Sunday School – Handing Out Grades To Our Weekend Wrap-Up Shows

Newsiest interview in a busy Sundy night

Every once in a while I like to get greedy. I’ll make a third trip through the buffet line or, sometimes, I’ll watch all four of our local TV Sunday night sports shows. My own little version of checks and balances, if you will.

Last night – what a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day – was one of those nights. Notepad in hand and TiVos working double time, I checked out all four so you don’t have to.

The report card:

Sports Sunday with Mike Doocy. Channel 4. 10 p.m.

Doocy has the advantage of batting first, and he takes advantage. Not only is his the first show to treat us to Tony Romo’s horrible rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” at Wrigley Field, Doocy’s delivery is professional and flawless – not a single pause or “um” during the half-hour. The popular “Open Mike” segment features Stars’ TV analyst Daryl Reaugh, who tells us that goalie Marty Turco must be “mastadonic” for the Stars to win tonight’s Game 3. Mike also provides a one-on-one interview with Turco, and supports the goalie’s troubles in Detroit with solid stats and graphics. The show also grazes NHL and NBA playoff highlights and a couple shots from golf’s Players' Championship. After Rangers highlights – supported by graphic evidence of Texas having baseball's third-best record during May – and a bio of new Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, it closes with reporter Max Morgan’s one-on-one with embattled Cowboys safety Roy Williams.
Strength: One-on-one interviews, enhanced by unmatched graphics
Weakness: Last four minutes felt like one big commercial
GRADE: A

Dale Hansen’s Sports Special. Channel 8. 10:20 p.m.

Hansen, who far as I can tell is plugged-in the whole show, also leads with the Stars in the form of reporter George Riba’s feature from Detroit on Turco. We get a unique look into Marty’s past, with Riba interviewing Turco’s former coaches at the University of Michigan and even a snippet from hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe. Back in Dallas, live in studio is Stars’ co-general manager Les Jackson who, turns out, could also double as his team’s ambassador of fun. Hansen, in his pink Mother’s Day tie, engages Jackson in witty banter usually reserved for Joe Avezzano or Pete Delkus. Rangers highlights follow (Hansen is the only show that tells us ace Kevin Millwood today got placed on the 15-day disabled list), then NBA, a Carlisle update, golf highlights and then – huh? – a women’s golf highlight. That’s just weird, man. Show ends with a ho-hum feature by reporter Joe Trahan on the hockey crazies at American Airlines Center. Says Hansen, “There’s not enough beer in America to ever make me paint my face and go to a game. But there are those that do.” Curiously, the show is the only one without Romo’s infamous Wrigley serenade.
Strength: Best coverage of Stars/Turco
Weakness: Omission of Romo is glaring and inclusion of women’s golf is inexcusable
GRADE: B+

Sports Extra. Channel 5. 10:30 p.m.

Host Derek Castillo, thankfully invoking exactly zero memories of Scott Murray, is smooth as the show opens with Stars highlights and a live interview with Dallas' play-by-play voice Ralph Strangis from his living room. Castillo provides the newsy nugget that the Stars are only 1-4 in the playoffs without injured forward Stu Barnes. Surrounding the relevant interview, however, is visual chaos. The show’s graphics – in fiery orange-red – are distracting and the scrolling ticker is useless. It shows, for example, the Toronto-Boston baseball game 0-0 in the Top of the 1st (it was rained out) and the Mets 8, Reds 3 in the Top of the 9th (it had been final for about six hours). Castillo moves through the Rangers, Mavericks and NBA before his only slight mis-speak when, during golf highlights, he says Paul Goydos misses a putt “left” when it was actually right. I know, nit-picky. Derek more than makes up for it with an inspirational feature about a 90-year-old Dallas man breaking age-group running records and making the rest of us feel really lazy and insignificant. The show provides the best interview with the Cowboys’ Williams, and is the only one to touch NASCAR, state high school track results and analyst Tom Grieve’s uproarious comments from last week’s Rangers-Mariners dust-up. If you watched only this show, come Monday morning around the water cooler nothing would catch you by surprise. And when he returns from video of the Romo performance, Castillo has his fingers in his ears. Bravo.
Strength: Unique, off-beat feature provides local flavor
Weakness: Distracting graphics/scroll
GRADE: B+

The Score with Babe Laufenberg. Channel 11. 10:30 p.m.

Troy Aikman’s former backup also leads with hockey. Sorta. He actually begins with an exclusive sit-down with Stars' and Rangers' owner Tom Hicks at his Dallas office. Give Babe credit, he asks a couple tough questions and even remarks to Hicks that a lot of fans want him to stop being so hands-on with so many teams. Says Hicks, “I’m a smart hockey owner these days, because we’re winning.” The juiciest part of the segment, however, revolves around the Rangers. Hicks says “If Nolan Ryan would’ve been here we never would’ve traded Chris Young.” Hmm. And, asked by Babe how close manager Ron Washington was to getting fired recently, Hicks offered, “Pretty close. Nolan’s take was that if this thing doesn’t turn around pretty fast, let’s make a change.” Reporter Steve Dennis is dispatched to Detroit for a quickie sit-down with Turco. Babe touches on Romo at Wrigley and the quarterback’s failed attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open golf tournament. It also includes Romo being asked if he’s engaged to Jessica Simpson, to which he responds “You’ll have to watch Hard Knocks to find out.” Touché.
Strength: On a Stars-heavy Sunday, it breaks news on the Rangers
Weakness: On a Stars-heavy Sunday, not enough in-depth hockey analysis
GRADE: A-

Seriously, I went in looking to give an F and came out knowing I'd seen nothing but above average. In the final analysis, each station has it unique strength and none were anything but big-market entertaining and informational. Castillo had an off-beat, feel-good story. Hansen was least afraid to ruffle feathers. Doocy provided the best, most solid balance. And Laufenberg came the closest to breaking news.

There’s lots about Dallas not to like. Sunday nights ain’t one of them. -- Richie Whitt

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