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Keyshawn's passing the torch
It is 1:15 p.m., Milan leads, 1-nil, on a controversial free kick just before the half of the European Champions League final, my phone rings and it is our NFL writer, Sam Farmer, just leaving the Keyshawn Johnson retirement news conference at Heritage Hall.
Farmer says Johnson's agent, Jerome Stanley, told him that his client had offers from the Raiders (he doesn't need them), the Patriots (they don't need him) and the Titans (USC alumni connection there with Jeff Fisher, Norm Chow). According to Stanley, the Titans offered two years, "close to $8 million," but ESPN/ABC put together a better package.
Stanley said ABC is considering using Johnson on "Dancing With the Stars" and as a fill-in for Regis Philbin.
Should we believe the hype? Speaking of which, at Heritage Hall, Johnson was asked to name the NFL's most over-hyped player.
"Tony Romo," was Johnson's reply. "He's with the Dallas Cowboys, he's played five games, he's an over-hyped deal." On paper, he's right about Romo.
On paper, Johnson has found a very capable successor.
Now, Keyshawn will get the chance to really talk a good game
It is noon, no score yet in the Liverpool-AC Milan final, so I switch over to ESPNews for a quick news update and guess what's leading "The Hot List?" Keyshawn Johnson to retire!
(OK. Interesting. Especially from the local point of view. But top of the news lineup?) He's retiring to join ESPN!
(Oh, so THAT explains it.)
As good a professional wide receiver as Johnson was — and that is what he was: good, nothing more, nothing less — he was always more adept at talking a good game. He's a useful pickup for ESPN, which will get more value out of his skills than the Carolina Panthers did in 2006.
Johnson worked out for ESPN's scouts during the network's draft coverage last month. Serving as a studio analyst, Johnson broke down the Panthers' second-round selection of USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett ("He's just like me"), interviewed Jarrett, and was asked by Chris Mortensen if this meant he would be retiring next year.
"I don't know about next year," Johnson replied then. "Maybe a year after, but we'll see. One year at a time at 34." Johnson's a natural, but raw, broadcasting talent. He still needs to learn a few things.
Such as: When you get a scoop, Keyshawn, you don't sit on it for a month.
The NBA's invisible season
The NBA draft lottery lineup confirms what we suspected about the Clippers in 2006-07: Has this team ever had a more nondescript, meaningless season?
They weren't good enough to make the playoffs.
They weren't bad enough to rise above the 14th (a.k.a. last) position in the lottery.
Why did they (and we) even bother?
On the bright side for the Clippers, they are not the Celtics, who conducted a spirited, imaginative and energetic series of tank jobs designed to ensure easy access in the Oden-Durant sweepstakes
and then wound up sliding all the way to fifth (a.k.a. Yi Jianlian/Al Horford territory).
No one's crying for Boston outside of Boston, though. After carrying the city's sports fans for decades, the Celtics now serve a much more noble purpose — cosmic balance for the newfound excess of the Dice-K Red Sox and the Randy Moss Patriots.
Anaheim vs. Ottawa: not exactly the dream matchup NBC had in mind
It sounds like Mel Blanc's skit on Jack Benny's old radio show: "Train leaving on Track 5 for Anaheim, Ottawa and Cuuuu-ca-mon-gaa!" With — according to the North American media consensus now swelling after hockey teams from Anaheim and Ottawa qualified for the Stanley Cup finals — an eventual stop-off at Television Ratings Oblivion.
A typical sampling, courtesy Chris Zelkovic of the Toronto Star: "With a final that [will] feature Anaheim, a city where few care about hockey, and Ottawa, a city that will require NBC to run a locator map, don't be shocked if NBC leaves overtime for a 'Celebrity Poker' rerun."
During the lead-in to Monday's finals opener, you will be hearing a lot about Anaheim-Ottawa grinding TV ratings into ice chips, which is hilarious when you think about it.
Take your pick of any potential "dream" matchup out there — Detroit-New York Rangers, Detroit-Montreal, Detroit-um, hmm, well, hmm, did we mention the Rangers? — and, really, how much better would the ratings be?
This side of the border, there is no such thing as Must-Watch Hockey. Not since Gary Bettman's grand fiasco of 2004-05 gave millions of American sports fans good reason not to watch the Stanley Cup finals.
A quick review of recent finals:
2006: Carolina-Edmonton. Nobody watched.
2005: Nobody played.
2004: Tampa Bay-Calgary. Nobody watched.
Anaheim played New Jersey in the 2003 finals and the league survived. People on the East Coast know about Anaheim. They know it's that place that Angels owner keeps wanting to escape.
(Side note to the under-40 generation: Jack Benny was a popular American entertainer in the mid-20th century. Mel Blanc was the voice of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Radio is that thing that used to be free audio entertainment — no software to download or anything! Ask your parents.)