If you've been watching coverage of the Tour de France on Versus' high definition channel, you've probably been astounded by how HD makes it possible to see sweat run off the nose of Lance Armstrong or a bird land on a small branch of a big tree. HD has made the Tour more accessible not only to the cycling fan but also to a person who might watch the Travel Channel.
It's that good.
And we're that spoiled.
Unfortunately the British Open golf tournament, with coverage shared by TNT and ABC, is still in plain old regular definition. But don't blame the American networks.
Both take their feed from the British Broadcasting Corp., and the BBC wasn't ready yet to make the investment in HD cameras.
The issue was addressed at a news conference at the tournament Wednesday, where guarantees were given that next year's tournament will be in high definition.
But, wow, what a contrast if you are in the U.S. switching between HD baseball games, All-Star games and even cycling. Versus takes its Tour de France feed from French television, which decided this HD thing is here to stay and paid the money for HD cameras.
Apparently the British wanted to make sure that HD was more than a passing fad. In the meantime, ABC will offer "X-Mo," a slow-motion camera that offers better details of a golfer's swing and the club's impact on the ball. Not quite HD but at least ABC is trying.
Ratings for Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star game were the highest in seven years, according to Nielsen. Nielsen also offered a look at which TV markets were doing the best in the first half of the baseball season.
Boston, St. Louis and Milwaukee were the top three. The Los Angeles market wasn't in the top 10. And while Dallas also wasn't in the top 10, the Texas Rangers' viewership in Dallas is up 50%, the largest jump from one season to the next since ratings were compiled, according to Nielsen.
Today the NBA probably will become the first pro league to claim 1 million Twitter followers. The official NBA page (twitter.com/nba) started last February and was within 4,000 followers of reaching a million as of late Thursday.
twitter.com/nbaThere are 40-plus Twitter accounts with more than 1 million followers, according to TwitterCounter.com, and only three are sports-related: Shaquille O'Neal, Lance Armstrong and Tony Hawk.
More than 100 NBA players have their own accounts and the Lakers have over 600,000 followers, best among NBA teams. If that person next to you on the freeway is looking at a cellphone, don't be mad. He's probably just checking out the latest Lakers tweet.
Good on Friday
Perhaps the best sport to watch women play is softball and at 5 p.m. on ESPN the U.S. meets Italy in the amateur World Cup. Jennie Finch, Caitlin Lowe and Monica Abbott are among the U.S. stars who will be on the field in Oklahoma City. Softball is trying to get itself back onto the Olympic program and until it does, tournaments such as this one (which includes Canada, Netherlands, Japan and Australia) are the best way to see the best softball.
Good on Saturday
The Angels at Oakland is one of the Fox national games this weekend and will be on Channel 11 at 1 p.m. Glenn Kuiper and Jose Mota are on the call for the game that will be seen by 28% of the country. The New York Mets at the Atlanta Braves is the lead game. A critical Alps stage makes the Tour de France a must-see for cycling fans on Versus. The broadcast begins at 5:30 a.m. live (rebroadcast at 5 p.m.). It won't be a surprise if Lance Armstrong makes a move. And on the Fox Soccer Channel at 5 p.m. the U.S. will play Panama in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals.
Good on Sunday
For live sports, another huge Alps stage, ending in Verbier in Switzerland, beginning at 4:30 a.m. on Versus and then the Dodgers finish a four-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Prime Ticket at 1 p.m. The ESPYs will be shown tape-delayed on ESPN at 6 p.m.