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A Sports on the Air special on draft coverage, U.S. Open and an "epic sports rant"


It’s time for another Sports on the Air special.

If you’re not one of the lucky hockey fans to get a ticket to the NHL Draft Friday at the First Niagara Center, NBC’s cable sports channel is the place to be to explain who all these guys are.

There is one significant difference between the NBA draft and the NHL draft carried over the next two nights.

The NBA Draft carried by ESPN Thursday night primarily features college players who basketball fans might have seen on the thousands of games carried on TV or read about them. That often leads to viewers shouting “are you kidding me” when highly-publicized college players are passed over for players more suited to the pro game or when first-round surprises occur.

Syracuse University fans certainly will be interested to see what NBA team thinks freshman forward Malachi Richardson is worthy of a first-round pick after he shot 37 percent from the college three-point line last season.

It is harder to protest first-round picks in the NHL Draft because it mostly features players that only the most devoted fans have formed an opinion about after watching them on the little college hockey or international competition carried on TV.

With that difference between the drafts, NBCSN’s draft team can be very valuable explaining any picks that surprise the hockey analysts.

Liam McHugh will host NBCSN’s coverage, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday, a half hour before Auston Matthews is expected to be the first pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pierre McGuire, Bob McKenzie and Craig Button will provide analysis, with Kathryn Tappen interviewing players, coaches and general managers. Darren Dreger also will report on any big stories that may emerge.

The coverage also is being streamed by and the NBC Sports app.

In a release, NBCSN mentions Matthews, fellow American,  Matthew Tkachuk and Finnish forwards Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi  as the likely top four picks. If Tkachuk’s name sounds familiar, it is because his father, Keith, was a  500 goal-scorer in the NHL.

While watching the premiere of Bill Simmons new HBO show “Any Given Wednesday,” I tweeted that actor and New England Patriot fan Ben Affleck may have set a HBO record for use of an expletive when talking about Tom Brady and Deflategate. Affleck made the language in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” almost seem tame by comparison.

Affleck's language got the attention of NBC’s “Today” Thursday afternoon in what it labeled an “epic rant.”

Even though I may be one of the few people in Buffalo who agree that the NFL’s suspension of Brady for four games for supposedly being involved or aware of the deflation of game footballs is ridiculous, I was embarrassed for the actor who by most accounts is very intelligent and has a great vocabulary.

Simmons has a great way with words. The highlights of his inaugural show where the essays he did while clips of athletes and news makers he referenced were shown.

His interview with quote machine Charles Barkley was OK, but all Barkley interviews usually are entertaining.

After the 30 minutes ended, I felt like “Little Billy Simmons” – that’s what he called himself at the end – is much better behind-the-scenes and as a role player in a TV talk show environment than as the lead character. I can’t imagine that anyone but a rabid sports fan like Affleck will make Simmons’ show appointment television.

The controversy surrounding the USGA delaying its ruling on whether eventual U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson was going to be penalized a stroke when his golf ball moved may have actually helped the ratings locally Sunday.

Several pro golfers and golf fans went on social media to call the delay of the ruling unfair because it meant Johnson didn’t know how big his lead was going into the final holes.

But controversy can pay off.

Locally, the final round had a 5.2 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate, 50 percent higher than the 3.5 rating the Open had here a year earlier.

The rating averaged about a 7.0 over the final two hours as the controversy played out. Johnson made the controversy and the eventual one stroke penalty he received irrelevant by winning the tournament by three strokes.


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