Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood is excited to be selected to sing the opening theme for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as the replacement for Faith Hill. In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, telecast producer Fred Gaudelli and Underwood discussed her new role:
Producer Fred Gaudelli Opening Remarks: As I’m sure you know, since the inception of Sunday Night Football on NBC, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” has opened every Sunday Night telecast. Pink performed it the first season in 2006 and Faith Hill has performed it every season since then. And now I am beyond thrilled to welcome the latest superstar to “Sunday Night Football.” She’s had 17 singles go to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, a six-time Grammy award winner, who’s sold over 15 million albums, and she’s done it in only eight short years. She’s the only woman to win the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year award twice. Carrie Underwood will now open television’s highest rated show with a brand new version of “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.” Carrie, welcome to Sunday Night Football.
Carrie Underwood Opening Remarks: Thank you. I’m very excited. I think it’s a perfect fit and I am such a sports fan and football fan, and we love Sunday nights around my household, so for me to be a part of it is something really special.
Gaudelli on the decision to make the change: Faith called me in February and told me she thought it was time for her to, as she put it, “pass the torch” and let someone else “rock the open.” So at that point I really only had one person in my sight and that was Carrie. Interestingly back in 2006 when we got the package, Carrie was in my sights back then too and the stars didn’t align that time. But fortunately, this time they did. She’s the only person I spoke to about this.
Underwood on how long it took to say “yes”: Not long. Like (Fred) said, way back when, we kind of had them on the radar for Sunday Night Football, so I guess I had a long time to watch Faith be so amazing at it and bring such an energy to the event every Sunday night. So for me, to have that opportunity to follow in her footsteps and do something really cool like that, it sounded like fun. And like I said, this is something that’s been a part of our household for a while now and to be a part of that is exciting. I can’t wait.
Gaudelli on the evolution of “Waiting All Day on Sunday Night”: Just the evolution, I think, there really are two major components: I think obviously having the right song, a really good song that connects with people and kind of sticks in your head, and then a great performer. Pink kicked it off and Faith did it wonderfully for six years, and I think Carrie is going to bring a new dimension to it — something that is going to be singular to her, and it’s just a fun way to kick off a game. On Sunday night, we think of it as more than a game, it’s primetime. There is an entertainment component to what we do and this is a significant part of that component. It’s a mixture of that. An iconic opening.
Gaudelli on players being in the Open: We really like to showcase the players in this, and we’ve tried to do that (through the years). This year should be no different. We’ll be inviting them – I wanted to make the announcement before we started contacting players to come out and shoot but you don’t really ever get a “no.” They all want to be a part of this. We’ll be having players this year.
Underwood on how she will adapt “Waiting All Day on Sunday Night”: Musically, it’s our first step. We definitely wanted to make it sound different and sound like me. Faith put her stamp on it for a long time and did such a wonderful job and it was totally Faith, she owned it. We wanted to be mindful of that and go in and change things up a little bit. So they’re actually going to be recording that here pretty soon, and then I’ll be able to go in to the studio and do what I do. And then everything after that visually, we’ll lock in. We have to get the song first. It’s the same song, same lyrics, but it’s going to be with my flair.
Gaudelli: Carrie’s right about the visuals. We have some ideas right now. Obviously it’s Carrie, it’s players, it’ll probably include some live audience component, and it’ll be a lot of visual effects and hopefully a rocking number to kick off the game.
Underwood on husband and NHL player Mike Fisher’s reactions: He’s excited. He’s a sports dude. Yes, he plays hockey but he definitely loves football, as do I. He’s really excited. He’s got a lot of friends that play for different teams and I think me being a part of that with them and with a sport that he loves, I think it’ll just make it all the more better for him.
Underwood on her relationship with NBC: We obviously met with lots of people in NBC about the “Sound of Music” and everybody within that family is so wonderful to be around and so wonderful to work with. I don’t think one had to do with the other, but it just made it, working together again, all that much better because we already knew a few people at the network so it makes me even more part of the family.
ESPN2 commentator Skip Bayless says Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden is partially to blame for Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Metta World Peace’s hard elbow that left Harden with a concussion during the Thunder-Lakers game Sunday afternoon.
Speaking Monday morning on ESPN2’s “First Take,” Bayless, an Oklahoma City native, said Harden moved into Peace’s path to disrupt his celebration after his dunk in the first half.
Because of the incident, Bayless said he no longer would refer to him as Metta World Peace, but as Ron Artest, his previous name.
“I’m going to give Harden a little bit of the blame here,” Bayless said. “James Harden is known to be a shrewd operator in the NBA already at a young age. He likes to get under the opponent’s skin. He likes to get in Kobe’s face. They got into it in Oklahoma City before the All-Star Game.”
Another “First Take” commentator Wale, a rapper, interrupted, “That’s basketball. That’s competition.”
Bayless: “Clearly James Harden was attempting to disrupt Artest’s chest-pounding celebration at his place, at Staples Center. He just wanted to cut it a little short by getting in front of Artest, just saying stop it. I also think he’s such a shrewd operator that he was hoping that the runaway train that was Artest at that point just might get called for an offensive foul, running over him without looking at him.”
Wale: “You just don’t put yourself in front of Ron Artest and roll the dice.”
Bayless: “Well, he rolled it, baby. Does it justify Artest throwing an elbow? Absolutely not. … But if James Harden had gotten out of the way for one more second and let Artest go by him, we’re not having this conversation.”
Analyst Rob Parker disagreed with Bayless. “It wasn’t contact in a malicious way,” Parker said of Harden. “He didn’t look straight at him or lower his shoulder.”
Melee disputed Bayless’ claim that Harden had a reputation for riling up opponents, calling him a “quiet guy.”
Bayless: “He’s an L.A. guy. He’s from Artesia (High School). He knows how to play the game.”
Bayless said he thought the NBA should suspend Artest for five games, including four playoff games. Parker and Melee said he should be suspended for the entire first round of the playoffs.
“That elbow can not be tolerated,” Parker said. “It is a black eye on the game.”
Bayless recently was criticized on “First Take” by fellow commentator Jalen Rose for overstating his basketball achievement at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. In a tweet, Bayless said he started on a team that lost in the state finals. According to team statistics, Bayless averaged only 1.4 points a game for the 1970 team and did not score in the 47-42 state championship loss to Norman.
Despite the Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA-best 12-2 record, the Thunder didn’t receive much praise from TNT’s studio crew during the Thunder-Celtics broadcast Monday night.
Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith all said they thought the Los Angeles Lakers would defeat the Thunder in a playoff series, and Barkley thought the Lakers would win it in five games.
Barkley on the best teams in the Western Conference: “The Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets are the two best teams I have seen in the West.”
O’Neal on the Thunder being 12-2: “They’ve had an easy schedule.”
Game analyst Chris Webber on how Thunder sixth man James Harden has embraced his role with the team: “The best teams that I played against had role players that were superstars. They took their role seriously and they knew the importance of their role to the team. (Harden) has embraced his role (as sixth man) and has made sure that the bench is better for that.”
Game analysis Mike Fratello on Thunder head coach Scott Brooks: “He really knows his players and he knows which guys to let grow and develop and which ones he can get on a little bit harder. He wants players to grow and experience this learning process and by the way, they’re winning a lot of games in this process.”
Fratello on the unselfishness of Thunder forward Kevin Durant: “He is a very unselfish player. He has the God-given ability to score the basketball whenever he wants to; he understands the team aspect of the game and is a willing passer.”
ESPN’s “College GameDay” features a report on late OU linebacker Austin Box and how his death affected his family and the team. Box, 22, died in May from a lethal mix of prescription pain killers. Reporter Tom Rinaldi talked with Box’s family. The report will air about 10:10 a.m. Saturday.
From the time he was in seventh grade, Austin’s father, Craig, wrote his son a letter before every game he played — from middle school through the last game he played — the Fiesta Bowl win over Connecticut just in January. This season, Craig has been reading those letters again as Austin’s memory carries on, by his team and his family.
Quotes from the “College GameDay” segment:
Craig Box on the letters: “I wanted him to have something. To let him know his daddy was watching him; his daddy cared about him; his daddy loved him; that he was special; that he was gonna be special.”
Mother Gail Box: “He dealt with his back and the pain in his arm. But Austin never complained. He felt like he had been given so many gifts, that to complain would just be unheard of.”
Sister Whitney Box on a different OU defensive player wearing No. 12 in each game: “I can watch the No. 12, and root for whoever’s wearing it, and really want that player to maybe do better than all the other defensive players. But just really honor Austin in whatever they do. And they all have, each one of them. Whenever they’ve worn that jersey, they’ve honored Austin.”
ESPN/ABC announcers Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Dr. Jack Ramsay discussed the NBA Finals in a conference call Friday. Here are a few excerpts:
Q: Jack Ramsay, how do you perceive the rest of the country perceives the Heat outside of Miami? I know you called their games for a long time. I’m not sure if you still live in the area. But I want to get a sense from you how you think the rest of the nation sees them compared to how they are seen locally.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I think the rest of the country is growing to appreciate and in some quarters root for this team. They started off on the wrong foot and just aroused derision everywhere they went in the league. But they are so good. They are so dedicated. When you see, as Mike Breen said, their key players, LeBron James and D‑Wade, diving on the floor for loose balls, coming from the weak side and making incredible shot blocks, you have to acknowledge that. I think it’s happened for the Heat. They have become not America’s team but they’re now likable, and everybody loves a winner, and this team has been proved that it can be a winner.
Q: For Mark and Mike, you’ve gotten to see quite a lot of the Mavs lately. What has impressed you most about the way they’ve been playing, the way they’ve been winning?
Mark Jackson: I think the most impressive thing is how they have incredible poise. They’ve stayed calm in the face of tough runs. They totally believe in their system and in each other, and they find ways to win ballgames. I think ultimately when you’re talking about great basketball teams, you’re talking about teams that in spite of not playing their best, taking their game to another level and finding a way to win, and that’s been the most impressive thing for me about this Mavericks team.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I’d like to add, Jason Kidd has been incredible. This guy, 38 years old, still runs the show on offense and is a surprisingly good defender. Did a great job against Kobe Bryant in the LA series in significant spots of games, and he doesn’t have the quick feet any longer, but he has great hands and great anticipation. The Mavs make a premium on defensive deflections of passes. In Game 4 against OKC, they had 19 deflections in that game. And these are all. Kidd had his share of those. Marion, Nowitzki even, everybody who plays is conscious of that. Kidd is still running the show there. He distributes the ball. He gets the ball to a player who needs a shot, needs to make a field goal. He’ll throw cross‑court to Terry giving up a shot of his own so Terry can get a free look from three-point land. This is a surprisingly tough team with veteran poise, as Mark said. That’s a key characteristic for them. And Tyson Chandler we haven’t mentioned is the defensive focus there and actually the spokesman of the team. He gets everybody going. He calls people out when they’re not getting their jobs done, and he defends the basket area.
Q. Mark Cuban has for a long time been one of the major faces of the franchise, and I’m wondering if you can compare the Mark Cuban of ’06 to the Mark Cuban of today?
Mike Breen: This might sound silly, but maybe as an owner you learn from experience, as well. And although I think a lot of this has to do with being superstitious; he was quiet early, they started winning, so he figured, all right, let me keep my mouth shut and not say a word. I just think right from the start, he’s brought so much passion, and willing to do everything and anything to make the players give them the proper tools, whether it’s a great locker room, a great plane, a good coach, spending money on free agents, give their whole team the proper tools to win. He’s been all about that right from the start. Obviously he gets emotional from the fans. I think he’s been able to control that a little bit better, and maybe he was tired of getting fined and losing money for shooting off his mouth sometimes. But to me he’s always been ‑‑ all he wants to do is win, and he wants to give the fans a great product. You know, so much of the publicity about him has always been the fines and the controversial comments, but I think most NBA fans would love to have their team have an owner like Mark Cuban.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I think some of it has to do with his confidence in Rick Carlisle. He has, and should have, a high appreciation for Carlisle’s talents as a coach and the way that Carlisle uses his personnel and controls the tempo of games and just monitors it, and in a very low‑key fashion. It’s wonderful to watch. I talked with Mark after they had qualified for the championship round, and I mentioned to him, “I thought Rick did a terrific job.” He said, “Rick has out‑coached everyone he’s faced in the Playoffs so far.” He said, “That’s no surprise to me.” So there’s a confidence in the coach that maybe was not there with his previous coaches.
Just like athletes, cheerleaders are getting starter at a younger age these days. A segment of the next edition “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, explores the world of mini-cheerleading.
Here’s the synopsis as supplied by HBO:
Mini-Cheerleaders. Competitive cheerleading is a grueling physical sport, testing the limits of even the most dedicated athletes. So imagine pre-pubescent girls, ages 5 to 8, tumbling, dancing, stunting and flying through the air on the national stage in true competitive fashion. Just like the big girls, they don lipstick, glitter and miniskirts, too. Leading up to the United States finals, Real Sports correspondent Andrea Kremer explores the lesser-known world of mini-cheerleading.
Other stories include profiles of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and two-time Paralympic track champ Marlon Shirley, and a look at the New Jersey-based health organization P.A.S.T. (Pain Alternatives, Solutions & Treatments) that provides pro-bono treatment to former athletes.
Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and David Aldridge were among the TNT analysts who discussed the Celtics-Thunder trade during the network’s pregame coverage Thursday night. The Thunder sent forward Jeff Green and center Nedad Krstic to the Thunder for center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robison.
Barkley: “I was very surprised but it’s a good trade for the Celtics considering they weren’t going to be able to re-sign (Perkins). They only need Perkins against the Lakers if they get to the finals. They are going to have a tougher time getting through Chicago (Bulls) and Miami (Heat). Perkins wouldn’t have been a big factor in (a Miami) series. They got the best deal they could out of their circumstances.”
Smith on the Celtics losing the mystique of being a tough team: “(Perkins) doesn’t help you get to a championship but he helps you win it. What the Boston Celtics had over everyone else was the mystique of toughness … They don’t have that anymore. That’s what the cache was that they were a great defensive team and you couldn’t get layups or get to the basket. They have just traded that (mystique) in and said, ‘We are a new team.’ To me, that is the difference and I don’t know if that’s great if you’re trying to win a championship.”
Barkley on the Thunder getting tougher at the trade deadline: “I love the toughness that (the Thunder) have now. I love the fact that they’ll be able to hit some guys in the head when they come down the lane. (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant are going to score. Those guys will score in church, but they never get rebounds. Now they have some rebounding (ability) and some defensive toughness. This (trade) makes them a contender.”
Aldridge on the trade: “If you go back in time, (the Kendrick Perkins) trade is like Larry Nance going to Cleveland or Dennis Johnson going to Boston. Those ‘cement’ trades that make a good team a great team. I think Kendrick Perkins does that for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were already good and they could’ve won a playoff series. What (Perkins) gives them in terms of defensive presence, toughness and championship experience; I think Oklahoma City is going to remember this day as the day they took a step up to be a true contender in the NBA.”
Before he decided to play football at the University of Oklahoma in 1984, Troy Aikman almost decided to play baseball instead. A three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys, Aikman told Bryant Gumbel in a segment airing on the next edition of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that the New York Mets made a pitch for him to play baseball. The program premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Aikman will team with Joe Buck to call Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 on Fox.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
AIKMAN: “I got a call from the New York Mets and they said, ‘We need to know what it’s gonna take to get you to forgo college.’”
GUMBEL: “Did you pitch?”
AIKMAN: “I was a pitcher and a shortstop. And so when they said what’s it gonna take.’ I said, ‘I don’t know, $200,000.’ They said, ‘$200,000? Darryl Strawberry is not even making that much money.’
And I said, ‘Well if you want me, that’s what it’s gonna take.’ And they said, ‘You have a nice football career at Oklahoma.’ “
The final top 10 greatest players of all-time were unveiled Thursday night on “NFL Network’s The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players.”
And the No. 1 player? It’s former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, the all-time leading receiver. Runner-up was Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, followed by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.
Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, a former Oklahoma State star, was the highest rated Oklahoma star at No. 17. Jim Thorpe ranked No. 37, followed by former OU stars Troy Aikman at No. 80 and Lee Roy Selmon at No. 98.
Rice and Brown were also presenters during the Top 10 episode, with Rice presenting 49ers teammate Montana, and Brown presenting fellow running back Payton.
Here is the list with presenters in parenthesis.
1. Jerry Rice (Jon Gruden)
2. Jim Brown (Burt Reynolds)
3. Lawrence Taylor (Bill Parcells)
4. Joe Montana (Jerry Rice)
5. Walter Payton (Jim Brown)
6. Johnny Unitas (Frank Deford)
7. Reggie White (Mike Holmgren)
8. Peyton Manning (Ray Lewis)
9. Don Hutson (Peter King)
10. Dick Butkus (Howard Mudd)
11. Ronnie Lott (Marcus Allen)
12. Anthony Munoz (Bob Trumpy)
13. Joe Greene (Dennis Miller)
14. Sammy Baugh (Bill Belichick)
15. Deacon Jones (Jennifer Allen)
16. Otto Graham (Don Shula)
17. Barry Sanders (Wynton Marsalis)
18. Ray Lewis (Marvin Lewis)
19. Bronko Nagurski (Jim Dent)
20. Brett Favre (Steve Mariucci)
21. Tom Brady (Derek Jeter)
22. Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams)
23. John Elway (Marty Schottenheimer)
24. John Hannah (Joe Klecko)
25. Dan Marino (Alex Rodriguez)
26. Bob Lilly (Dan Reeves)
27. Merlin Olsen (Jerry Kramer)
28. Emmitt Smith (Moose Johnston)
29. Jack Lambert (Chuck Klosterman)
30. Night Train Lane (Jerry Glanville)
31. Bruce Smith (Luke Russert)
32. Jim Parker (Raymond Berry)
33. Sid Luckman (Marv Levy)
34. Deion Sanders (Michael Irvin)
35. Chuck Bednarik (Ray Didinger)
36. Raymond Berry (Frank Deford)
37. Jim Thorpe (Sally Jenkins)
38. Lance Alworth (Jerry Jones)
39. Gino Marchetti (Ernie Accorsi)
40. O.J. Simpson (Chuck Klosterman)
41. Rod Woodson (Boomer Esiason)
42. John Mackey (Ernie Accorsi)
43. Alan Page (Steve Rushin)
44. Mel Blount (Bob Trumpy)
45. Tony Gonzalez (Trent Green)
46. Roger Staubach (Chuck Klosterman)
47. Ray Nitschke (Jerry Kramer)
48. Red Grange (Steve Hirdt)
49. Mike Haynes (Matt Millen)
50. Terry Bradshaw (Dennis Miller)
51. Bart Starr (Bill Curry)
52. Eric Dickerson (Marcus Allen)
53. Willie Lanier (Floyd Little)
54. Forrest Gregg (Deacon Jones)
55. Earl Campbell (Jerome Bettis)
56. Gene Upshaw (Phil Villapiano)
57. Mike Singletary (Joe Theismann)
58. Steve Van Buren (Ray Didinger)
59. Mike Ditka (Roger Staubach)
60. Jack Ham (Dennis Miller)
61. LaDainian Tomlinson (Reggie Bush)
62. Randy White (Mark May)
63. Jim Otto (Bill Bergey)
64. Herb Adderly (Mel Renfro)
65. Randy Moss (Brian Billick)
66. Willie Brown (Mercury Morris)
67. Kellen Winslow (Joe Gibbs)
68. Mike Webster (Joe Greene)
69. Bobby Bell (Michael MacCambridge)
70. Marshall Faulk (Kurt Warner)
71. Paul Warfield (Mercury Morris)
72. Jonathan Ogden (Michael Strahan)
73. Ozzie Newsome (Bob Trumpy)
74. Marion Motley (Mike Brown)
75. Darrell Green (Carl Lewis)
76. Art Shell (Ron Wolf)
77. Tony Dorsett (Roger Staubach)
78. Bruce Matthews (Warren Moon)
79. Emlen Tunnell (Michael MacCambridge)
80. Troy Aikman (Drew Brees)
81. Steve Young (Mike Holmgren)
82. Ted Hendricks (Howie Long)
83. Norm Van Brocklin (Sonny Jurgensen)
84. Joe Schmidt (Jerry Glanville)
85. Marcus Allen (Matt Millen)
86. Willie Davis (Bobby Mitchell)
87. Crazylegs Hirsch (Michael MacCambridge)
88. Ed Reed (Hines Ward)
89. Ernie Nevers (Steve Hirdt)
90. Kurt Warner (Nick Bakay)
91. Fran Tarkenton (Sen. Amy Klobuchar)
92. Michael Irvin (Troy Aikman)
93. Sam Huff (Sonny Jurgensen)
94. Lenny Moore (Bobby Mitchell)
95. Larry Allen (John Randle)
96. Mel Hein (Steve Hirdt)
97. Derrick Brooks (Jon Gruden)
98. Lee Roy Selmon (Ron Wolf)
99. Michael Strahan (Jon Runyan)
100. Joe Namath (Spike Lee)
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, a former OU star, appeared Wednesday morning on “The Dan Patrick Television Show,” 8-11 a.m. on DirecTV’s 101 Network and simulcast on KEBC-AM 1340. Here are some excerpts:
On whether or not he is better than Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson:
“Yes. What does he do better than me? I don’t think anything. Not faster, not stronger, anything. That’s just the mentality that I have. I have ultimate respect for that guy, he’s a heck of a player. So my mentality doesn’t change and it’s all love and I wish everyone the best and to succeed, but ultimately I play the game to be the best and I’m going to work my tail off to accomplish that goal.”
On how he will hold the ball differently this year:
“Yeah, a lot tighter.”
On his fumbling problems in the past:
“Doing research on myself, watching film,” Peterson said. “I find that a majority of my issues are when I’m getting tackled and fighting for extra yards … swinging that ball, giving guys a chance to punch at it.”
On whether or not he expects to be in the Super Bowl this year:
“Oh yes, without a shadow of doubt. That’s the expectation of me and of this team and that’s our goal. We will be accomplishing it. To make it even better, it’s in Dallas. Dallas, Texas, right where I’m from. It’s going to be good to go back and win it at home.”
On the last time he got nervous before a game:
“You know to be honest with you, when I’m out there that first snap, you have the little jitter bugs going but after that first snap it goes away. So that’s pretty much [how] nervous that I get.”