Cowabunga Classics Is A Must See For Any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fan

Courtesy:  Fred Wolf Films/Lionsgate

Courtesy: Fred Wolf Films/Lionsgate

Excitement is building around the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. Those heroes in a half-shell will return to the big screen for the first time since 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III this summer.  It will be under the watch of Transformers director Michael Bay. In anticipation of the upcoming big screen live action reboot, Lionsgate and Fred Wolf Films have announced the upcoming release of a new compilation of episodes from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics. The single-disc compilation will be released Tuesday, July 29th. This latest compilation is a must for any hardcore fan of the series that started it all for those heroes in a half shell. It is a must have first and foremost because of the episodes collected for the set. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is its bonus material. Last but not least that audiences will appreciate is the compilation’s relatively affordable price. All three factors together make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics a compilation that more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new releases in the Family & Children category.

The episodes culled for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics collectively make up the primary reason that audiences will appreciate this latest release from Lionsgate and Fred Wolf Films. While not every season of the show’s ten total seasons is represented in this set, audiences that are familiar with the show will appreciate that the series’ first seven seasons are represented. And even on this presentation, each of the episodes included looks just as bright as they did in their original broadcasts. It all starts with Season 5’s “Planet of the Turtleoids” in which the guys are taken to a planet of nothing but turtles to help save some of its inhabitants. One of the best parts of the episode in whole is the turtleoid’s ship. It is shaped like a very familiar building. And then in “Night of the Rogues,” audiences are treated to a scenario very similar to that of both Marvel and DC. Leo, Raph, Donnie, and Mikey have to face Shredder’s “Rogue’s Gallery” of villains in his attempt to defeat them once and for all (yet again). Tempestra, The Rat King, Leatherhead, Scumbug, Antrax, Chrome Dome, and Slash are assembled in the series’ own version of Marvel’s Sinister Six or DC’s Legion of Doom. It all winds down with Season 1’s “Shreddered and Splintered.” This episode sees Splinter going after a retromutagen gun that could turn him back into a human. There’s just one problem—Krang and his new body.   It’s up to the guys to take him down and defeat both Krang and Shredder. These are just a few of the episodes that were collected for Cowabunga Classics. There are seven other episodes that span the series’ first seven seasons from which audiences will be able to choose their favorite(s) when they buy this DVD for themselves on July 29th.

The episodes that were collected for this latest compilation are the centerpiece in the DVD’s success and overall enjoyment. Audiences should also take into account with this DVD the bonus material chosen for the presentation. The bonus material collected for this DVD includes interviews with the men that original voiced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in “The Turtles: A Ninjatastic Look Back.” It also includes discussions with three of the artists that worked on TMNT over the course of its run. And it closes out with a special bonus presentation that focuses on the fans. That presentation in question was produced in 2009 for the series’ 25th Anniversary. It wasn’t included on the 3-movie DVD set, either. This critic could be wrong, but it might not have been included in the Blu-ray set, either. So that makes it even more of a welcome addition to this compilation. Much like Saban’sPower Rangers franchise is a worldwide phenomenon, so does this feature prove just how popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are to audiences even today. One of the most interesting sentiments echoed through this feature AND through the interviews with the original voices is of the show’s impact on people of all ages. It obviously is important for more than just being a show. The show’s cultural importance shines through each feature. Audiences will be moved as the original voices of the turtles discuss how moved fans were and are to this day by the series. There are stories of how it helped someone whose parents had gotten divorced at the time and of how it uplifted a young child and said child’s parents as the child sat in the hospital among so much more. It all goes to show the importance of this series to not just television history but to America as a people. That understanding makes the enjoyment of this DVD even more. And along with the episodes, it makes the DVD even more a must see for any true TMNT fans.

The bonus material included on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics is collectively an important addition to this DVD. It is just as important as the episodes chosen for inclusion on the DVD. Considering the breadth of material presented in this compilation, its $14.99 SRP is a rather reasonable price. Just because that is the suggested retail price (SRP) doesn’t even mean that it will be that expensive when it hits store shelves later this month. Odds are though, that it won’t be any more expensive than that SRP. Because it could actually retail for less depending on the store, that relatively inexpensive starting point is the finishing touch to this compilation. Together with the bonus features and the episodes chosen to be featured, all three of these factors make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowbunga Classics a must see and even a must have for any true-blooded fan of what is one of the greatest children’s series of the late 20th Century.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics will be available Tuesday, July 29th. It can be ordered direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=Cowabunga%20Classics. More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate and http://www.lionsgate.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

History Channel’s New WWI Program A Must See For Any Military, History Buff

Courtesy:  History Channel/Lionsgate

Courtesy: History Channel/Lionsgate

History Channel released this week its new military documentary 100 Years of World War I.  The documentary is a perfect fit for any high school and college level history course.  It is just as fitting for a class at any military academy.  The in-depth program spans two discs and eight separate segments.  The first four segments are the meat and potatoes of the program and are contained entirely on the set’s first disc.  That separation of material is the second part of this set that audiences will appreciate.  And rounding out the whole presentation is the incorporation of vintage footage and pictures, actual writings from those involved in combat, and computer simulations to help illustrate each segment’s topic.  These extras alongside the set’s organization and its expansive information collectively make 100 years Of WWI a viable candidate for a slot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new documentaries.

The primary factor that audiences will appreciate about this new documentary “series” is the depth of material included across each of its segments.  Audiences are treated to a history lesson primarily on the military tech that was first developed for use in World War I.  It all starts with a lesson of sorts on the evolution of a British farm tractor into the first tanks.  Audiences will be interested to see just how tight things were inside the tanks and the dangers that tank crews faced in those earliest versions of tanks.  What’s more, audiences will be interested to see just how imperfect they were despite their strengths.  From tanks, the main feature moves on to the development of the first chemical warfare and to the advent of aerial and submersible technology.  The program’s narrator explains that things weren’t perfect with any of this tech at first.  For instance, the gas used actually would blow back into the faces of the soldiers, leading many to be killed by accident.  And even the use of submarines was largely ineffective at first for British forces.  Even more interesting, audiences will learn that for the longest time, the U.S. actually stayed out of the war, until the German forces didn’t keep their word about not sinking American ships.  If all of this isn’t enough for audiences, there is even a history lesson of sorts on some of the most integral air battles in the history of World War I in the set’s bonus second disc.  These are just some examples of the extent of the in-depth information shared throughout the course of this program’s two discs.  The history shared throughout the course of this set’s two discs is central to its overall enjoyment.  The manner in which the overall program was separated is another reason that audiences will appreciate this set.

The organization of 100 Years of WWI is another important aspect of this set’s overall enjoyment.  Each of the four primary segments that comprise the main feature is presented in and of itself rather than all of them being jumbled together as one big program. This applies to the features included on the bonus second disc, too. The end result of this full separation of features is that viewers will be more apt to actually sit and watch through each one’s roughly forty plus minute run time. The only real connection per se that each of the features have to one another is the opening sequence. It tells audiences what the program covers in each part. The overall impact of this organization alongside the depth of material presented makes both aspects equally important. Together, they make this box set even more enjoyable for any history buff or military history buff.

The organization of 100 Years of WWI and the information included within each of the set’s eight total features together make this set well worth the purchase by any military history buff and history buff in general. There is one more factor to consider in this set’s enjoyment. That factor is its collective interviews, vintage footage and pictures, and computer simulations. Each one helps in its own way to make each discussion more accessible for viewers. There are computer generated clips showing how the blimps crafted by the German forces bombed England. There are also computer simulations used in the features centered on WWI’s most well-known dogfights. And the footage and pictures of the men fighting on the front lines drives home just how horrible it must have been to have been in those trenches. This is merely some of what audiences can expect from this program. Audiences will see much more when they order 100 Years of WWI for themselves. It can be ordered direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=562013. More information on this and other releases from History Channel is available online at http://www.history.com, http://shop.history.com, and http://www.facebook.com/History. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Wynonna To Appear On NBC’s Hollywood Game Night Thursday Night

Courtesy:  Mitch Schneider Organization

Courtesy: Mitch Schneider Organization

Country music superstar Wynonna will be on TV tomorrow night.

Wynonna Judd will appear tomorrow night at 8pm ET/7PM CT on NBC’s hit celebrity game show Hollywood Game Night. She will be joined by fellow celebrities Johnny Weir, Scott Foley, Leah Remini, Krysten Ritter, and Nick Swardson on tomorrow night’s episode. She and her team won’t be the only ones cying for a win tomorrow night. Audiences will actually have the chance to win a free pair of shoes from Wynonna’s own “Got Soul” line during tomorrow night’s episode. Here’s how: Wynonna and the show’s people will tweet out a question about the episode. Those that answer the question correctly and tag both @Wynonna and @NBCGameNight with the hashtag #WynonnaGame Night will have the chance to win a free pair of shoes. One lucky winner will be chosen this Friday morning. More details on tomorrow night’s contest are available online at http://www.wynonna.com.

Tomorrow night’s appearance on NBC isn’t the only event on Wynonna’s very busy schedule. She is also scheduled to perform the National Anthem Sunday August 3rd at Dodger Stadium before the currently NL West Division leading Dodgers host the Chicago Cubs. And the night before her performance, Wynonna will hold a free concert in Los Angeles as part of the “Country in the City” concert series. The concert is an all-ages show and is presented by KCRW 89.9 FM. The concert series serves to celebrate the Annenberg Space for Photography’s “Country: Portraits of an American Sound” exhibit. The exhibit is currently running and will run through September 28th. Ticket information for all of Wynonna’s shows is available online at http://www.wynonna.com/the-road.html. Wynonna’s current tour schedule is listed below.

Catch WYNONNA & The Big Noise out on the road this summer:

Tue

7/15 Central Point, OR Jackson County Fair
Wed 7/16 Livermore, CA Wente Vineyards
Fri 7/18 Tacoma, WA Emerald Queen Casino
Sat 7/26 Calgary, AB Canada Grey Eagle Resort & Casino
Sat 8/2 Los Angeles, CA Annenberg Space for Photography
Fri 8/8 Rock Hill, SC Old Town Amphitheater
Sat 8/9 Waco, GA Black Tie & Boots Event – Murphy Campus
Thu 8/14 Shreveport, LA Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
Fri 8/15 Robinsonville, MS Horseshoe Casino
Tue 8/26 Scottsdale, AZ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Thu 8/28 Redding, CA Win-River Casino
Fri 8/29 Reno, NV Atlantis Casino Resort Spa
Sat 8/30 West Wendover, NV Peppermill Concert Hall
Sun 8/31 Copper Mountain, CO Copper County Festival

 

To top off everything that Wynonna is currently doing, she and her husband , producer/drummer Cactus Moser, are working on material for her eighth full length studio release. That album is due out in 2015 on Curb Records. She recently sat down with Rolling Stone for an interview and explained what fans can expect from the album. “It’s vintage yet modern,” she says. “It’s hard to explain. A lot of the things I did I’m drawing from, yet the new sound is so simple and so pure. I’m playing instruments on stage that I started playing when I was nine. I’ve never done that in my whole career. So it’s a time of going back to the well and starting over.” The complete interview can be read online now at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/wynonna-gets-raw-primal-on-life-changing-new-album-20140709.

More information on Wynonna’s tour, album and more is available online at http://www.wynonna.com, http://www.facebook.com/wynonnajudd, and http://twitter.com/WynonnaMusic. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Day Of Days Is One Of PBS’ Best WWII Documentaries To Date

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

June 6th is one of the most important dates in the history not only of America but of the world.  And this past June, the world stopped and recognized the seventieth anniversary of that day, also known as D-Day.  In honor of that day, many networks across the television spectrum presented their own programs, recalling the events of the day in question.  Few if any were as powerful as PBS’ Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day.  This program is one of the most moving and powerful that PBS has premiered so far this year.  That is first and foremost because it is not just another documentary.  It is a group of firsthand recollections from just some of the men who fought on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.  There are no animations.  There are no actors.  The only extras (if they are to be considered extras) are the collective snippets of the events from that day.  They are another part of what makes the entire experience in this program so powerful.  Of course, there is the “Beachhead to Berlin” newsreel.  That bonus is the final touch on a presentation that everybody should see at least once if not more.

Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day is one of the most powerful WWII-centered pieces that PBS has ever premiered.  The central reason for that is the fact that it is anything but the steady stream of documentaries churned out by the various networks that handle such fare, PBS included.  There are no actors, “experts,” no special animations, or any other embellishments.  It is just a group of military veterans that were part of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944.  The men recount the horrors that happened on those beaches.  Over the course of the program’s roughly hour –long run time.  In hearing their painful recollections, audiences will see and hear firsthand just why those that have served choose to not talk about what they experienced.  The tears that they shed as they recall the memories of those events are very real.  And they will deeply move anyone taking them in regardless of whether they are everyday viewers or themselves military veterans.

As has already been noted, Day of Days: June 6th, 1944—American Soldiers Remember D-Day is such a powerful piece from PBS because it isn’t just another documentary.  There are no “experts.”  There are no animations, re-enactments or any other embellishments.  The only “extra” of sorts that was partnered with the stories told by the veterans is a collection of actual footage shot as the Normandy invasion took place.  The footage itself is difficult to watch in its own right.  That is because audiences will actually see men being shot and falling, lifeless as they make their way onto the beach.  Again, this is not acting.  It is actual footage of those events.  There is footage of the firefight that took place from the sea off the French coast and much more.  That collection of footage partnered with the veterans’ stories make this program all the more powerful and memorable. It isn’t all that make the program memorable and powerful, either.

The vintage footage that accompanies the veterans’ recollections and the recollections themselves are both of the utmost importance to the presentation in whole. Just as important to the overall presentation is the bonus newsreel “Beachhead to Berlin.” This is an actual newsreel used to bolster patriotism among Americans in the days following the Normandy invasion. The newsreel uses much of the footage that is incorporated into the veterans recollections in the main feature. There is also footage not used in the main feature. The collective footage set against the voice over of a military officer writing a letter to the parent of a fallen soldier makes the newsreel truly powerful. It is later revealed that the officer writing the letter was himself a veteran and had received a purple heart for serving in the war. That final statement is the perfect closing moment for the newsreel. And together with the final thoughts of the veterans in the main feature, it becomes even harder hitting as a final moment for the entire presentation.

The primary feature presented in Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day is by itself a program unlike anything that PBS has presented so far this year. The bonus newsreel that accompanies that feature is in itself just as moving. Both features together prove this program to be one that viewers of all backgrounds will appreciate, whether they be military or not. They prove the program to be one that everyone should see at least once if not more. It is available now and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620366&cp=&sr=1&kw=day+of+days&origkw=Day+of+Days&parentPage=search. More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Lucky Day Could Be Stacey Peasley’s Lucky Album

Courtesy:  The Stacey Peasley Band

Courtesy: The Stacey Peasley Band

Independent children’s entertainer Stacey Peasley recently released her sophomore album.  The aptly titled Lucky Day could be good luck for Peasley as it has proven her potential as a viable commodity in the world of “kindie-rock.”  The songs on this album—Peasley’s second full length release—offers plenty of material for listeners of all ages.  And it all starts with the album’s opener ‘Little Soccer Player.’  While not even two minutes in length, the song paints a picture so vivid that it just begs for a music video.  The album’s midway point, ‘Broken Record’ is a song that speaks both to children and adults equally.  And the homage to vinyl records by guest star Mista Cookie Jar adds a certain extra touch to the song that parents especially will enjoy.  Being that most of the country is caught in the grips of the summer heat, the album’s closer ‘Summer Day’ is just as much a welcome addition to Lucky Day as ‘Broken Record’ and ‘Little Soccer Player.’  These three songs are but samples of what makes Lucky Day a worthwhile listen for parents and children alike.  The album’s remaining songs not noted here each have their own enjoyment.  And families will find their own songs to enjoy when they order Lucky Day for themselves.  They will find in listening to this album that Lucky Day will make their day.

The timing of Lucky Day’s release could not have been any better for this independent “kindie-rock” band.  This is especially the case considering the album’s opener.  The 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament just finished up.  But thanks to this album’s opener, parents everywhere can keep a young person’s love of and interest in soccer alive even with the media hype dying down for the next four years.  The song paints a wonderfully vivid picture of a parent on the sidelines of a youth soccer game cheering on his or her child.  That the parent in question could be a father or mother makes the song even better.  The parent sings to the child, “Little soccer player/In the morning sun/Time for early wake-ups/The season has begun/Little soccer player/See you on the field/Focused and determined/Skills will be revealed/And all the mommies/Have their coffee/They cheer really loud/And all the daddies clap so hard/Cause they are really proud to see you run so fast/Take a shot/Make a pass/Give it all you’ve got.’  The parent goes on to sing about the child practicing so proudly, his sister cheering, too on the sidelines.  As the song nears its end, the band gradually increases the song’s tempo until it finally reaches its ultimate climax.  The interesting thing is that on one hand, that closing could be just as easily left in the air as it could be solidified.  The picture is so vivid that it makes perfect fodder for a music video.  That increased pace in the song’s final moments would be the young soccer player running to the goal in preparation of kicking the ball.  That combination of music and lyrics in this piece work together to make ‘Little Soccer Player’ the perfect opener for Lucky Day and the perfect introduction for anyone that might be new to The Stacey Peasley Band’s music.

‘Little Soccer Player’ is a wonderful opener for Stacey Peasley’s new album and an equally impressive first impression for those that might be new to her music.  It isn’t all the album’s only high point, either.  Just as enjoy able is ‘Broken Record (ft.Mista Cookie Jar).’  Whereas ‘Little Soccer Player’ was sung from the vantage point of the parent, this song is sung from the vantage point of the child.  The child sings about his or her parent sounding like a broken record as said figure tries to get the child to brush her hair, to stay in her chair at dinner, why she won’t eat her macaroni and cheese with utensils and more.  This could very well be the wrong interpretation, but the tone of the music and lyrics together seems to hint at the gap in understanding of responsibility between parents and children in this case.  The young child has almost a frustrated tone as she sings of her father’s request, “He asks me once/He asks me twice/And by the third time/He doesn’t seem so nice/Cause it feels just like a broken record/Asking the same thing/Over and over.”  Guest star Mista Cookie Jar’s addition to the song makes it even more enjoyable for listeners.  He sings to his younger listeners that they need to give their parents a break, which parents will most definitely appreciate.  He adds in a little history lesson on the different forms of music presentation, too.  He raps over the track, “So what’s a broken record/Before you ask that/You’ve gotta ask/What’s a record/Way before the invent of MP3s/YouTube/And even before CDs/They made a big brown disc/Made outta wax/Put the needle on the track/And play music back/From the boom/To the bap/Motown/to even rap/Classical/rock/Folk/Pop/Funk/Hip-hop to Jazz/And when the record gets fresh/It gets wicky wicky wack/Cause some sound was straight played/Over and over/Make you lose composure for the record/This defines a broken record/Now that you know/Give your mom and dad a break/You heard?”  Mista Cookie Jar’s explanation and tie in to his brief history of vinyl easily reach both parents and their children alike.  And alongside Peasley’s own story of the gap between parents and children, it paints a picture just as vivid as that painted in the album’s opener.  It makes the album in whole all the more enjoyable, too.
Both ‘Broken Record’ and ‘Little Soccer Player’ are excellent examples of why Stacey Peasley and company are ready to be one of the next big names in “kindie-rock.”  There is at least one more song on the band’s album that serves as an example why every label and listener should check out this record.  That song is the album’s closer ‘Summer Day.’  Considering that the country is in the grips of the dog days of summer, this celebratory song is a perfect fit for the band’s new album.  As with ‘Broken Record,’ this song is sung from the vantage point of the child.  The child (and other children) sing of going to the beach to get through the summer.  They sing, “It’s summer day/Going to the beach/We’re gonna play/In the sand and sun/Summer day/swimming in the ocean/With our friends/Gonna have a ball.  As with the songs previously noted here and those not mentioned, Peasley and her band mates have painted one more wonderfully vivid musical picture to accompany a song that in itself will have listeners of every age singing along happily.

Stacey Peasley exhibits so much talent throughout the course of this album’s ten total songs.  From painting near perfect musical pictures to exhibiting a full understanding of the effect of dynamics, Peasley has collectively crafted an album that could very well be the album that really breaks her in the “kindie-rock community.”  Lucky Day is available now.  It can be ordered direct from the band’s official website at http://www.staceypeasley.com/.  Fans can also check out Stacey Peasley’s official Facebook page for her latest news and more at http://www.facebook.com/pages/-The-Stacey-Peasley-Band/60359963730.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Tirico, Others Talk Golf Ahead Of PGA Open Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN will carry full coverage of golf’s oldest major next week. In anticipation of next week’s coverage (Thursday, July 17th – Sunday, July 20th), ESPN VP of Production Mike McQuade joined host Mike Tirico and ESPN golf analysts Andy North, Curtis Strange, and Paul Azinger for a conference call with members of the media. The group discusses their own memories of past Open Championships, fan devotion to the game and so much more through their conference call. The following is the full transcript of their discussion with the media. More information on ESPN’s coverage of the Open Championship is available online at http://espn.go.com/golf.

MIKE McQUADE:  This is the one event that we produce, first of all, that lasts all day every day, and it is an extraordinary effort for our group.  We are fortunate that we are able to get a great group of people together from all different facets of production to come together for this one week.  I like to call it the all‑star team of not only production but of also on‑air hosts, from Scott Van Pelt to Sean McDonough to Mike Tirico, and then a great group of analysts that we have.

I think it’s an extraordinary accomplishment that each and every year we’re able to put on such a big show for viewers.  As usual, we are excited about doing it.

This year is no different.  Coverage this year will be similar to what you’ve seen in years past with an extra emphasis this year placed on our camera positions and camera locations.  Trying to capture more x‑motion, if you will, slow motion, replays and images, as well as continue our technology with the flight of the ball and the distance of the ball and the distance the balls can roll, something that we’ve dabbled with in the past that we’re continuing to expand on.

Beyond that, I think one of the things we’re trying to do is trying to tell the stories of folks that are not as familiar to the viewers back home, whether it’s the forklift driver who lives a half hour from the golf course who qualified, or it’s Rory McIlroy trying to make his return to form.  I think we’ll have a good deal of stories to go on.

MIKE TIRICO:  This is my 18th year of doing the Open Championship, and it’s the second time that I am coming right off the World Cup and going right over there.  It’s a little bit tighter travel for me this year.  I’ll be staying for the World Cup final and host that on Sunday and then headed with some bizarre connections to get to Liverpool hopefully by Tuesday and get ready for the event Thursday.

It’s a phenomenal event, and I’d echo what Mike said.  We don’t do this together for 20 weeks a year, but we bring the band together for one week, and we kind of know all the songs that we play together.  Having worked individually with everyone in this group in a variety of roles and in a variety of places, it’s a selfless, talented, smart group, and they really help us bring American golf fans.

I think it’s something to look forward to.  I know every time that I travel somewhere and we talk about the Open Championship, fans talk about their ritual, whether they get up in the middle of the night, they stay up late on the West Coast, they play their golf on Sunday morning and then make sure that they’re around their 19th hole to watch the last couple of hours of The Open.  It’s the oldest championship in the sport.  We take great pride in being a part of it, and cannot wait to see who will hold the Claret Jug this year, and maybe it’ll be another guy in his 40s, as it has been the last three years.

CURTIS STRANGE:  Well, first off, I’m going to be happy to get into a little cooler weather.  I don’t know which is hotter, Oklahoma City or Manaus in Brazil.  I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in TV for a while now, since 1997, and I look forward to the Open Championship.  Granted, we look forward to the U.S. Open, there’s no doubt, because it’s our national championship, but the Open Championship is our production, and it’s our tournament.  As Mike said, we take great pride in putting on the show, and we work very hard at it, and I think we do a good job.

It’s something we all look forward to very, very much.  It’s been on our radar screen for a good month now, and as we get into our TV segment, part of the summer, and it’s really, really fun from an analyst’s point of view, and I think my two colleagues would say the same thing, that it’s such a fun tournament to bring back to America because it is different.  We have the elements of weather, conditions, links golf, all of the above, and to bring that back to our viewers back home at such an early hour in the morning, it’s great to lay in bed and watch Open Championship golf, it’s fun to do.  It’s a lot of things to talk about.  It’s different players to talk about, and there’s an incredible amount of story lines every time we do it, and that’s part of our preparation.

But we really enjoy doing it and look forward to doing it.

PAUL AZINGER:  Hi, everyone.  I’m excited.  Curtis hit the nail on the head.  There are a lot of story lines and probably none as appealing or attractive as the Tiger Woods story line coming back to play again for the second time since back surgery.

This is a Ryder Cup year.  There’s been a lot of questions asked of Tom Watson, and by the way, Andy North, who’s on our broadcast team is one of Tom Watson’s assistants.  A lot of speculation circling around whether or not Tiger will be a pick.  Every other year we get this story line.  The British Open will be double value in points.  Mickelson is not on the team yet, either.  There are a lot of story lines.

I was at Hoylake right after the U.S. Open.  I went over there to do an outing, and it was lush and green, a different Hoylake than what we saw in 2006 when Tiger won.

But they told me while I was over there that it was lush and green on the Sunday of the U.S. Open the last time, and it just dried out and baked out, so we’ll see what the golf course has in store.  Often times the golf course is much the story and the conditions, and I think that’s what makes the Open Championship so appealing, and the uniqueness of links golf is another thing that our network has been able to bring to the American viewer.

I love the ‑‑ we get to see for the first time when someone does a read, like when we had Mother Nature several years ago doing the read, don’t make Mother Nature mad or whatever.  We don’t get to see any of that until we come on air, so as analysts we actually look forward to seeing what we’ve come up with next.

I’m looking forward to the event.  I can’t wait to get there.  I have butterflies of anticipation waiting to see what Tiger and Phil can do, and again, like Mike said, who will hold the Claret Jug at the end of the week.

ANDY NORTH:  Well, I’d pick up what Paul was saying, that it was a very lush spring.  There’s a lot of that undergrowth and that wispy rough that we always see, but there’s a really good undergrowth in it, so that will be thick, but it has dried up dramatically the last two or three weeks.

Royal Birkdale was really lush two weeks ago, and it’s fast now.  In talking to some R&A folks, they are very happy where the golf course is right now at Hoylake, that it’s firmed up, it’s gotten faster.  I think by the end of next week, we will see a golf course that’s going to be very firm and very fast.  Maybe not what we saw last year at Muirfield where it was almost out of control it was so fast, but it’s a great championship, and we really look forward to it, and we take a lot of pride in bringing a different kind of golf back to America.

As Paul mentioned, there’s so many stories, and we’re going to do our best to get that out in front of the public.

Q.  We’ll get right to the Tiger question.  What do you expect from him coming off his performance at Congressional where he kind of had short game problems and just the whole back surgery issue?  What do you expect from him next week?

PAUL AZINGER:  Yeah, I think Tiger is always going to be compared to Jack, and there’s a big difference in where these two players are at this age, or were, at the age of 38.  I think one of the big differences that’s very rarely articulated is the fact that while Tiger in his dominance always, for whatever reason, was in this quest to get better, I don’t remember Jack ever saying that.  Nicklaus always was ‑‑ I mean, Jack might have made some tweaks and twerks here and there, minor tweaks and twerks, but Tiger has made astronomical changes in a quest to get better, and as a result Tiger has actually gotten a little bit worse.  I think we can all pretty much see that.

I think where Tiger has made his mistake is he’s dabbled with the fingerprints of his golf swing, not necessarily the fundamentals.  Tiger remains fundamentally fairly sound in his lower body, but the changes ‑‑ I think he’s probably the only person that’s ever played well who’s looked radically different throughout his career.  Even the layman golfer can see the difference in Tiger Woods’ golf swing.  So that’s one thing.

And Tiger’s quest to get better, I think he’s actually gotten a little bit worse.  Jack never had the severity of injuries, the career‑threatening injuries that Tigers has had, and now that’s the big question.  To speculate on what do we expect out of Tiger Woods at this point, I think, shoot, we don’t know either.  How fit is he?  How much is he still dabbling with changing what is so obvious to the eye that are just unique to the individual?  I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.

But I think that most golfers have made the same mistakes in some weird way about changing their golf swing, about changing fingerprints, if you will, for fundamentals, and I think Tiger has done that to his detriment, and Jack never made those mistakes.  Jack understood that if he could stay the same, he would still dominate.  Tiger didn’t need to get better.  He just didn’t need to get worse.  He needed to stay the same and he could still dominate, and in his quest to get better, it’s kind of backfired on him.

CURTIS STRANGE:  Yeah, I kind of tend to agree with everything Paul says.  I’ll go back to the basic question of what do we expect over there.  I think it will be very difficult to expect a lot of him.  A couple things:  One, he’s had back surgery.  He says he’s pain‑free, which it looks like he is, but your body doesn’t recover that quickly, so even though he’s pain‑free, he’s not 100 percent.  Can’t be 100 percent golf‑wise because of conditioning.  He hasn’t played but one tournament.  So when you look at it like that, how do you expect your body to swing and be as accurate and consistent as it is when you’re doing it every day and you’re perfectly healthy?  That’s number one.

Before he had the back surgery, he didn’t play well.  Now, some of that was from the injury, but he really didn’t play very well at all.  I don’t have the stats right in front of me, but he was at the bottom of the list in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putting, the bottom of the Tour.

Again, you have to take that with a grain of salt because he was injured a little bit, but he just didn’t play well.  He hasn’t played well.  We haven’t seen Tiger really, really play well in a while now, so back injury, not playing well, hasn’t played any competitive golf in over three months now, pushing four months, it’s hard to expect anything out of anybody, and I don’t expect him to be ‑‑ I hope he makes the cut.  I hope he hits solid shots.  He hope he progresses.  But I don’t think you could ever expect him to be on the first page of the leaderboard come the weekend.  And that’s just from a player common sense.  That’s talking about the great Tiger Woods.  If it was Paul, Andy or I, normal people, I’m not even sure we would go over there.

ANDY NORTH:  Yeah, I look at this maybe a little bit different than Curtis in the fact that I thought that he went and played in his tournament in Washington, D.C., was very, very important for the Open Championship, because he had to get on the golf course.  He had to put himself under tournament conditions.  Even though he wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to, it was very still very important because he found out where he had to work, what things he had to do over the next couple of weeks to get better, and the most importantly, after coming off of a surgery, which I’ve had a couple of back surgeries, that you trust that it’s going to work.  That’s the hardest thing is mentally to believe that everything is going to be okay and you can make a swing and it’s not going to be a problem.

I thought that in that week where he didn’t play very well, there were still some glimpses of things that probably made him very encouraged when he went home.  He had a stretch of holes where he made some birdies.  He hit some good shots.  That’s really important for a player’s psyche, and I don’t care how good you are, you have to have some of those small steps along the way before you can take big steps again.

What to expect out of him next week?  We all hope he plays well.  We all hope that he’s there.  But if he does have some success next week, I think it’s really huge that it started all a couple of weeks ago when he didn’t play very well, so he actually got out there under the heat of battle a little bit.

PAUL AZINGER:  Let me add real quick, too, the greens at Hoylake are actually very easy.  There’s only a couple greens that are difficult.  Tiger’s strength ‑‑ of course there’s a mountain of things that separate him from everybody else, but not the least of which is the putter, and Tiger has not been the great putter, but he’s not coming to Augusta where he’s got to make these swinging five‑footers and seven‑footers.  These greens are reasonably flat, and I think ‑‑ let’s just face it:  The guy went a year and a half without missing a putt inside three and a half feet.  We haven’t seen that Tiger lately, and he’s going to have to hit those smaller putts like his life depended on it, like he used to hit them.  Whether it’s concentration or technique or whatever, I’m not sure, but at least at Hoylake, the greens are manageable.

CURTIS STRANGE:  One thing I want to add, I didn’t mean Washington was a big step to go out and see if your body actually can hold up, to see if the pain is there at all, to see what the body does swinging the golf club, I agree with all that stuff.  But with that said, he hasn’t played well.  He didn’t play well there, and there might have been some positive things happen to him at Congressional, but when you look at him and can he play well and will he play well at Hoylake, it’s asking a lot of even Tiger Woods to go and really expect him to play well.

Yes, we all want him to play well for obvious reasons, but I just don’t see it as a golfer to come play a different type of golf against the best players in the world.

Q.  Andy, what do you think Tiger needs to show the rest of the season in order to be considered as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup?

ANDY NORTH:  Well, I think this is obviously Captain Watson’s decision, but I think it’s going to be very important that he shows that he’s healthy, and I think it’s going to be important to show that his game is in good form.  What does that mean?  I think there’s a lot of different ways you can look at that, but I think he’s got it looks like three starts probably before the FedExCup starts.  I think that he probably needs to play well those three weeks.

Now, what playing well means is different for everybody, but I think he’s got to go out there and ‑‑ I think it would be important for him to contend one of those three weeks.

Q.  I’m not sure who can answer this, but has ESPN done any studies on this or have the announcers had any feedback about this:  Do people watch the British Open live or do you think they watch it more on the replays because it’s so early in the day?

MIKE McQUADE:  I have not done any ‑‑ I’ve done my own research on it.  I don’t get many comments about it.  We air three majors.  We do re‑airs of them:  The Masters, the U.S. Open, and the British, and the ratings are all fairly comparable.  I would say the Masters we are probably higher, but we are on so long for the Open that by the end of it, people have already ‑‑ there’s no reason to watch the re‑air because you’ve gotten most of what you needed to get by even watching three hours of it.  I feel it’s fairly comparable even if you just watch a different part of it.

MIKE TIRICO:  I can add just a couple of things to that real quick.  On Saturday and Sunday, we end at 2:30 eastern Saturday, 1:30 eastern on Sunday, so it’s not terribly early for people in terms of Saturday and Sunday when their real viewing window comes to the maximum.

Unlike the other majors for that obvious reason, though, three hours in the late afternoon, 3:00 to 6:00, that usual golf window, that airs on ABC, as well, over the years, so people have a chance to see it multiple times in addition to what Mike was just talking about, in primetime, at night.

I think there are more opportunities to see this, but television ratings are considered on live shows.  When you see a rating for a show, it’s not necessarily the people who DVR it and go back and watch it at a later time.  The ratings are the ratings.  It just accumulates differently because there are re‑airs of significant portions of the coverage in the middle of the afternoon and then, as Mike said, same as the other majors, later on in the evening.

Q.  What will that week be like for you doing the World Cup in Brazil, flying up to England and then doing the British Open?  What’s that week like?

MIKE TIRICO:  It’s a thrill.  I have always thrived on the more work, you better you work, and as long as the travel from Rio to Brasilia to Lisbon to Manchester and then the drive to the golf course goes okay, I’ll be absolutely thrilled.

I get to see Jim Nantz every year when we’re over at the Masters, and Jimmy goes from the finals on Monday of the college basketball to the Masters on Sunday.  The difference here is obviously we’re a continent away.  The World Cup final is the most watched sporting event in the world every four years, so to be a part of that as the host and then to be a part of this golf championship just four days later is a pretty cool experience to be honest with you.  I’m pinching myself at the opportunity.  I’m enjoying every second of it.  Airline permitting, it’s going to be one heck of a week for me.

Q.  How do you stay fresh, though, with all the travel?

MIKE TIRICO:  We sit on our butts and talk.  People make a lot of what we do, and I appreciate that, and you want to stay as mentally fresh as you can because you’re talking for several hours a day, but sleep on planes is one of the big things, and I plan on not being awake for much of the flight from Brasilia to Lisbon, hit the golf course running on Tuesday afternoon, and the adrenaline of the Open Championship always gets you going.  You see the yellow scoreboards there, and all you have to do is sit in our spot where Zinger and I get to sit for four days, you turn around, and if you like golf, you would give up a lot to have the seat that we’ve been lucky to have for the last 17 years there looking down the 18th hole at the Open.

We’ll make it through just fine.  I really truly mean that when I say it.  I am energized and get great adrenaline out of the opportunity to be a part of a difficult set of logistics to be on the air for things like this.  It makes it fun, it really does.

Q.  Question for Mike McQuade on the production side.  You talked about how the Open is really strictly an ESPN show, at least for the U.S. rights, and then I also know that you guys work mostly out of cabins rather than trucks in terms of the actual operations.  Can you kind of talk about what makes this show unique from the other majors and how you try to add a different kind of spin on it?

MIKE McQUADE:  Well, besides just the sheer volume of coverage, from a production standpoint, really the most unique thing is what we’ve been talking about since the outset, is that we’re never together.  Maybe that’s why we get along so well.  All the production people, they come from ‑‑ a lot are coming from Wimbledon, working at Wimbledon, a lot of them are coming off their vacation because they’re getting ready for college football.  So I would say the greatest behind‑the‑scenes challenge and the difference is that we don’t do golf.  We love golf, but we don’t produce golf every week.

As far as when we’re over here and what we’re doing, after the first hour, you could be in a truck, you could be in a cabin, you could be on the moon.  It doesn’t matter, it’s still television, and the level of execution and the expectation is still the same.

It does help to be in cabins, we believe, when we’re doing it for 11 or 12 hours a day and you have actual room to move around as opposed to being confined to the truck.  The cabins also allow us just the sheer space and/or monitor walls; it allows hole monitors, if you will, to be bigger and not limited to the space within a truck.

Q.  And just a quick follow‑up, the virtual aerial technology has been around for a couple years now, and obviously with these kind of courses, it’s integral to the coverage with the winds and everything.  How has that kind of evolved, and how is how you guys use it within the show evolved over the last couple years?

MIKE McQUADE:  Well, I mean, the evolution for us had always been that it needed to be a live function.  We did not want to take the time for it to be something we would put on tape and play back after the shot, so once we figured out how to make it a live function, then the possibilities became really much more open to us, so we were able then to take it out to the fairway as opposed to just on the tee, and now we have it positioned so it can track the distance once a ball lands and the run‑out from that.

I think really the next step, I think it would be great to have the ability to do it really on every single hole for every single shot.  Not necessarily saying that we would do it, but just knowing that you have the ability to do it if you wanted to, and then on top of that, having the data to be able to show the trajectory of 156 tee shots on a particular day (inaudible) how the hole is played.  Unlike some other majors, the variance in shots from the time of day to the player is really different, and I think that would be fascinating for people to see.

Q.  Your comments regarding Tiger’s swing changes, fingerprints versus fundamentals, could you elaborate on that and how maybe that’s been detrimental?

PAUL AZINGER:  Yeah, I think that every golfer that’s played golf for any great length of time has tried to make some kind of swing improvements or changes to get better, and in the last six or ten months or so, I’ve looked at a million pictures and I believe there’s only three things that everybody in the Hall of Fame does, and two of them relate to the lower body and the other is shaft lean or I guess face and path awareness.  I think Tiger is playing more golf swing and he’s not quite as face and path aware as he used to be.  For example, if I handed you a long‑handled ax randomly and said hit that tree, I don’t believe the flat side of the ax would ever hit that tree.  I think you’d hit it with the sharp edge of the ax.

I just get the feelings that golfers when they try to change their fingerprints, I think some of them do it under the guise that it’s fundamentals.  I’ve always been taught that the fundamentals were grip, stance and position at the top, and the variance in positions at the top that are in the Hall of Fame are as unique as the fingerprints on your hand, as are swing plane, as are stance.  Bubba Watson shatters the mold.  He’s won two majors.  You wouldn’t teach putting it at the top of that backswing, across the line, past parallel, and his feet are flying all over the place, yet he’s a major champion two times over.

Everybody looks different.  Everybody in the world looks different.  I believe fundamentals are really lost in today’s instruction to the point where ‑‑ I’m not saying it’s a crisis, but it’s pretty bad.  I think a lot of instructors are treating their students like a chiropractor would treat a patient.  You need to come back for six straight ‑‑ if somebody tells Tiger Woods it’s going to take six weeks or six months, it would shock me.  I think if you don’t have Tiger hitting it better in the first 10 or 15 minutes, then you’re probably giving him bad information.  If you told Curtis Strange that he is, and he didn’t hit it better in the first five or ten minutes, I’m guessing you’re telling him wrong, and that’s the position I’m coming from.

I’m looking at Tiger Woods as somebody who in his quest to improve and get better, I think he’s mistaken, just like I did and hundreds of guys that have played the Tour at a high level, mistaking the uniqueness or the fingerprint, if you will, as a fundamental.  I don’t believe Jack ever made that mistake.  I just don’t.

Q.  If Tiger doesn’t get to 18 and you look back, would you say the swing was the larger factor than the injuries, or how would you view why he didn’t get there?

PAUL AZINGER:  Like I say, I think he’s the only guy who has dramatically changed the way his swing looks and has still been able to play at an extremely high level.  I mean, when he went from Butch to Hank, even a lay golfer could tell that Tiger’s swing had changed, and he won five or six majors doing that.  Nobody else ‑‑ you could argue maybe Hogan changed the uniqueness of his look or maybe Faldo or today maybe Matt Kuchar, but nothing like what Tiger did.  Matt Kuchar has gone back to what he used to do.  I guess Faldo shortened his swing a little bit, and Hogan, I don’t know.  I don’t know of anybody who’s changed the way they look more than Tiger Woods with respect to his golf swing and still played great.  Most people just go away.  They disappear trying to do what he’s done.

It just is a real example of what a great player he has been.  Now that he doesn’t putt as well, it’s hard to be as great as you once were if you don’t make putts, and I just think unnecessarily, Tiger has, for whatever reason, whether it was an effort ‑‑ sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and it gets you out the door.  Maybe that’s why Tiger made the changes.  Maybe he was bored.  Maybe he did it because his left knee was snapping and that’s something he tried to fix.  But the reality is the left leg should straighten through the hit a little bit as one of the things I feel are the three fundamentals.

I don’t know, I mean, he may look back and have regrets.  I know that he’s only worked with one guy that’s played golf at a really high level, and that’s Butch Harmon, and for him to just turn it all over to two guys that have never played on a high level is a bit of a mystery considering how great Tiger was when he did it.  I’m not trying to be harsh, I’m just trying to be ‑‑ I guess it’s more blunt than harsh.

I hope he plays great.  I mean, I hope he’s recovered from injury.  Sometimes you make these changes and it creates injury, as well.

Q. Martin Kaymer’s rise, did any of you see this building, and what was the final piece that put him back among the elite?

CURTIS STRANGE:  Well, you saw him playing better, but you certainly didn’t see what he did, how well he played at Pinehurst.  But I go back to where when he got to No. 1 in the world when he won the PGA Championship and was going to be really kind of one of the next future superstars, true superstars, and he went down the toilet just a bit for the same reason Paul just talked about.  He went to change his swing a little bit, and you go away from your natural ability to swing a stick in the golf club.

I question why did he do that.  He was trying to get better.  Trying to get better and better and better and compete with Tiger at the time.  I marvel at his golf swing.  I think his golf swing is unbelievable.  He swings the club in an aggressive fashion but under control.  He hits down and through the ball as well as anybody out there in the game today, and I marvel at the ability to ‑‑ the speed that he has and as well as he played at Pinehurst.

Pinehurst was not near as easy as he made it look the first two days, and that’s what happens, I guess, when some of the best players in the world get on top of their game.

I expect nothing but great things out of him in the future.  Can he hold it together?  Can he stay focused?  Can he stay driven?  We’ll wait and see.  But I think he’s fantastic.  You know what; if I was a young kid now, I’d want to emulate Martin Kaymer’s swing, I know that.

PAUL AZINGER:  One of the things that stands out to me about Kaymer was at the U.S. Open he made the comment that he had cleared his mind.  I’ve said this repeatedly, a golf swing only takes about a second and a half, and any one of us on this phone right now that have played this game know a lot can jump it your head in that second and a half, and when he said he cleared his mind, I was thinking, watch out, and he we did the Thursday‑Friday telecast there, and I loved it when he said that and continued to hit on that fact, and when a golfer at that level can play with a clear head, hang on, buddy, because he’s got something going on.

The very thing that may be clouding Tiger, all the conscious thought, all the thoughts and swing keys that sabotaged Martin Kaymer after he won the PGA, he got rid of them, and I think a lot of times that swing thoughts will sabotage good players.  You’ve got to have a key here and there.  You have to be able to eliminate one side the golf course.  That’s probably the greatest key to every great player’s success, but when you can get swing thoughts out of your head, that’s a major step.

CURTIS STRANGE:  But when he said that, Paul, that shows me he’s swinging well and his long game is confident, because when you’re swinging well and you know you’re going to hit the ball pretty solidly and straight day‑to‑day, then your mind does clear.  I actually think that comes before ‑‑ you can’t clear your head if you’re hitting skankers out there every day.  That comes from I’m not scoring real well but I know I’m swinging well.  I know my ball is in the middle of the club face, and I know it’s starting out on the trajectory I want it, and I’ve been doing it for a month.  It’s going to come around when I start making a few putts.  That’s the way I look at it.

Sports psychologists say you’ve got to go out there with a positive attitude every day, and I agree with that.  But that positive attitude is tough to stick in there with when you start skanking it on the second tee, and you say, son of a (expletive), I’m doing this again.

You know, what comes first, the chicken or the egg.  It’s as simple as that.  But when you see a player like Kaymer who says my mind is clear, that shows me he feels pretty damned good about his golf game.

ANDY NORTH:  Well, I think it’s always fun to be the last in this group.  Martin Kaymer got messed up.  He’s a guy who naturally cut the ball his entire life, and he tried to learn to hook the ball better to play Augusta National, and you’ve heard that story a million times.  When you’ve been a player who’s cut the ball and now you’re trying to draw it, it’s not just the technical stuff, it’s the look that you have, too, is that you start having to see things totally different.

This is usually the other direction, and it’s so easy to lose your confidence when you’re trying to make that kind of change.  And for him to fight his way back and go back to the putt he made at the Ryder Cup, that was a monster putt that helped his confidence a lot.  They sat him out most of that Ryder Cup because he was playing poorly, then to put him under pressure and have him perform under pressure, that can change an awful lot about how a player looks at himself and feels about what he’s doing, and I think that was the start of him coming back.

You have to play well.  Byron Nelson told me a long, long time ago, that to be a great player at this game you have to be brilliant or stupid, and if you’re in the middle, you’ve got no chance.  And I think that’s a lot of clearing your mind.  There’s some people that are not the sharpest knives in the drawer that have done great playing this game because they don’t think about anything.  That’s a beautiful thing.  If you could figure out a way not to think about anything for four hours, you’d be great.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN’s College Football Live Returns July 14th

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The countdown is on!

College football season is mere weeks away. And in celebration, ESPN’s College Football Live returns next Monday, July 14th with all of the latest college football news and headlines. Chris Cotter will host. He will be joined by a rotating group of analysts that includes: Joey Galloway, Brian Griese, Desmond Howard, Danny Kanell, Trevor Matich, and Robert Smith in a half-hour round table setting.

Once football season is officially under way, College Football Live will broadcast live each Friday from the site of ESPN’s College GameDay Built by the Home Depot. And beginning next Monday, July 14th, football fans will get two and a half hours of football programming each day on ESPN Monday – Friday. That programming will come courtesy of College Football Live, NFL Insiders and NFL Live. The full schedule is listed below.

Show

Time (ET) Host/Analysts
College Football Live 2:30-3 p.m. Chris Cotter / Joey Galloway, Brian Griese, Desmond Howard, Danny Kanell, Trevor Matich, David Pollack & Robert Smith
NFL Insiders 3-4 p.m. Robert Flores / Chris Mortensen, Louis Riddick & Adam Schefter 
NFL Live 4-5 p.m. Suzy Kolber & Wendi Nix / Chris Mortensen, Bill Polian & Adam Schefter

 

More information on ESPN’s football programming is available online at http://espn.go.com/college-football, http://espn.go.com/nfl, http://www.facebook.com/NFLonESPN, and http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Releases Preliminary Big Ten Football Schedule For SNF Broadcasts

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has released the current 2014 Big Ten Football schedule for its weekly Saturday Night Football schedule.

This season’s Big Ten Saturday Night Football schedule opens with a matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday, September 6th. The game is scheduled for an 8pm ET start time. The Buckeyes were ranked number seven overall in an ESPN pre-season poll. The current schedule has one of the biggest matches in college football on Saturday, November 8th with Ohio State facing off against The Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes last year 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship. That game is schedule for an 8pm ET start time.

Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will have the call for the matchup between the Hokies and Buckeyes on September 6th. The current schedule of games includes coverage across the ESPN family of networks each week. It is listed below.

2014 Big Ten Schedule on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 (as of July 10)

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Sat, Sep 6 8 p.m. Virginia Tech at No. 7 Ohio State ESPN
Sat, Sep 20 8 p.m. Miami (Fla.) at Nebraska ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 4 8 p.m. Nebraska at No. 4 Michigan State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 11 7 p.m. Penn State at No. 21 Michigan ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 25 8 p.m. No. 7 Ohio State at Penn State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Nov 1 8 p.m. Illinois at No. 7 Ohio State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Nov 8 8 p.m. No. 7 Ohio State at No. 4 Michigan State ABC

More additions to this schedule are expected. Fans can keep up with the latest updates on ESPN’s Big Ten Football coverage schedule online at http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN, http://twitter.com/espncfb, and http://espn.go.com/ncf/index. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

John Kruk, Ozzie Guillen Discuss 2014 MLB All-Star game, Personal Baseball Pasts, More With Media

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN MLB analysts John Kruk and Ozzie Guillen spoke with members of the media yesterday ahead of next week’s Gillette Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game Monday and Tuesday, July 14th and 15th. Kruk will join host Chris Berman and reporters Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez for coverage of the game. Guillen will join Ernesto Jerez, Luis Alfredo Alvarez, and Guillermo Celis on ESPN Deportes’ coverage of the All-Star Game. The following is the transcript of Thursday’s conference call held with the media in which Kruk and Guillen discussed a number of topics. Those topics included the pair’s own thoughts on the game, their former MLB careers and more. More information on the ESPN family of networks’ coverage of this year’s Gillette Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game is available online now at http://espn.go.com/mlb.

Q. You both were All-Stars as players.  What are your earliest memories of the Home Run Derby, what’s the first one you can remember watching?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Mine was in Toronto and Cecil Fielder – seeing him hit that jumbotron.  In that time, not that many people were hitting balls that far. I think that’s my earliest memory.

JOHN KRUK:  Mine was the same.  That was 1991, I believe, in Toronto.  And I think Cal Ripken, Jr. hit like nine million home runs that day, from what I remember.  It seemed like he just got on a groove and rode it.

Q. How has it grown since then, in your eyes, compared to what it was 25 years ago?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Well, to me I think the coverage is a lot better now.  There’s more promotion and more marketing.  And I think the players pick their own – you know, the players that want to be with the team.  They have enough time to pick the guys.  In the past, we just picked guys out of the clubhouse and said do you want to be in it.  They say yes and they go for it.  I think now it’s a bigger deal and better deal than it was in the past.

JOHN KRUK:  I agree with Ozzie, because I think now with the captains, it’s harder to say no to Jose Bautista or Troy Tulowitzki who call you and say:  ‘Hey, do you want to be part of this Home Run Derby?’  It’s hard to tell a fellow player no.

And I remember in 1991, like Cal and Ozzie mentioned Cecil Fielder – two big guys.  And you look at these guys now, these guys are huge.

I mean, Cespedes and Stanton – you’re talking about Mark Trumbo last year.  I don’t think people understand because everyone’s big now.  I don’t think they understand just how huge these guys are.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I feel right now it’s easier, too, because people don’t realize how tired you can get with that many swings.  And I think the competition – people are more into it.

I think the players are more into it.  A lot of players like to be involved.  In the past, you’d see a lot of I don’t know if I can do it because I’m going to lose my swing or I don’t like it because I don’t know how my swing is going to be for the start of the second half.

But right now, it’s a big deal.  And I think when you compete, now with interleague games, now you compete against the American League and National League, I think it’s more interesting for fans and everybody, period.

Q. One of the guys who is not so hugely built in this competition is the hometown guy, Brian Dozier.  How does a guy like that hit 16 home runs this year?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Well, it’s very impressive and I’m very surprised.  I think they are built around pitching and manufacturing runs.  Now how does this kid hit that many home runs in that park? It’s not easy to hit that many home runs in that park.

That’s pretty impressive.  And very pleasing.  I think this kid brings a lot to the team because they don’t have that much power because Morneau is out of there.  Mauer is not hitting that many home runs.

Q John, any thoughts on Dozier, probably one of the littlest guys you’ll see in the Derby Monday night?

JOHN KRUK:  Trust me, I think it’s smart for Jose Bautista to have a Twin.  I think you remember a couple of years ago in Arizona when Prince Fielder didn’t pick Justin Upton to be in it and Prince got booed.  Every time he stepped up to the plate he got booed.

And in Kansas City, I don’t think there was a Royal. He didn’t pick a Royals player and Robinson Cano got booed two years ago in Kansas City, I guess it was.  And he got booed because he didn’t pick – I think Billy Butler was the All-Star that year and he didn’t pick Billy Butler to be in the Home Run Derby.  Jose Bautista has been around long enough.  He understands.

Dozier is the type of guy, he’s smaller, and I think what’s going to make it tough for him is, like Ozzie said, it’s a big ballpark and he doesn’t have just the pure power that guys like Cespedes and Bautista and Stanton and Tulowitzki have.  To me, it seems like he’ll exert more energy to hit home runs.

If he gets in the second round, you might see him tire out a little bit.  But, believe me, he’s going to be the fans’ favorite, of course, and I would love to see him get as deep as he can and even win it if he can.

Q. Ozzie, you managed a lot of games at Target Field.  I’m just wondering if a part of you wonders how this is going to play out given that it’s such a pitchers’ ballpark?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I expect a very good game.  I know the offense is very strong but I believe both sides have great pitching staffs.  Both sides are playing pretty big and I expect a pretty close game.  And I expect the managers will make a lot of little plays, bunting and hit-and-run, because this ballpark is very tough to score some runs.  And on top of that you put the pitching staff in both leagues together, expect a pretty close game.

Q. I should have clarified.  How do you think the Derby is going to play out there?  Seems like it’s especially hard to hit home runs between the alleys. 

OZZIE GUILLEN:  When you see Stanton and Cespedes, they could hit it out to the moon, if they have to.  Like Kruk said, those guys are so big and so strong right now – any ballpark, those guys are going to put on a show.  They’re strong enough.

I think it’s going to be a good show for the fans because that’s what the fans and everybody wants to see – a lot of home runs, and I don’t think the ballpark, no matter how big or how the ball carries [matters]. I think they’re going to put on an unbelievable show.

JOHN KRUK:  These guys hit the ball so far. Is it a little tougher to hit it there than it would be, say, in Arizona a couple of years ago or some other ballparks that are smaller?  But these guys, at batting practice they make most ballparks look like a Little League field.  Ozzie was a witness to Giancarlo Stanton taking batting practice.  It’s one of the most impressive things you’ll ever see.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Remember the Home Run Derby in [Citi Field] in New York.  That ballpark is a pretty decent size.  And Cespedes just put on a show there. I expect the same way this year.  I think the Mets ballpark last year was bigger, and obviously this year they shrink a little bit.  But you hit it in the Mets ballpark, you can hit it anywhere because that ball does not carry at all in New York.

Q. Ozzie, you obviously got a chance to manage Giancarlo [Stanton] in the 2012 season the first time he made the All-Star team and you got to watch him every single day hit those home runs.  I remember you telling us you thought that one day one of those balls he hit might kill somebody.  What’s impressed you the most about him over the last two years and this season in particular as you’ve seen him grow as a player?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  First of all, he’s matured a lot.  He’s learning how to hit. And besides that, I think it’s not that he’s better, I think he has a little bit more potential now than when I was managing him.

This kid is still learning the process about strike zone and all that.  But this kid is so powerful.  Even when he make a mistake hitting, he still hits it hard and that’s all that counts.  He’s just a pure strong hitter.  One of my favorite guys.

And when you see this kid take batting practice, he takes his bat.  He goes about the game the right way.  You’re pretty pleased with the way he plays the game and the way he goes about his business.

And I said it before, I keep saying it, I didn’t see anybody in the game when I was playing, coaching or managing hit the ball harder than Giancarlo.  And when I say he will kill a third baseman, a coach, you can add a shortstop there too because this man is very dangerous.  Giancarlo’s bat is very, very fast.

JOHN KRUK:  He might not kill a left fielder but he’s liable to hurt one pretty good.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I’ve seen him hit the ball in Cleveland, when I was managing and  Asdrubal Cabrera was playing shortstop. He almost put him out in Lake Erie with how hard he hit it.  He tried to catch it.  He couldn’t even jump – the ball was hitting the wall before he was landing down on his feet.

And I love this kid.  But meanwhile, he’s an amazing power hitter.  He learned how to strike out a lot less. He’s not chasing that many bad pitches like he used to.  And little by little, he’s going to become one of the superstars in the game.

Q. John, you obviously played this game, been around it so long.  Who does he remind you most of and what do you think, he’s only a couple of years away from becoming a free agent.  If the Marlins don’t trade him first.  What do you think teams would give up to have Giancarlo Stanton? 

JOHN KRUK:  Wow.  First of all, he reminds me of no one.  I’ve never seen anyone hit – the only one who comes close as a right-handed hitter in my time – Gary Sheffield comes to mind, the guy who just would – he hit the ball so hard.  But he’s not as big as Giancarlo.

I mean Giancarlo, he’s a tight end.  He looks like Tony Gonzalez.  He’s built like Tony Gonzalez.  He’s just a huge man.  And what it would take to get him – I mean, well, what it’s going to take probably would be a number one starter and I don’t think teams are willing to give up a number one starter for a right fielder.

But that’s what it would take.  It’s not going to take someone’s number three and a Minor League prospect.  It’s going to take a number one. Hypothetically, if the Dodgers called and said all their outfielders got hurt again and we need an outfielder and they wanted to trade Giancarlo, it would have to take someone like a Greinke, not a Kershaw, but a Greinke and a top prospect or two to get someone like him.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I think whoever it is that is going to make a trade, I think whoever gets traded to the Marlins has to play in the Big Leagues right away. They have to be on the Big League roster helping the team play every day.

And I just imagine that kid – I’m not saying they shouldn’t trade him to New York or whatever, just making a point.  If this kid played in New York or Boston or Texas, I mean, he will be healthier and he will produce more because you aren’t  chasing balls in Marlins Park, which is so huge. Obviously you get tired and sore.

He can make a mistake and still hit the ball 500 feet.  To make, like John said, to make a trade, I don’t think right now anybody is prepared to offer any trade to the Marlins because the management, they can get a lot of good things for him.

I don’t know.  I just saw the Marlins’ front office talk about that. They’re not going to move them.  But I think Giancarlo is going to be a very, very good product to make a good trade.

Q. I’m curious about the players who weren’t voted in.  Are there names that jump out at you immediately and specifically in the National League, the storyline for Justin Morneau going back to Minnesota would be a fun one.  But do you think he’s actually deserving of going?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Of course, yes.  I was checking his numbers, and if I was the manager, I would have taken him.  I thought he looked good.  I think the numbers are there.  I think he’d be awesome and great for baseball.

I think Minnesota fans, they are very grateful and very pleased with what Morneau did there.  I’m surprised they didn’t take him.  But that’s a part of the game, every year somebody is out there not playing that should be playing, because it’s hard to make the All-Star team.  But I know we won’t hesitate to pick this kid and go there because I know it’s going to be fun for everybody around Major League Baseball.

JOHN KRUK:  I agree.  Even though the All-Star Game is for home field advantage in the World Series, it’s still to me a game for the fans.

And I think having Justin Morneau – look, if he had 30 RBIs was hitting .240, sentiment goes out the window, he doesn’t deserve it.  But he deserves to be there.  And the fact it’s going to be, like Ozzie said, back in Minnesota where he was beloved, it’s just a great story.

And how great would it be if he came up in a key situation in the 8th or 9th inning and got a big hit or hit a home run to help win the game?  The fans, even though most of them are probably going to be rooting for the American League because it’s an American League city, I can’t imagine him not getting a standing ovation and being adored like he should be because of the great things he did in Minnesota.

Q. Ozzie, quick question.  As a Chicago guy, what do you think of where the Cubs are at in their rebuilding process, given that you have Samardzija traded away, but you have Starling back in All-Star form and Rizzo possibly joining him as another 24-year old All-Star.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Well, I hope Rizzo makes it. I think Rizzo has unbelievable numbers.  He deserves to be there.  He’s hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 49 RBIs with a team that doesn’t produce that much.  That’s the key.

I think the Cubs are doing the right thing right now.  This trade has been great for everyone, especially for Samardzija.  Samardzija, every day when he pitches, all of the media in Chicago ask: When do you think you are going to get traded?  How are you going to get traded?

I think all the draining and all the stuff out of this kid’s mind now is he’s got to concentrate to help the Oakland A’s.  Now I think the Cubs are showing people they are trying to make a good young team for the future.  I think that was a big step for everyone.  And I think that they’re making the right steps.

Q. Who are you most looking forward to seeing hit in the Home Run Derby?

JOHN KRUK:  I believe we have the same answer:  Giancarlo Stanton.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I don’t want to know how many Giancarlo is going to hit, I want to know how far he’s going to hit one.  That’s what I’m waiting for.

JOHN KRUK:  I’d like to see Nelson Cruz jump in this thing, too, because I’ve had different managers around the American League tell me that at some point in his career he’s going to hit one of the farthest home runs – he’s going to hit the farthest home run in the history of baseball.  But have him and Stanton go at it, I think that would be just fun to watch.  But if he’s not in, it’s Stanton.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I’m not saying it’s great for baseball when Cruz is in the Home Run Derby after the issue he had in the past. He can show people he can do that when he is clean.  And I think it’s good for him and good for baseball to have that kid proving to people you don’t have to do stupid things or the things you’re not supposed to do to play well in this game.

Q. Both of you mentioned how tiring this event can be.  Just one of your thoughts on the new format this year, seven outs instead of ten, and the top home run hitters from each league, the first round get a bye until the semifinals.  How do you think that’s going to impact things? 

JOHN KRUK:  I think you’re going to have fresher guys, even though it’s only possibly three less swings.  But I think you’re going to have fresher guys going into the second and third rounds of this thing.

I mean, you saw last year a couple of guys, they just wore themselves out.  And I think the Home Run Derby that I remember the most, remember well is the Josh Hamilton in Yankee Stadium when he hit 9,000 home runs in the first round.

But Justin Morneau won the Home Run Derby and no one knows it or no one remembers that, but they just remember what Josh did, but Josh looked like to me got a little fatigued at the end.  And you have to remember, too, the more home runs you hit, the more the pitcher who you’re bringing in, he gets fatigued too.  And that could be an issue.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I think it’s great to cut it down, not just because a [swing] or two or like John said, I agree with John 100 percent, but for the fans, too.  I mean, the Home Run Derby, the fans get into it. I think in the past they made it too long and people just, I mean I know the kids are excited.  But I think for the fans and the media and everybody working the Home Run Derby and people watching on TV, it’s better because the quicker they do the stuff, the people get into it more and don’t just have to sit there, waiting, waiting, to see the same guys swing 30,000 times.  I think it was a brilliant idea for MLB to cut it down and make it quicker.

Q. I’m based here in Detroit where, of course, the big news this week was Miguel Cabrera pulling out of the Home Run Derby saying he didn’t want to mess with his swing anymore.  My question for both of you, and  I’ll ask Ozzie first because he’s the former manager here and John second, as he’s been around the event forever.  But, Ozzie, do you put any stock in the idea that a player can mess up their swing doing the Home Run Derby, was that something that you were really concerned about when you were managing? 

OZZIE GUILLEN:  Not really.  If my players want to do it, just do it.  I was concerned about my pitching, not the hitting.  But I hear about a lot of guys, they don’t like to do it.  And I heard from a good friend of mine Bobby Abreu, that was his excuse.

Bobby, he hit like 50 some home runs in Detroit.  All of a sudden after that he just went blank. He went down to the tank.  And maybe that can cause that.

I remember Frank Thomas told, a teammate, they went through the same stuff.  They don’t like to do it because they think about the swing.

But I think for the Home Run Derby to when the games start, it’s like three or four days.  I don’t know why it would screw up your swing.

But I respect it.  I think maybe Miggy just wanted to relax. He’s been through a lot of issues physically the last few years dealing with some injuries and I think that’s why Miggy said he wanted to kick back and watch.  I know he maybe wanted to be there.  But I think it’s not going to play with his swing, I think he’s just tired and deserves and needs a lot of rest.

JOHN KRUK:  And we were just in Detroit Sunday doing a game and Brad Ausmus said he’d love to find a day to give Miguel a day off to give him a rest.

But then when Victor [Martinez] got hurt he couldn’t give Miguel the time off because Victor. He needed that bat in the middle of the lineup without Victor there.

And so he had to continue playing him.  And so I think this is more, believe me, when you participate in the workout, you seem to get a lot of swings.  And you don’t take batting practice too often when there’s 40, 50,000 people in the stands.  So it’s a different form of batting practice.  You’re oohing and ahhing the fans with hitting the balls as far as you can hit them.

I remember the ’93 All-Star Game, the left-handed hitters, Bonds and all that, they were trying to hit it off the warehouse outside of Camden Yards.  That’s not your normal batting practice.

I think what Miguel is doing is coming off the abdominal surgery or groin surgery, whatever, I think taking away from the Home Run Derby, he’s basically going to get two or three days of rest before they have to play on Friday and it’s going to help him the second half.

Q. John, the Cincinnati Reds have a couple of guys making their All-Star debuts with Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Cueto Thinking back to your first time in a MLB All-Star Game, what’s your favorite memory from your first appearance there?

JOHN KRUK:  Man, well, the first one I made was in Toronto in ’91 and I didn’t play.  Scheduling snafu or something.  But I mean what I remember is walking in the clubhouse the first time.  And you see the Bonds of the world and Tony Gwynn, who I played with. It wasn’t that big a deal to see Tony, but you see Tony Gwynn who has won nine million batting titles and Barry Bonds, the best all-around player in baseball – just thinking how do I fit in with this group?

And that was what was the most impressive thing to me was just walking in that clubhouse for the first time and thinking what the heck am I doing here.  And then some guy came around, they roped it off, and the guy came around and shook everyone’s hands and I said who in the heck is this guy. I didn’t understand it was the Prime Minister of Canada.  So that was embarrassing.

But that’s what I remember is the clubhouse, just walking in there thinking I shouldn’t be here.  But then I made a couple more and I thought, well, maybe I do.  I don’t know.  But it was impressive to see all those guys in one clubhouse.

Q. Anytime you have an All-Star Game, there’s always the debate of who were the snubs from each team.  But the Cincinnati Reds have a guy in Alfredo Simon, who was originally supposed to be a reliever for the Reds coming in but he’s been beyond impressive at this point.  He ended up starting at the beginning of the season replacing Latos.  But heading into the All-Star Game, he’s not on the roster. He’s leading NL in wins, tied for the best record in baseball right now.  Should he be on the National League roster? 

JOHN KRUK:  Yeah, I was surprised he was left off.  When you’re watching, he’s impressive.  When you have Cueto doing such a great job, you know, and making the All-Star team, and then of course you’ve got Frazier and Mesoraco.  That’s the issue.  Rick Porcello on Sunday wasn’t named to the team and he pitched Sunday night.

He had a chance to have 13 wins before the All-Star break.  And on his way to 20-plus wins.  And of course he’s in the Fifth Man vote thing.

But it’s so difficult.  And Ozzie had to manage one of these.  I can’t imagine having to go down a roster and saying, okay, we need this guy, this guy, and this guy.  It’s tough.  I think it shows you just how great the pitching is in baseball now, when you have a guy who is leading the league in wins who can’t make the All-Star team.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I think just, I’m sure fans know about it, but when you make the All-Star team there are so many issues.  You’re not talking about in one month.  That takes almost all half of the season to figure out how you’re going to make it. You have phone calls from Major League Baseball, phone calls from the league, phone calls from all kinds of people on how to make the All-Star team.

You’ve got to go with the fans voting.  Then you have to pick one in each team and then you have to all of a sudden manage it.

It’s not fun to be the manager on the All-Star Game.  It’s not fun because you have so much stuff during the game, before the game, after the game.  You don’t really enjoy it.

And on top of that, you have to win.  And I think when you pick – I remember not picking one of the pitchers, Curt Schilling. I didn’t pick him.  Curt was supposed to be on the team.  But I had to pick somebody from Kansas City.  I don’t remember the pitcher’s name.

And I had to show up for the pitching.  The pitcher was a guy with like five wins and his ERA was like 4.9, and I was criticized about it.  But I don’t have anything to do – we had to pick the best team. So many second basemen that year and we had to let Curt Schilling out because so many guys deserved to be there and not too many people make it.

Q. Last year we had that very memorable moment, being able to see Mariano Rivera in his final appearance in the MLB All-Star Game.  We’ll get a similar opportunity here with Derek Jeter making his final appearance in the game.  Comment a little on what you think his legacy will be, not just with the Yankees, but with baseball as a whole?

OZZIE GUILLEN:  It’s my opinion, I don’t think any All-Star Game is going to be like last year about saying bye to a player.

But I think with Mariano, it was in New York.  Mariano was perfect because they were winning the game, it was like they planned for that to happen.  We don’t know when Derek Jeter is going to come out.  We don’t know how many innings he’s going to play.  Can he receive a standing ovation after he comes out of the field, after they take him out? Yes.

But I think Mariano Rivera, I don’t think it will happen again in baseball.  The legacy, oh, wow, he’s one of my favorite players on the field and off the field.  He’s a good looking man.  Got a lot of girlfriends.  Plays for the right team.  Got a lot of money and he’s the captain of the New York Yankees.  Almost never got in trouble for anything.

In baseball, you look at the big picture, that’s the real Mr. Perfect in the game.  And from the day one to the last game this kid played the game right and people are going to miss him.

But I think the legacy is going to be there just because it’s the rings and he plays for New York.  And I think off the field to me, it’s more important because all those girls dream about going out with him.  (Chuckling).

JOHN KRUK:  Whew.  I can’t follow that.

I think that’s going to be the most interesting thing about this All-Star game.  We can beat to death the fact that the game means home field advantage in the World Series and things like that.  But I think that it is going to be the anticipation of people watching the All-Star game, when are they going to take him out and how are they going to go about doing it.

And I’ve had people in baseball say that, well, he should play the whole game.  But then there’s Joe Girardi. You’re in third place or whatever, you’re thinking wait a second, hold on. I don’t want my 40-year old shortstop playing nine innings in an All-Star game when he can get two at bats and get out of there in the 5th and finally get some rest.  It’s going to be interesting to see.

I think depending on the score, if it was me, I would take him out in like the 5th or 6th inning after he gets two at bats and not have a shortstop for that inning or for one batter – Derek Jeter is irreplaceable.  So for one hitter, we’re not going to have anyone at shortstop and hope the guy is a left-handed pull hitter and doesn’t hit one that way.

OZZIE GUILLEN:  I think, too, if I was a manager for him, he’s my first at bat, get a base hit, out of the game, people can see me running on the field.

If I not, I wait for him to get on base.  If he’s not, I let him go to shortstop, then call timeout and bring the shortstop from the bench and have him leave the field even without a hit in the game.  I think that’s the way they should do it.

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I Love Lucy Season 1 BD Re-Issue A Whole New Reason To Love Lucy

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 is one of the best new re-issues of 2014.  The latest re-issue of the series’ debut season is everything that audiences had hoped for in the original DVD release of Season 1.  Not only does it boast all of the original Season 1 episodes carried in the original DVD box set, but it also boasts far more.  That is the primary factor that makes this set such a surprise.  The quality of the footage looks exceptionally clean, too.  Just as with Paramount’s recent release of The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1 on Blu-ray, the original grainy quality of the footage is there.  But, it has been cleaned up at the same time without losing any of that vintage look.  And last but not least of all, the new re-issue’s packaging rounds out the whole thing, making this set complete.  Each of the factors noted here by themselves presents its own positive.  Combined, they make I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 quite the aptly titled set.

More often than not, box sets whether they be for movies, TV shows or even CDs, rarely live up to the hype.  That’s because in so many cases, said entertainment platforms get multiple box sets with much the same material in each release.  So at first glance, one might think that this would apply with the newly re-issued first season of I Love Lucy on Blu-ray.  One couldn’t be more wrong in this case.  I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 is one of those extremely rare re-issues that deserves of its title.  I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 deserves its title first and foremost because of the sheer volume of material included in this set as compared to the previously released Season 1 DVD box set.  The new Season 1 Blu-ray box set includes all of the original episodes of I Love Lucy’s first season, naturally.  It also contains the relatively rare pilot episode in which audiences are offered bonus commentary explaining the series’ roots.  Those roots go back apparently to Lucy’s radio show, My Favorite Husband in which Richard Denning (The Black Scorpion, An Affair to Remember, Mr. & Mrs. North), not Desi Arnaz, played her husband.  And instead of the main characters being Lucy and Ricky, it was Liz and George Cooper who took center stage so to speak.  On a related note, Paramount and CBS have made available as part of this set’s extensive bonus material, two episodes of that radio series for fan enjoyment and to hear the role that My Favorite Husband played in the creation of I Love Lucy.

The addition of the two bonus episodes of My Favorite Husband alongside the rarely seen pilot episode of I Love Lucy and its commentary are but a mere portion of the immensity of the material included in this set.  Audiences are also treated to profiles of the figures featured in the original ads that accompanied the series.  What’s more, the original ads for Philip Morris cigarettes are there, too whereas today, there’s no way ads for tobacco products would dare be shown on television.  This is one more important part of the vast amount of material included in what is justifiably titled “Ultimate.”  Just as impressive is the inclusion of the series’ original stick figure openings along with the more well-known heart-on-satin openings.  As if all of this isn’t enough, there are also episode specific commentaries that add even more depth and value to this set.  All that, along with gag reels, makeup tests and other extras, are enough by themselves to make this box set even more worthy of the title “Ultimate.” Of course one would be remiss to ignore the quality of the footage in the set’s re-issue. It too plays a role in the success and enjoyment of I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1.

Paramount has made a habit of setting the bar in terms of the look of those movies and TV shows that it has released and re-issued to Blu-ray. Anyone that has seen the studio’s 2011 BD re-issue of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures or the recently re-issued Andy Griffith Show: Season One will agree to that. A single look at I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 reveals that the look of this re-issue is no different. The original grainy quality of the show is still there. It’s just been cleaned up a little bit. But it hasn’t been cleaned to the point that it has lost that vintage charm, either. Those charged with re-mastering the footage or its presentation here are to be commended for the painstaking efforts taken in order to balance the original look with something cleaner, essentially paying homage to the work put in by those that originally filmed the series. To that extent, the balance of the old with the new, alongside the magnitude of material included in this BD set makes this set even more a potential candidate to be one of the year’s best new box sets for adults or even for families. Both factors are equally important in the grand scheme of this set by themselves and collectively. There is still one last factor to consider in the set’s success. That factor is the set’s packaging.

Anyone that recalls the original DVD box set presentations of I Love Lucy’s six seasons will recall the size of those boxes. The boxes in question were anything but ergonomic. They took up a lot of space. The people at Paramount and CBS realized this and has sincere-issued all six seasons in smaller cases for their DVD presentations. The BD set is around the same size as those re-issued DVD box sets if not smaller. It is roughly the same size or smaller because Blu-ray discs can hold more information on each disc. This means reduced need for resources and in turn, reduced box size. So not only do audiences get even more material in this new re-issue of I Love Lucy’s first season, but they also get a box that takes up less space. That is the proverbial cherry on the top of this classic TV treat. Together with the set’s content and the solidly balanced footage quality, the packaging completes the whole package and makes it a definite contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s top new box sets both for families and adults.

I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered via the official I Love Lucy Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/I.Love.Lucy. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.