory, but it’s a win) several times beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday (concurrently with Kirk Ferentz’s radio show for you diehards). It will show it again at 3 a.m. and noon Friday.

Iowa begins the first of at least two games on the ESPN family of networks this week. ESPN2 will televise the Iowa-Pittsburgh game with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley calling it. Either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic will air Iowa’s homecoming game against Northwestern on Sept. 27, according to Iowa’s SID office.

Right now the BTN has plans to air 19 Iowa men’s basketball games, including the Iowa-Iowa State game.

So as Iowa football and the BTN enjoy a two-week sabbatical, don’t worry. There’s no quit from either side.