Little League coverage hits home run

After 10 days of on-field action and an abundance of made-for-TV fun, the Little League World Series concludes this afternoon with the championship game from Williamsport airing at 3 p.m. on ABC.

As it has for years, ESPN packages the event as a slice of Americana, full of camaraderie, sportsmanship and quality play. Watch every game and the accompanying features and interviews, and you get the sense that everyone is happy, friendly and a little silly.

It’s family friendly, there’s inexpensive food, lots of room to slide on cardboard and an army of smiling volunteers. Having grown up at the event and spent some time there again this year, that’s generally true. Almost unanimously true, in fact.

There’s just a small twinge of cynic in me, though, that wonders what’s being said at times when coaches wired for TV are not able to be heard. Or how careful/cozy TV producers and Little League officials are to ensure the story they want gets told.

Still, the intimacy of the venue (and images on the TV screen as a result) and the pure competitiveness and joy of the players invariably win me over.

It’s generally good TV, and even though it has gotten much bigger and corporate in the past few decades, it still feels like a special, small-town showcase of sports.

Preseason positives

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin often seems honest and even a bit revealing on his pregame radio show — even during the preseason.

Before the team’s second game against the Chiefs, Bob Labriola on the Steelers Radio Network asked what advice the coach would give a curious potential coach about watching film.

Tomlin never missed a beat, saying “be a good archivist” and stressing the importance of a coach having their own system for categorizing and reviewing things.

It did not sound like a cliched response, and it was really kind of an off-the-wall question that did not lend itself to a mindless answer. For fans listening, it was interesting.

‘Sundays’ set

A famously behind-the-scenes member of the Steelers’ ownership group, Patricia Rooney (Dan Rooney’s widow), will be among four women featured in “A Lifetime of Sundays,” which airs at 1 p.m. today on ESPN. It will re-air at 3:30 p.m. next Sunday, Sept. 1 on ABC.

NFL Films produced the documentary about the matriarchs of NFL families. Along with Rooney, the show focuses on Martha Ford (Detroit Lions), Norma Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs) and Virginia Halas McCaskey (Chicago Bears).

ACC Network-Pitt news

The ACC Network launched Thursday and, as conference and/or fledgling sports channels always do, the channel owned by ESPN opened for business with some special programming, including a documentary titled “The Class That Saved Coach K.”

The channel also has crafted an early-season football schedule with some higher-profile games designed to raise awareness and encourage fans who do not have the channel to lobby their cable distributor to add it.

Those bigger games include Georgia Tech at Clemson on Aug. 29 and Florida State at Virginia on Sept. 14.

For any Pitt fans without access to the ACC Network, though, it could be a frustrating start to the season. The Panthers’ first two games, 7:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Virginia and 11 a.m. Sept. 7 vs. Ohio University, air on the channel.

According to the ACC Network website, the network won’t be available on cable locally but users of DirecTV, Hulu, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV would have access.

Fans with question can call their local cable providers.

Tuner tidbits

n With more widespread legal gambling, a bigger presence for studio shows related to the odds and trends was a safe bet. So it’s no surprise ESPN moved “Daily Wager” to a 6 p.m. daily timeslot on ESPN2. On Sundays, it airs at 9 a.m. on ESPNEWS the first three weeks of the NFL season before moving Sept. 29 to ESPN2.

n Legendary TV sports personality Jack Whitaker (he did play-by-play, some analysis and a lot of essays later in his career) died last week. He was 95 and had worked for ABC and CBS nationally.

n ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” pregame push this season includes a 4 p.m. “SportsCenter” with Keith Olbermann and Hannah Storm.

Sampsell comments on the broadcast media for the Mirror. He can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.


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