The Kentucky Derby is just 11 days away and NBC, which is televising the first leg of thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown, has beefed up its coverage by bringing in figure skating champions Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.
Figure skaters? Horse racing?
It makes sense to a degree. The Derby is almost as much about fashion and parties as the race itself and when it comes to fashion, both Weir and Lipinski know something about that from their skating days.
“It’s not just a two-minute race,” said Rob Hyland, coordinating producer for the NBC Sports Group. “Of course, the two-minute race is extremely important, but our job is to capture the venue and the day — it’s a huge celebration — as creatively and poignantly as possible.”
The pair had performed well during NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage from Sochi, Russia, in February and also appeared on “Access Hollywood’s” coverage of the Academy Awards.
”We’ve always loved loud fashion and sort of bonded over it,” Lipinski said. ”The whole Olympics experience was a bit of a surprise. We came in and were focused on doing a good job as rookies. But we’re young and we like to have fun.”
NBC’s Derby telecast in 2013 was seen by 16.2 million viewers — 51 percent of them women — and was the second most-watched Derby in 25 years. So be prepared to watch Tara and Johnny opine about this celebrity’s hat or that celebrity’s dress while trying to figure out if anyone can beat California Chrome, the likely favorite, come May 3.
■ SWITCHING CITIES? — Don’t panic if you tune in to today’s Cubs-Diamondbacks game. The D-Backs haven’t left Arizona.
To celebrate the inaugural game at Wrigley Field on April 23, 1914, both teams will be wearing retro uniforms. Since the Diamondbacks didn’t exist then and the Kansas City Packers did, Arizona will wear blue and gray uniforms as Kansas City did that day.
However, the K.C. uniforms will have a modern look to them. There is a Diamondbacks patch on the right side.
■ BIG FAN — New York City FC, which debuts in Major League Soccer in 2015, held a news conference Monday at Yankee Stadium to help launch its season ticket sales drive. The first purchaser? None other than Mariano Rivera.
The Panama native and Yankee legend grew up a soccer fan and now that he’s no longer coming in from the bullpen, he can enter Gate 4 at the Stadium like the rest of the fans who will be watching NYCFC. Perhaps Derek Jeter will join Rivera as a season-ticketholder since he’ll have plenty of free time on his hands next summer.
■ ESPN BLEW IT — The Toronto Raptors finally figured out what caused the shot clock to short out during Saturday’s Game 1 against Brooklyn at Air Canada Centre.
ESPN was hogging the electricity.
A technician for the TV network plugged into the same power sources as the shot clocks, overloading the system and causing the clocks to malfunction midway through the third quarter. It forced the public address announcer to count down the final seconds on the clock in each possession the remainder of the game.
There were no problems Tuesday in Game 2 as the cables had been replaced and ESPN didn’t need to hog the electrical outlets because it wasn’t doing the game. NBA TV handled Game 2.
COMPILED BY STEVE CARP LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL