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The Presidential Candidates Of The Play-By-Play World

“The undertaking was a little more daunting than I thought it might have been.”

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This is not a paid political announcement. Thankfully huh?

You will not read about the Electoral College. There will be no mention of blue states or red states. However, I did hold an election, the voting machines all worked, there were no lines to stand in and it all went off without a hitch. That’s because the election I’m talking about took place in my living room. The candidates were selected by me and the winners were also chosen by, yes you guessed it, me. 

Opinion | The End of the Polling Booth - The New York Times

I should probably explain. My election is all about all-time play-by-play announcers, both past and present. I selected who should be the “President” of each of the four major sports leagues, NCAA Football and Golf.

The undertaking was a little more daunting than I thought it might have been. In a couple of cases the choice was extremely clear and in others not so much. So, the criteria are, which announcer is the one in each of the mentioned sports that others would look to for “leadership and influence”. To make it easier on me, I’ve chosen a President and Vice President for each. 

MLB

President: Vin Scully

Vin Scully auctions items from 67-year career – Orange County Register

Surprised? Vin Scully is presidential in the way he calls/called games. The style is friendly, yet authoritative. Scully had a command over a broadcast that was unmatched in the game. Working as a solo act most of the latter part of his career, his work became like a ‘fireside chat’ (for you millennials, google it).

Vin was so easy to listen to, because he spoke to his listeners directly and you almost felt part of the broadcast.  Staying power was also in Scully’s resume, nearly 70 years with the Dodgers for one, plus countless network opportunities, calling baseball for CBS and NBC. Perhaps two of his most famous calls took place as a network broadcaster in the World Series. There was the 1986 call of the ball getting by Bill Buckner and the 1988 home run by Kirk Gibson off of Dennis Eckersley. Both were incredible in the moment and have lasted the test of time. He is the model all others look to as the standard in the sport. Oh, and did I mention he’s one of the best human beings to ever walk the earth?

Vice President: Jack Buck

MLB Network to feature Jack Buck Monday | ksdk.com

This was not an easy choice, but Buck emerged as my selection based on longevity, network experience and being known for several calls along the way. Buck was a fixture with the Cardinals for 40 plus years and had that great deep and somewhat raspy voice that won fans over. His most famous call came in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS when Ozzie Smith hit a walk-off homer, “Go crazy folks, go crazy!”. Buck worked in the NFL too and was the national radio voice of Monday Night Football alongside Hank Stram in the 1990’s. 

Cabinet positions for (in no particular order): Red Barber, Curt Gowdy, Harry Kalas, Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray, Bill King, Bob Costas, Marty Brenneman, Jon Miller, Milo Hamilton, Dan Shulman, and Bob Uecker.

NFL

President: Pat Summerall

Pat Summerall Dies at 82 | PEOPLE.com

In the late ‘70’s and most of the 80’s, Pat Summerall was the voice of the NFL. If it was a big game in football, chances are pretty good he was on the call. Summerall worked his way up the ranks and became the network’s lead NFL voice, paired first with Tom Brookshier and then of course with John Madden. The latter pairing worked together for 22 years on both CBS and Fox.

Summerall called 16 Super Bowls on TV. He was perfect for television, complimenting the pictures on the screen with a baritone name of the player, then the result of that play. Summerall subscribed to the “less is more” theory and it proved successful in his career. He had a great way of making his partner the focal point.

I’m sure as a former player he knew a lot about the game, but as a great play-by-play guy, he deferred in many cases. Summerall was named the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio and Television Award winner in 1994. He proved a versatile broadcaster as well, serving as CBS’s lead announcer on its PGA Tour coverage.

Vice President: Al Michaels 

What can’t this guy do? This “presidential” race was close. While Michaels might be best known for his “Do you believe in miracles?” call in 1980 when the US beat Russia in hockey, he’s been a mainstay in the NFL.

Michaels took over Monday Night Football after the Howard Cosell era and kept that ship afloat. He then moved to NBC, teaming with John Madden and then Cris Collinsworth on Sunday Night Football. So, you’ll probably notice that Michaels appears in several of these sports’ top tiers, doing baseball and basketball in addition to his football work. One of the more well-known broadcasters of several generations is certainly more than qualified as the VP in this category. 

Cabinet positions (in no particular order): Jim Nantz, Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy, Joe Buck, Jack Buck, Howard Cosell, Dick Stockton, Frank Gifford, Charlie Jones, Lindsey Nelson, Ian Eagle, Kenny Albert and Greg Gumbel. 

NBA

President: Marty Glickman

Remembering Marty Glickman | New York Knicks

When I wrote an earlier piece on Marv Albert, the name Marty Glickman came up a lot. Marty was a mentor to Marv and many other soon to be broadcasters. Glickman entered broadcasting in 1939 with a job in radio. In 1946 he became the radio voice of the Knicks, a post he held for decades. He also was the play-by-play man for the New York (Football) Giants, the Nets, the Jets, the Dodgers (Brooklyn) and Yankees. Pretty impressive resume.

Perhaps the most “presidential” thing he did in his storied career was to mentor young broadcasters. I already mentioned Albert, but he also served in the same role for Bob Costas, Bob Papa and Ian Eagle among others. Glickman is credited with coining the basketball terms, the lane, key, midcourt stripe and swish. That’s called leaving a mark on a sport. 

Vice President: Marv Albert

Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame: Marv Albert, the Brooklyn-Born Ballboy  Who Became a Broadcast Behemoth

It only seems fitting that the student follows the teacher in this category. Albert’s voice is unmistakable, his excitement with every call, that wit and of course the catch phrases, including “YES”. He’s among the best to ever call the sport, but again we deferred to the teacher, followed by the protégé. 

Cabinet positions (in no particular order): Mike Breen, Chick Hearn, Jim Durham, Kevin Harlan, Johnny Most, Ian Eagle, Dave Pasch and Dick Stockton.

NHL

President: Mike Emrick

As I wrote last month, Mike “Doc” Emrick is as good as it gets in a sport. Doc announced his retirement after nearly 50 years of calling hockey as a professional. His command of the English language and hockey is unmatched in a broadcaster. Not only was he the top of the heap in the booth, everyone you talk to, feels he is the top of the mountain as a human being. To this day he listens to young broadcasters’ tapes to give them pointers, nurturing the next generation of announcers. You knew it was an important game when Doc was on the call. 

Vice President: Bob Miller

Statement regarding the health of Bob Miller

Miller wrapped up a legendary career with the LA Kings a few years ago. Miller was with the Kings since 1973, so you know he became THE credible source for hockey in Southern California. Being around that long affords you the opportunity to speak your mind. Those that listened to him, understand he wasn’t afraid to tell you what he thought. Miller also had a great reputation for telling great stories with his easy going style and personality he really made it work well for many years behind the mic.  

Cabinet positions (in no particular order): Gary Thorne, Lloyd Petit, Jiggs McDonald, Mike Lange, Dan Kelly, Bob Cole, Foster Hewitt, Dave Strader, Sam Rosen and Howie Rose.

NCAA FOOTBALL

President: Keith Jackson

Keith Jackson dies: College football world reacts to legend's passing -  SBNation.com

“Whoa Nellie!”, “Fum-BLE!” and “Hold the phone” were just a few of well-known expressions uttered by Keith Jackson. He missed just one college football season in his 50-year career, because he was doing play-by-play for the inaugural season of Monday Night Football in 1970. He was the ultimate in “big game” college football announcers in his day. Big weekly matchups and big bowl games were his calling card.

The voice was folksy and warm and the catch phrases weren’t contrived, they fit the style and seemed so natural. How can he not be “president” when he basically renamed Michigan Stadium, “The Big House”, giving it the nickname that it’s still known by today. Jackson is also credited with naming the Rose Bowl, “the Grandaddy of them All”. The stadium’s radio and TV booths were named “The Keith Jackson Broadcast Center” in 2015 and a statue of him was erected outside the stadium earlier this year. Talk about an impact. Jackson was also well known for calling Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and contributed to ABC’s Wide World of Sports. 

Vice President: Vern Lundquist

Verne Lundquist signs off from college football for one last time - YouTube

Our VP has quite his own resume. He was the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys until 1984, calling legendary games like the “Ice Bowl” and several Super Bowls. He moved to ABC calling a few college football games, but the talent pool made it difficult for him to ascend. He moved to CBS to call college basketball, golf and the NFL. After a brief departure to Turner Sports, Verne returned to CBS and became its voice of the SEC.

Lundquist called many a huge game, but he’s quoted as saying the best one was the 2013 Iron Bowl when Auburn beat Alabama on a 109-yard return of a missed field-goal attempt with one second on the clock.  

Cabinet positions (in no particular order): Lindsey Nelson, Brad Nessler, Chris Fowler, Brent Musburger, Ron Franklin, Chris Schenkel, Sean McDonough and Gus Johnson.

GOLF

President: Jim Nantz

Jim Nantz Reflects on 30 Years Broadcasting Masters Golf Tournament – Robb  Report

“Hello friends…” Jim Nantz has been a fixture in the 18th tower during CBS’ coverage of the PGA Tour. Hard to remember a time when he wasn’t the anchor of the coverage.

I wrote in my “Anatomy of a Broadcaster: Jim Nantz” on July 2nd, “He’s got that perfect tone for the tower on 18. Nantz has the ability to paint a picture with his words, even though you can see those pictures on your television. That’s not easy to do. He sets scenes at the beginning of each day’s golf coverage and it almost sounds like a song. It’s on the melodious side and ear pleasing as well.” My thoughts on that haven’t changed, he’s the standard to me in golf broadcasting. Can’t wait for the Masters to fire up here soon!

Vice President: Dan Hicks

A Quick Nine With Dan Hicks

Hicks has served as lead play-by-play host of NBC Sports’ PGA TOUR Golf Channel on NBC tournament coverage since 2000. He’s been part of NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup, and dating back to 2007, two World Golf Championships, all a part of network television’s premier golf package. Like Nantz, Hicks sets the stage well and does a great job of handling the reins on an interesting group of characters on the telecast. That broadcast includes David Feherty who is always quick with his wit and unique sense of humor. Also keep in mind, Hicks worked with Johnny Miller who always kept him on his toes. 

Cabinet positions (in no particular order): Pat Summerall, David Feherty, Terry Gannon, Verne Lundquist, Dottie Pepper, Gary McCord and Peter Kostis.

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How Advertisers Can Protect Their Digital Ad Spend

Invalid website traffic from automated scripts and “bad bots” will waste $71 billion this year.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic for digital advertising

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) partnering with digital marketing companies for their ad spend can enjoy significant advantages. Digital companies, such as many radio stations’ digital departments, often have more expertise than SMBs in spending money wisely to generate website traffic and, crucially, in avoiding the waste of ad dollars on fake traffic. Fake website traffic has increased by 33% in just two years. Invalid website traffic (IVT) from automated scripts and “bad bots” will waste $71 billion this year. Here are some questions advertisers can ask their digital partner to help eliminate fake ad engagement:

Make Data and Machines Work

Ask your digital partner if they use advanced data analytics and machine learning to optimize your ad spend. By employing predictive analytics—predicting future outcomes—savvy digital marketers can identify audiences most likely to engage genuinely with your ads. Inquire if they use Google Analytics and how it can help flag potential fraud and protect your investment.

Blockchain Technology for Ad Verification

To ensure transparency and security in your ad campaigns, some digital marketers leverage blockchain technology. This technology records every click and impression, guaranteeing that each interaction is genuine and that payments are made only for verified interactions. Blockchain makes it more difficult to change, hack, or manipulate data.

Advanced Attribution Models

Check if your partner uses multi-touch attribution models, which consider all touchpoints in the customer’s journey to your website. This approach provides a comprehensive view of how each ad contributes to conversions. Algorithmic attribution models apply sophisticated algorithms to improve ROI measurement.

Partnerships with Anti-Fraud Organizations

Ask if they collaborate with anti-fraud organizations to reduce fraud in digital advertising. Some digital companies ensure that campaigns and partners are certified by organizations like TAG, guaranteeing that ad placements are genuine and not plagued with fake engagements.

Private Marketplaces

Ensure that ad placements are with trusted publishers, reducing the risk of fraud. Some digital companies use private marketplaces, where a limited number of advertisers can buy and access premium inventory that is less susceptible to fraud, ensuring higher-quality ad placements for your business.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB) and Enhanced Filters

Your digital partner should set criteria for real-time bidding to ensure only high-quality, vetted traffic is considered. Real-Time Bidding is an auction setting where ad impressions are sold and bought. And transactions occur within seconds. Once an advertiser’s bid wins the auction, their digital ad is instantaneously shown on the website or property of the publisher.

Dynamic bidding strategies can adjust in real time based on the quality and performance of the inventory, maximizing the efficiency of your ad spend. Attempting this on your own can be challenging and less effective.

Focus on User Engagement Metrics

Ensure that deeper engagement metrics are employed, such as time spent on a page, scroll depth, and interaction rates, to provide a clearer picture of ad effectiveness. Analyzing post-click behavior helps determine the quality of engagements, ensuring that clicks result in meaningful interactions.

By partnering with well-established digital marketing companies, SMBs can access advanced technologies and strategies to ensure that digital marketing efforts are practical and efficient. Make sure your website conversions are as high as possible. YouTube and Google Search are leading the way in combating bot traffic, while LinkedIn, Google Video Partners, and X are less effective at blocking “bad bots.” Finding a reliable digital partner is crucial to protecting your ad spend and maximizing your returns. Beware of the bad bot and ensure your advertising efforts drive genuine value.

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Ken LaVicka Looks Ahead Following ESPN West Palm Exit

“The last thing I wanted to do was bus throw.”

Derek Futterman

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Ken LaVicka
Courtesy: ESPN West Palm

Although April Fool’s Day had recently taken place, the message Ken LaVicka was delivering on the air early in the month was hardly a joking matter. In an announcement that came as a shock to listeners and LaVicka himself, he revealed that he was leaving ESPN West Palm after 17 years with the outlet. For the last three years, he was the co-host of the popular LaVicka, Theo and Stone midday program, which provided local listeners with discussion and revelry surrounding sports in South Florida and in the United States as a whole.

While it was insinuated to LaVicka that there were financial reasons for the exit, the entire move left him uneasy and uncomfortable, suddenly finding himself out of regular hosting work and looking for a new job. After all, he had been appearing on the air for the Good Karma Brands-owned radio station since 2007, one year after he completed college at Valparaiso University. Over the years at the outlet, he augmented his standing through shifts as an update anchor and fill-in host to eventually being granted his own full-time hosting slot.

The audience within the West Palm Beach and Treasure Coast marketplace had become accustomed to his voice and opinions for more than a decade, making the move difficult for both parties involved. In fact, as LaVicka was divulging the news in the last 20 minutes of what was his final show on the station, he articulated that it was not only he and his partners losing the midday show, but those listeners that encompass the audience as well.

“It was ultimately a corporate decision,” LaVicka said. “It was definitely not mutual. I would prefer to still be at ESPN West Palm. I am unhappy that I’m not at ESPN West Palm, but hey, we’ve been in the business a long time. I’ve seen a lot of friends end up losing jobs over decisions that come from a much higher paygrade, and so I think that ultimately that’s what happened to me.”

When reflecting back on the circumstances that led to his departure from the station, LaVicka believes that he was seen as expendable. Outside of his hosting work, LaVicka is a play-by-play announcer for Florida Atlantic University and calls NWSL soccer matches on various digital platforms. Although LaVicka is appreciative of the company’s belief for him to find his footing again, he is crestfallen to be off the air but conducted himself with professionalism throughout his egress.

“The last thing I wanted to do was bus throw,” LaVicka said. “Was I disappointed? Absolutely. Was I bitter? For sure, and I still feel bitterness towards the situation that unfolded. But I also think that the positives of the opportunities afforded to me by Good Karma Brands for almost 20 years, and also at the end them trying to, while making a tough decision that was going to have an adverse effect on me, try and do it in the most professional and classy way possible that you could in that spot, it kind of allowed me this freedom.”

There exists a dichotomy between LaVicka’s time at ESPN West Palm ending and that of the midday program itself. Upon discovering that he would not be retained, he made this distinction and felt despondency towards having to leave his co-hosts Theo Dorsey and Stone Labanowitz. The broad age cohort on the program and varying perspectives on sports was an aspect that LaVicka believes engendered a unique offering on the air. LaVica has been at the station the longest among the trio, and his partners understood the importance of having the ability to say goodbye to the listeners through the platform.

LaVicka remembers starting at the outlet and describes the first office he worked out of as an “absolute closet,” but it proved to be a place where the business continued to flourish. Originally being from Chicago, Ill., he adjusted to living in southern Florida while also having an ability to focus on growing his career.

The perception that he had of sports talk radio when he was studying in college and participating in the student-run radio station differed from what he ultimately experienced working at ESPN West Palm. It was preceded by a year working at then-FOX Sports 100.5 FM in Madison, Wisc., also owned by Good Karma Brands. LaVicka accepted the role three days before he was supposed to move to Dickinson, N.D. to work as a sportswriter for The Dickinson Press, deciding to pursue his passion in radio.

Nearly two decades later, he evinces an ongoing, axiomatic shift pertaining to multimedia consumption and content creation. LaVicka believes it has become more difficult for terrestrial radio outlets to find businesses who want to associate with their work and delivery methods, although it is dependent on the marketplace. The apprehension he possesses in this regard, however, is in whether talented young people will be able to secure and subsequently capitalize off opportunities.

“Local radio will not die,” LaVicka prognosticated. “It’s still too much of a bonding entity for it to go away completely, but the expectations of how much money a local station can bring in just using traditional means as its way of bringing in income – there’s going to have to be some forward thinkers in that local radio space because you can’t just go, ‘The person goes on air – sell sponsorships’ It doesn’t work like that anymore.”

LaVicka himself is currently looking for a new role in the industry and is not opposed to moving out of south Florida if the opportunity is right for him and his family. Since losing his job at ESPN West Palm, he has endured many sleepless nights and pondered over the amount of fortitude and patience he has within the process.

Even though he is not ruling out an eventual return to ESPN West Palm, he views the outcome as unlikely. The value working there, however, comes in being able to relate and appeal to a diverse, transient audience residing within the locale. Good Karma Brands is assisting him with the process by promoting his work and providing him with financial assistance as he prepares for his next career move.

“I don’t want to come off as cocky, but I’m very confident in myself that given an opportunity; given a role – a sizable role that is something that’s going to be consumed by a lot of people – I get that opportunity, I’m going to excel in it,” LaVicka said. “There hasn’t been any point in my career on air where I haven’t been given an opportunity and then it didn’t completely expand past I think what the initial expectation was, and this includes my time at Florida Atlantic.”

While LaVicka is open to opportunities in terrestrial radio, he is also exploring working in the digital realm and recently started a YouTube show with WQAM digital content producer Zach Krantz titled By All Accounts. LaVicka first met Krantz at Miami Dolphins practices and training camps when he was working on The Joe Rose Show, and they shared several laughs and memorable moments.

When LaVicka and his wife welcomed their second child into the world, it required a stint in the neonatal intensive care unit at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. Their newborn daughter ended up spending 72 hours there where her health improved. Krantz discovered the circumstance shortly after it began and reached out to LaVicka to offer his support, understanding the stress with the situation after his son was in the NICU for several months.

“[He] made sure to come find me at the hospital and put me at ease [and] talked me through the process,” LaVicka said, “and that was massively important to me, had a major effect on me and also gave me an idea of the type of person Zach Krantz is.”

Krantz came up with the idea to start a program with LaVicka, reaching out to him shortly after his exit from ESPN West Palm. Within his proposition, he explained that they already possessed strong chemistry and rapport and would work together to begin a show from phase one. Despite the program still being in its early stages, LaVicka can sense palpable growth potential that could perhaps turn into its own sustainable entity if it continues to grow. The venture is not evanescent, but rather something he is committed to growing in the long run as he discovers the media landscape and searches for the most optimal long-term solution.

“I want this thing to be broad,” LaVicka said. “I want it to be fun, but I think that I also want to make sure that it at least plays to our strengths, which is being petty sports fans; which is showing favor to South Florida sports, making sure that we’re being extremely relatable in the grand scheme of things.”

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NBA Basketball Media Continues to Pile On The Boston Celtics

These Celtics have yet to win a ring and that is on them, but the media criticism levied against them has been inane.

John Molori

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Logo for the Boston Celtics and screengrabs from ESPN
Screengrabs from ESPN's First Take and Get Up

They are the most unfairly criticized team in the NBA, a team that cruised to 64 victories and earned the number one seed in a very tough Eastern Conference. As of this writing on Thursday morning, May 23, they have taken two NBA playoff series in five games respectively and lead the Eastern Conference Finals 1-0 versus Indiana.

I speak of the Boston Celtics, and despite these sterling facts, their two superstars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the team as a whole, continue to garner criticism from the roundball media.

These “experts” say that the Celtics cannot be trusted and that they have not played to their potential. The Celtics have been to the Eastern Conference Finals six times since 2017 and made it to the NBA Finals in 2022, losing to the Golden State Warriors, but to listen to the basketball cognoscenti, you would think they are a bunch of green-clad slugs.

I get it, the Tatum-Brown Celtics have yet to win an NBA Championship, and I agree that if they don’t win it all this year, it will be a failed season for sure. After Boston defeated Cleveland in the Eastern semifinals, TNT analyst Draymond Green stated that no one cares that the Celtics once again made it to the conference finals. He is 100% correct, but that does not mean that the Celtics are utter garbage.

It’s really hard to win an NBA playoff series in five games. The Celtics have already done that twice in these playoffs, but instead of giving the Celtics credit for taking care of business, many commentators have denigrated them for how they are winning and the teams they have faced or did not have to face.

Joel Embiid was hurt. Giannis Antetokounmpo was hurt. The Knicks were banged up and the Cavs lost Donovan Mitchell. Well, too bad. Injuries are a part of the game. Are we forgetting the Celtics have been crushing playoff series without Kristaps Porzingis? When the Celtics get attention from the national media spotlight, it is usually with an air of disappointment and disgust. I’m wondering why.

ESPN and FS1 give endless attention, hope, positivity, and forward-thinking to the Los Angeles Lakers. Simply put, the Lakers are a mediocre to decent basketball team at best. They were dumped in the first round of the playoffs and if not for their history, LeBron James, and the city in which they play, they wouldn’t even be in the discussion. They are the New Orleans Pelicans with Snoop Dogg at courtside.

Still, the Lakers remain in the A block on many network hoops shows. Do you want to talk about a lack of trust, disappointment, and not reaching potential? How about the defending champion Denver Nuggets?

Yes, they have a two-time MVP in Nikola Jokic, but what about his team this year? They fell to a bunch of playoff neophytes called the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing Game 7 at home. Meanwhile, the Celtics took out an always tough Miami Heat team and a highly competitive Cavaliers team, 5 games each. All these Celtics do is win. Does it matter if the wins are pretty? Since when is that the media litmus test?

In a recap of Game 1 of the Eastern finals, a thrilling 133-128 overtime win for Boston, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps said that the Celtics almost “coughed up” another game at home. He went on to say that all the Pacers had to do was inbound the ball and hit a free-throw, and they would have won. Fine Tim, but guess what? They didn’t get it done and the Celtics did. Mistakes and capitalizing on mistakes are a big part of basketball.

Bontemps went on to say that if the Celtics don’t win Game 2 vs. Indiana, the Game 1 win will not matter. This is quite possibly the most foolhardy statement uttered in this year’s NBA playoffs. When four games win a series, every win matters. I understand that the Celtics lost Game 2 at home in their first two series, but so what? They righted the ship and swept both series the rest of the way.

During Game 1 against the Pacers, the Celtics jumped out to an early double-digit lead, but Indy came back to tie the game as good NBA playoff teams are known to do. ESPN’s Lisa Salters asked Boston guard Jrue Holiday how the Celtics lost the early lead. Holiday calmly replied that the Pacers are an NBA team as well. Exactly.

At the end of Game 1, after Boston stormed back in regulation and dominated the OT, ESPN play by play announcer Mike Breen said that the Celtics “survived” Game 1. It was an interesting choice of words that underlined the unfair criticism of Boston.

Coming back in a game, hitting big shots, and winning when it matters is not surviving. It is stepping up, closing the door, and being clutch. Breen is probably unfamiliar with these words because he’s been hanging around the Knicks too long.

On the May 21 edition of ESPN’s First Take, the talented and eloquent Andraya Carter questioned whether the Celtics can be trusted pinpointing Jayson Tatum in the conversation. Austin Rivers vehemently disagreed and the two engaged in a lively debate. The morning after the Celtics won Game 1 vs. the Pacers, ESPN’s Get Up crew still dogged them.

The eminent host Mike Greenberg asked the panel how Jaylen Brown could get open for the “easiest” three-point shot of the game to tie the game with just seconds left in regulation.

If you watch video of the shot, however, it was hardly easy. Brown was in the far corner with the 6-10 Pascal Siakam in his face and the Indiana bench just a couple of feet away most likely yelling Dicemanesque obscenities his way. These are the types of unmerited insults tossed at the Celtics. Brown hits an amazing shot with everything on the line and it is somehow considered the easiest shot of the game. Really?

Much of the rancor toward the Celtics is based on their stacked roster and the perceived lack of talent in their opponents but let me get all historical on you for a minute. The nearly unanimously coronated greatest player in the history of the game, Michael Jordan, did not play all-time great teams in winning his six NBA Championship series.

In 1991, it was an old Lakers team. In 1992, it was the utterly forgettable Portland Trailblazers. In 1993, it was an aging Phoenix Suns team with Charles Barkley trying to get a ring. In 1996, it was a good, but not great Seattle Sonics club, and in 1997 and 1998, it was the Utah Jazz. I’ll give the Jazz Karl Malone and John Stockton, but the rest of the team did double duty in a men’s weeknight league at the Northern Utah YMCA.

In fact, a team’s competition is trivial. If you win, you win. It doesn’t matter who is on the opposite side of the court. These Celtics have yet to win a ring and that is on them, but the media criticism levied against them has been inane.

Even the legendary Michael Wilbon piled on saying that if the Knicks were completely healthy, he would have picked them to beat the Celtics. All due respect to Mr. Wilbon, but a fully healthy Knicks team still may not have beaten the Pacers, who are sharpshooting like Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon.

On Get Up this past week, ESPN’s Alan Hahn said that Jayson Tatum is not in the same league as LeBron James. No kidding, Alan. LeBron James is the leading scorer in NBA history, a man who has defined the sport for two decades. Hahn doubled down however, stating that Tatum is not in the same league as Luka Doncic.

Doncic is an immensely skillful player, but that’s about it. His Mavericks are in the conference finals for only the second time in his career. He has taken his team absolutely nowhere. Doncic is the Josh Allen of the NBA. Super stats, but not a sniff of a conference championship to his credit. His name is Luca, and he lives on the second bill to Tatum.

On the May 22 edition of First Take, Stephen A. Smith noted that Jayson Tatum scored 12 points in the Game 1 overtime period, but also added that Tatum shot 2-10 in the fourth quarter and early in overtime.

Fair enough, but he then stated, “You’re looking for him, and he was nowhere to be found when it really counted.” Huh? So, it didn’t really count in overtime? Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and the Pacers was a tremendous NBA playoff game, one that should go down in history as a classic.         

Instead, it became a springboard for continued unfounded Celtics trashing. Not every competitive NBA game is perfect. Teams make mistakes and miss shots. That’s basketball.

The bottom line is that heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics were 9-2 in the playoffs with multiple trustworthy players delivering in the clutch. This series might end in 4 or 5 games, or could go 7, but to once again paraphrase Draymond Green, nobody cares as long as you win. Despite the baseless media negativity, that is exactly what the Celtics have been doing.

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