THEY GET IT
Katie Nolan, ESPN — Speaking from experience, I would advise Nolan and anyone else in sports media to simply ignore Jason Whitlock, who has bulged into a WWE self-caricature in his excessive struggle for eyeballs. But you can’t blame her for clapping back after he wrote that Nolan’s looks, and those of fellow ESPN personality Maria Taylor, are why they and other women succeed in the profession. She zinged Whitlock in the appropriate body parts, cooly suggesting he doesn’t have the nuts to say it to her face — “keep this energy next time I see you …’’ she replied — while noting that his tweeting motives are strictly financial. You don’t have to like Nolan’s snark, but targeting her looks, when many female professionals are unfairly eased out in their 40s and 50s, is just wrong. Whitlock used to be a good sports columnist, but now, everything is racism and sexism and whatever ism he can conjure. He also lacks a grasp of logical parallel construction, referring to Nolan as “the epitome of White privilege’’ while grouping her in the same benefitting-from-beauty category as Taylor, who is Black. Damn, I just gave him the attention he craves.
Tony Romo, CBS — Set for life and many subsequent lives with his $180 million ultra-deal, he could play things safe and stop the Swami game of predicting events before they happen. Romo refuses to settle. With two minutes left in overtime, he urged the Chiefs — and Patrick Mahomes — to bypass a 4th-and-1 play that could have positioned Harrison Butker for a shorter field-goal attempt than 53 yards. “It feels like, `Bring in Mariano Rivera, let’s win the game,’ ’’ said Romo, referencing the lockdown baseball closer. Butker entered and made his first try, but a Kansas City lineman was whistled for a false start, extending the distance to 58 yards. Romo still believed in Butker, one of the NFL’s premier kickers. He lined up again and made the second try, but the Chargers had called timeout before the snap. Romo STILL believed in Butker, calling him, “The best.’’ Finally, Butker kicked once more and crisply recorded a record-breaking game-winner. In the silence of SoFi Stadium, Romo’s high-priced wisdom roared again.
Mike Greenberg, ESPN — After years of playing point guard on ad-heavy morning TV, sharing the air on a longstanding radio program and anchoring “SportsCenter,’’ Greenberg sounds liberated to be alone at last. He brings thoughtful, robust, uninterrupted opinions on his new radio platform, “Greeny’’ — and for once, he looks rested enough not to need greenies. Typically, he saves his best heat for the team that always lets him down: the Jets and dead-duck head coach Adam Gase. “While I love the image of Gase getting out-coached at the fifth-grade level, this simply isn’t true,’’ he said. “He’s certainly qualified to coach youth football. I might even let him coach my high school squad. College and pros? Not so much.’’
Annie Agar, freelance TV reporter — Looking for the next Nolan? Sports media agents — those still employed, anyway — should be clamoring to sign the 24-year-old Agar, who careened into the viralsphere with a riotous video that mocks Big Ten sports culture. Pretending to be a conference official announcing the resumption of football, she leads a “Zoom session’’ that includes reps from six schools, roles also played by Agar, who nails the fan stereotypes for which those campuses are known. The Michigan State rep holds a beer cup and says, “Party at our place, 10 p.m. Bring friends! Go Green!’’ The Ohio State rep is on the phone, reordering a “2020 Undefeated Season banner.’’ The Northwestern rep wears nerdy glasses and says, “You know, statistically, this is a really bad idea.’’ The Wisconsin fan fires back: “Statistically, you suck.’’ A Rutgers rep, sensing another long season of ugly losses, says, “You know, I don’t feel good.’’ The Nebraska rep is just dumbfounded. Hell, I’ll be Agar’s agent.
Danny Parkins, Chicago radio host at 670 The Score — It couldn’t have been easy to scold his mentor and since-fired show partner, Dan McNeil, for comparing Maria Taylor’s fashion choice to that of a porn awards host. Parkins said what needed to be said professionally and personally, with little mercy: “Actions have consequences. I can understand completely why Entercom did what it did, and I feel terrible Maria Taylor debuts on `Monday Night Football’ — talk about a career milestone and accomplishment — and somehow she gets caught up in this nonsense. That’s not right. Nobody can condone that. So, yeah, the industry needs to be better. We need to be better.’’ I’ve heard only good things about Parkins; maybe there’s hope yet for Chicago as a sports radio market. McNeil finally expressed his regrets, writing, “I apologize, @MariaTaylor, for the harsh critique of your outfit on MNF. Going for a quick laugh, I failed conclusively. Best of luck — you’re terrific. #GoneFishin.’’ Unfortunately, the apology came four days late, at 4:18 a.m., and rather than call Taylor personally, McNeil posted it on Twitter — the vehicle that banished him to the fishing pond to begin with.
Adam Schefter, ESPN — Having written poignantly about tragedy and loss, Schefter would seem least likely to use a coronavirus case as ratings bait. But the Sunday morning pressure to break football news broke him. “NFL’s first notable in-season case of COVID…coming up on Sunday NFL Countdown,’’ he tweeted. Those who waited a few minutes learned, through Schefter, that the positive test belonged to NFL officiating czar Al Riveron — a stunt that couldn’t have pleased Riveron, his family and anyone else who cares about media sensitivity during a pandemic. In April, Fox’s Jay Glazer committed the same insensitive blunder, tweeting and then blurting on the radio about “big, big news … I mean, big national news.’’ It turned out to be the positive Covid test of Rams offensive lineman Brian Allen. Around that time, remember, Schefter was ripping the NFL for conducting its draft amid Covid-related “carnage in the streets.’’ What happened to his moral compass the last six months?
Maria Taylor, ESPN — Deserving of all the moral support she received last week, after the McNeil and Whitlock debacles, Taylor also must accept criticism when she makes a glaring mistake. She omitted Lakers star and playoff hero Anthony Davis from her All-NBA ballot — the only voter among 99 others not to place him on the first or second teams — and rather than simply acknowledging the oversight and moving on, she grew defensive on social media. “Wow it’s been a long week. But if everyone would like to take away my voter privileges because of a CLEAR mistake. Please feel free,’’ she wrote. That led Fox Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb to ask why she even had a vote, to which the former Georgia Bulldog responded: “Because I PLAYED basketball…I COVER the league. And I DESERVE everything I’ve worked hard for.’’ All of which just keeps the Twitter birds chirping at her, which can be a long and vicious circle.
Terry Bradshaw, Fox Sports — In a football season where almost nothing is certain, this was: Bradshaw botching a name he should know. Rather than cashing in on his bumbling act with a new E! reality show, he might want to stand in front of a mirror until he gets the name right — Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs’ breakout rookie running back. Can you just try, Terry? Instead of waiting for laughter from fellow studio panelists that has turned to embarrassed wincing?
Charley Steiner, Dodgers broadcaster — The next six weeks in America will be stupefying. We don’t need baseball play-by-play guys adding to the madness. Before Donald Trump was President, he apparently tried to take credit for Steiner’s career when they ran into each other at a restaurant. “I looked up at him and said, `You didn’t have a (expletive) thing to do with my career,’ ‘’ Steiner told USA Today. Trump then wondered why Steiner never thanked him. “Go (bleep) yourself,’’ Steiner said he told him. “So my last words to the President of the United States were, `Go (bleep) yourself.’ ‘’ The Dodgers are owned by Guggenheim Partners, whose CEO, Mark Walter, has contributed to the Democratic National Committee and Obama For America. Still, Steiner should know his place. You know: Corey Seager at the plate, Justin Turner on deck.
Joel Sherman, New York Post — America needs less baseball, not more. The games dawdle longer than ever, with the average time between balls in play pushing a maddening four minutes. Yet the longtime baseball scribe wants to EXPAND the season to 174 games — 146 games played with eight innings, 28 games played in doubleheaders with seven innings. I’m sure his boss at MLB Network — ultimately, commissioner Rob Manfred — loves the creativity. But Sherman clearly needs a new sport to cover. Baseball has driven him batty.