THEY GET IT
Those Who Didn’t Stick To Sports — As church bells tolled in Minneapolis, near the courthouse where a killer cop was convicted, I thought of media professionals who broke free from traditional job descriptions and challenged systemic racism. Colin Kaepernick would kneel and LeBron James would tweet — and perspective quickly followed in the words of Michael Wilbon, Jerry Brewer, Stephen A. Smith, Maria Taylor, LZ Granderson and numerous sports journalists who used platforms to protest and educate. They were slammed as overly woke — at times, the commentary bordered on activism — but, in their own way, they contributed to the jury conviction of Derek Chauvin on all three counts. They can’t bring back George Floyd. They won’t stop racism. But they’ve elevated an industry too consumed these days with the legal gambling craze, no-conscience traffic clicks and survivalist desperation. Said Wilbon, the ESPN commentator: “I’m grateful to the men and women who’ve used their voices in the arena, in and around sports, to use their leverage. We talk about shining a light on something — I am relieved. This is the only just verdict, the only just outcome. I’m relieved, but I am not hopeful. Yet. Sorry.’’
Sam Amico, Outkick — Is The Athletic, the purported last-gasp savior of sportswriting, about to free-fall into a spiral of mass layoffs and dramatic strategy changes? While Outkick kingpin Clay Travis has much to gain from publishing the story, we have no reason to doubt the reporting of the reputable Amico, who quotes unidentified Athletic investors who say the pay site is “on shaky ground’’ with “subscriptions plummeting and renewal rates suffering.’’ From the start — and I was there in 2016, lunching repeatedly with founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann during San Francisco job discussions at the Four Seasons — The Athletic has underestimated the industry and overshot its wad, so to speak, forgoing my suggestion to hire a compact collection of well-known, high-traffic opinionists in markets with major pro and college sports. Instead, the duo blew megamillions — what happened to the $140 million in seed money? — while believing they could hire hundreds of analysts and beat writers for every conceivable league and team in a sports journalism takeover, with Mather infamously telling the New York Times in 2017, “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing. We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.” Instead, The Athletic joined every other newspaper site and sports digital project — beyond ESPN — in a jungle where no one thrives and many won’t survive long-term. Mather misread the willingness of readers to spend $59 a year on subscriptions, which became a no-go for many during a pandemic that pummeled finances and lessened the priority of sports. Having never pursued advertising revenue, the site inevitably was going to bleed, despite the eager investments of Quicken Loans chairman/Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and venture capitalists. Mather and Hansmann came from the Silicon Valley world and didn’t understand why the American sports empire and sports media coverage must be separated. For every powerful investigative story and timely scoop, The Athletic infuriates me with content (see below) straight out of a team’s public-relations department. Not that ESPN doesn’t have similar conflict-of-interest issues with leagues, but the sheer girth of coverage on its free and paid streaming sites — breaking news, live games, analysis, TV shows, documentaries — blows away The Athletic at the same price point. If, as Amico reports, Plan B is to downsize into a national-only site and dump most local content providers, Mather and Hansmann will have done more damage to sports journalism than good. Just think: hundreds of capable writers left on the street in a dried-up industry.
Joe Davis, Dodgers broadcaster — Vin who? OK, I’m not ridiculous enough to go there, but four years after assuming the most daunting assignment in the history of sportscasting — replacing the god of all play-by-play gods — Davis has settled into a comfortable, entertaining mode in which L.A. audiences somehow don’t yearn for the legendary Vin Scully. Considering few gave him a chance to succeed, it’s a staggering accomplishment for Davis, who now mixes fun, knowledgeable banter with partner Orel Hershiser and produced his best work during a gripping Dodgers-Padres series. He even tells stories, as Scully did, and those only will enrich through time. From his small-town Michigan upbringing to the way he was discovered in his mid-20s by ESPN — working a handful of games for the Montgomery Biscuits in Double-A ball — Davis has a charming tale that suggests impending greatness. Just 33, he’s positioned to be the next commanding sports voice of his generation. And he has reached this level by following the advice of Scully, who told the Los Angeles Times in 2017: “My prayer for him, for anyone, is maybe the hardest thing — be yourself. For the 100 years he might be there, the big thing is to be yourself.” Davis won’t be there 100 years, but Dodgers fans have accepted him enough that 40 years is a possibility in the booth. Unless …
Joe Buck, “Jeopardy!’’ host — Like Aaron Rodgers, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric and half the free world, Buck has harbored a lifelong dream of hosting the game show. He’ll get his chance this summer, reports the New York Post. Given his entertainment chops and prominence in TV, the permanent gig might be his if he wants it. If so, Buck could remain in his primary roles as Fox’s lead NFL and Major League Baseball game-caller; as Rodgers recently pointed out in stumping for the job, “They film 46 days a year. I worked about six months out of the year this last year. I worked 187 days this year in Green Bay, which gives me another 178 or 179 days to film 46 episodes.’’ An NFL quarterback couldn’t make the logistics work, but Buck could if he gave up some duties in what has been a monstrously elaborate Fox schedule. See what I’m thinking here? Davis inherits those duties and slowly is groomed by the network as the next Buck, as Buck becomes the next Alex Trebek. Remember, Buck has had vocal cord issues and shouldn’t be overdoing his workload in his 50s. If you think this is me being crazy, check back at a future date.
Marc Silverman, ESPN Chicago — My former radio partner returned to the WMVP studios last week for the first time in 370 days. To no one’s surprise, knowing his positive grasp of life, he has taken the lead in an ongoing battle against a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Our uncommon talk-show pairing — he’s a passionate fan of Chicago sports; I’m a hard-core commentator who covers sports as an industry worth hundreds of billions — produced some of the station’s best ratings of the last two decades. The hope, Silverman told the Chicago Tribune, is that “in five years, I’ll be `cured.’ ‘’ A lot of people in that city are rooting for Silvy, just as he’ll keep rooting for the Cubs … and torching them when they stage a painful fire sale this summer.
Dan Dakich, realist — This item is worthy of bonus coverage. If he must be a misogynist and woke-basher, at least Dakich remains loyal to his personal life code. He knows ESPN will be dumping him as a college basketball analyst after an unfortunate Twitter beef with a female professor, but he’s not whining or protesting. Actually, he doesn’t care. Paraphrasing gonzo author Hunter S. Thompson, who once worked for ESPN.com and was allowed to write what he wanted, Dakich told the Indianapolis Star: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming `Wow! What a Ride!’ Continuing, he said, “Stand up. Stand up and stand out. If you have no enemies, you never stood for … I’ve got a ton of enemies and I love it.’’ He still has his afternoon show on an Indianapolis radio station … for now.
THEY DON’T GET IT
ESPN — So much for the perception — among fans, anyway — that insiders such as Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter are 24/7 gumshoe attack dogs, working and hyperventilating to make calls and break stories. Do you realize how many calls and texts come to them by design? Woodward and Bernstein, they are not. As industry people know, exclusives often are the result of wink-wink agreements between high-profile reporters and player agents, league/team executives and local beat-writing servants who pass along what they hear. ESPN blew its cover by voicing disappointment to a business partner, baseball analyst Alex Rodriguez, that he didn’t hand-deliver Wojnarowski a major scoop first reported by The Athletic: A-Rod and e-commerce titan Marc Lore have a tentative, $1.5-billion agreement to purchase the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. After Rodriguez was informed of the network’s dismay before a “Sunday Night Baseball’’ assignment, his representative sent a group e-mail to the A-Rod team, according to the New York Post: “Hi guys — we should save something for ESPN (instead of giving it to The) Athletic. ESPN mentioned to AR they wish Woj had the story — obviously not our call but next round it should be.” So, moving forward, The Athletic, the Minnesota media and other outlets have no chance when Team A-Rod persists in, say, quickly funneling the story to Wojnarowski when the sale is finalized. I’ll be impressed if The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski, who cracked the original story via his own sources, cuts through the Weasel Curtain and breaks more news on this topic. How petty of anyone at ESPN to whine through political channels instead of calling its stud NBA reporter with the truth: You got beat, Woj.
Shaquille O’Neal, TNT — If society is officiating inappropriate behavior in the 21st century, the rules should apply to all. What had been a heartwarming segment on “Inside the NBA’’ — an interview with WNBA hopeful DiDi Richards, who returned to basketball after suffering temporary paralysis in a collision with a Baylor teammate — spilled into a senseless interlude starring O’Neal in his own “Shaqtin’ a Fool’’ farce. When Richards’ mother, Ungeanetta, slipped behind her daughter to smile on camera, Shaq said, “I’ve got a new website called, `Damn yo mama fine.’ ‘’ If this was uttered in an office by a baseball executive, he’d be fired on the spot … yet O’Neal is allowed to hit on Richards’ mother on live TV amid laughter and no repercussions. Consider it another double standard in an ex-jock world.
The Athletic — In its precarious state, the site cannot afford journalistic lapses. As reporters Katie Strang and Brittany Ghiroli expose new layers of sexual harassment sins in Major League Baseball — specifically, within the management ranks of the New York Mets — the culture of the Chicago Cubs continues to be ignored. Again, is the site protecting The Great Theo Epstein? Strang and Ghiroli have framed since-dismissed general manager Jared Porter as part of the Mets debacle, but his transgression took place while working for the Cubs in 2016, when he sent lewd photographs to a female reporter. If The Athletic insists on scrutinizing Mets executive Sandy Alderson, new owner Steve Cohen and former owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, why not Epstein? Same goes for the Cleveland Indians — if the site is probing executive Chris Antonelli and owner Larry Dolan about harassment allegations targeting ex-pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who eventually became manager of the Mets, why bypass Epstein and Cubs owner Tom Ricketts? Is The Athletic intimidated by Epstein’s ample influence in baseball circles, where he could be headed to franchise ownership or the future commissionership? Is he being protected as the sacred cow who ended longstanding curses in Wrigleyville and Boston? I ask because Jon Greenberg, the site’s editor-in-chief and columnist in Chicago, recently wrote a lengthy piece about Epstein and his charity. If he was able to quote Epstein extensively, couldn’t he have asked about Porter and what Epstein knew about the missteps of a protege who’d followed him from Fenway Park to Wrigley Field? Why the selective investigations at The Athletic? And if a probe of the Cubs, past and present, found nothing more than one rogue employee five years ago, then report those findings. The Athletic does too much good work to leave itself half-ass exposed.
Tim Bontemps, ESPN — I’ve dealt with colleagues who were — how do I put this politely? — a little nutty. Every morning before our ESPN show taping, a Chicago Sun-Times news columnist, Neil Steinberg, would swing by the sports-office studio just to be annoying, which required the editor-in-chief to come by one day and lead him away. Then there was my radio producer, Cliff Saunders, who kept wanting to put an obscure baseball executive on our show — and would get upset when I said no, to the point he pulled a fire extinguisher off the hallway wall. Bontemps joins this select club after losing his cool with teammate Brian Windhorst on ESPN’s “Hoop Collective’’ podcast. We all know Windhorst is a LeBron James honk from way back — their Akron days, actually. So when he continued to support James’ MVP candidacy, despite an ankle injury that has sidelined him for weeks, Bontemps should have shrugged it off as one man’s biased opinion. Instead, he grew very agitated, having recently polled more than 100 media members who favored Nikola Jokic because James and Joel Embiid have been injured. After Windhorst declined Bontemps’ suggestion to conduct the poll in the future, Bontemps snapped back, “OK, well, then maybe you should actually listen to people because you’re being a jackass.’’ A global pandemic continues to rage. Racial tensions still run deep amid the Minneapolis guilty verdict. The homeless struggle to survive. And Bontemps is calling Windhorst “a jackass’’ about an MVP poll. As I’ve always said, the media business is great. It’s some of the people in it who suck.
Gary Sheffield, slacker — Consider this a warning to media companies that assume athletes are essential to sports broadcasts. The former major-league slugger, whose time as a TNT studio analyst ended last year, admits now that he never followed baseball’s regular seasons and didn’t pay attention until his postseason duties kicked in. Seems Sheffield has hated the sport for a long time. “I’ll tell the secret now: I never watched the games during the season. I would get educated on it when I got there,’’ he told CBS Sports Radio. “It’s not something that I could watch … because I’d be a complainer. This is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud, but I’m just truly disappointed with what I watch.” Meaning, he withheld his disgust for the game so he could draw a paycheck. That’s known as stealing money. Nice hire, Turner Sports.
Peyton Manning, booth-averse TV guy — In his latest project that does not involve “Monday Night Football,’’ Manning will host the revived quiz show “College Bowl’’ this summer on NBC. That’s great, but I’m confused. He’s willing to host the new show and his own ESPN series, “Peyton’s Places,’’ while goofing off with Brad Paisley on numerous insurance commercials — but he keeps rejecting ESPN’s advances to join a MNF booth that craves his starpower and charisma. It can’t be money — DIsney engaged CBS in a bidding war for Tony Romo that resulted in a $180 million deal for an ex-quarterback never on Manning’s level. It can’t be workload — he merrily has taken on countless TV ventures when an MNF commitment would be once a week in the fall and early winter, with a few days of at-home preparation. So what’s the holdup? Disney/ESPN, as a new member of the NFL’s premium broadcasting club, was awarded future Super Bowls for the first time. Would that interest Manning? Probably not. Yes, yes. I know, I know. This is a Sixth Who Doesn’t Get It, but I just can’t help myself, like a bettor on a DraftKings app or Dave Portnoy looking for his next booty call.
5 Who Get It, 5 Who Don’t
A weekly analysis of the best and worst in sports media from a multimedia content prince — thousands of columns, TV debates, radio shows, podcasts — who is vaccinated and ready to sit in a Dodger Stadium pod.
THE GET IT
Joe West, legal victor — No one is mocking Country Joe today. In a court ruling long overdue in the reckless, irresponsible world of sports bloviating, the controversial baseball umpire won $500,000, plus interest, in a defamation-suit triumph over former big-league player Paul Lo Duca. Consider this a lesson for talk hosts and podcasters: Don’t lie about people, or you will pay. On a 2019 Action Network podcast called “The Favorites,” LoDuca accused the ump of cutting a deal with his then-Mets teammate, Billy Wagner: West would provide a more favorable strike zone in a game against the Phillies as long as he could use the pitcher’s vintage automobile. If only the claim were true; West worked only one Mets-Phillies game during the two seasons when Lo Duca and Wagner were teammates, reported USA Today, and Wagner wasn’t used in that game. That didn’t stop co-host Lo Duca from claiming on his show, “I get back into the clubhouse and I’m like, `What the f— just happened right now?’ And Wagner just winks at me. I’m like, `What’s the secret?’ He’s like, `Eh, Joe loves antique cars, so every time he comes into town, I lend him my ’57 Chevy so he can drive it around, so then he opens up the strike zone for me.’ ” In Manhattan Supreme Court, Judge John Kelley showered West with $250,000 for “past mental anguish and emotional distress” and $250,000 to “compensate for expenses he will need to incur in retaining a public relations firm to formulate and operationalize a sufficient reputation remediation plan.” Know how many lawyers are on the phone today with defamed clients, ready to pounce? The operative word: precedent.
Houston Chronicle — When an attorney declares himself a shark and has the tattoos to prove it — why, yes, I might question his agenda and proclivity for self-promotion. But I am a columnist who has the latitude to analyze Tony Buzbee in his relentless legal challenge of Deshaun Watson. Aaron Wilson, as a beat writer who covered the Houston Texans for the Chronicle, does not. When Wilson appeared on Boston sports station WEEI and referred to the plethora of sexual assault lawsuits against Watson as “ambulance chasing” and a “money grab,” his editors had every right to fire him because a reporter required to be fact-neutral had veered into a heavy commentary lane. With the lines blurred more than ever these days, media outlets should clarify to confused consumers the fundamental differences between commentary and news-gathering. Wilson came off as a pro-Texans honk when he foolishly said, “You don’t negotiate with terrorists” — meaning, Watson was powerful and wealthy enough to pay off his accusers. If by chance Watson walks away from all allegations, Wilson might have a lawsuit himself against his former employer. But executive editor Steve Riley was correct when he wrote to the staff, per Defector.com: “Facts are good. Analysis is OK. Opinion, speculation or baseless assertions are not. We won’t tolerate that sort of commentary.” Wilson apologized and vowed to “proceed much more carefully going forward and learn from this moment. I am committed to outstanding journalism now and always.” In a media business of selective cancellation, we’ll see if his otherwise successful career is allowed a restart. The management ranks are filled with cowards who make decisions via Google and social-media reaction and don’t ask questions.
Masters journalists — They got it, all right: COVID-19. I wondered when a sports media gathering would be hit by a coronavirus outbreak and whether there would be a mass panic exodus. I’m pleased to report nothing of the such. Those who tested positive and those who’d been in close contact handled their infections professionally, simply staying away from Augusta National in local quarantine. There were no reports of serious illness or hospitalization. Wrote Brendan Quinn of the Athletic: “So … this is a bummer. I’m among those who briefly came into (masked) contact w/ an individual who later tested positive for Covid. Due to contact tracing policies, I’m quarantining and no longer on-site covering the Masters.” Quinn then provided a blueprint on how to continue coverage in quarantine, writing, “So for the past three days I’ve been watching the Masters on TV and online. And again and again, I’ve found myself looking at fans in the gallery as much as the players. It’s quite a sight. Try it Sunday, while Hideki Matsuyama attempts to close out his four-shot lead and the likes of Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris give chase. Look at the faces in the crowd. Look at the reactions. Look at the attention. Look at the kids who are seeing that feeling every swing, instead of thumbing away on a screen. Maybe let it be a reminder. We spent the last year living through screens. Zoom calls. Netflix. FaceTime. Instagram. For months, we were locked in house-shaped cages. As we return to the world safely and vaccinated, let’s consider that sometimes it might be worth leaving the phone in the pocket.” Well done, as Nick Faldo would say. With big names falling out of contention or not surviving the cut, some might say this was a Masters to miss — the Mehsters, if you will. Still, there was a hardship in not being there: no pimento cheese and barbecue sandwiches.
Jon Krawczynski, the Athletic — If Gonzaga can lose its perfect season in the national championship game, then Adrian Wojnarowski can lose an NBA scoop. A Minnesota-based writer, Krawczynski tweeted on Saturday at 6:49 p.m. Bristol time: “3-time MLB MVP Alex Rodriguez and close friend Marc Lore have signed a letter of intent and are negotiating with Glen Taylor to become the next owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves, sources tell @TheAthletic.” The Woj Bomb was slow to the switch, coming in 10 minutes later according to the Twitter timeline. How nice if ESPN had credited the Athletic for having the A-Rod news first, but lately, both parties have been guilty of not acknowledging the other’s scoops. If I’m keeping score, I’m assuming others are in media — the Associated Press properly credited the Athletic. Memo to all: Don’t be petty, or I’m going to polish off the Sam Smith Sourpuss Trophy, named for the former Chicago Tribune sportswriter who was whipped soundly on the story of Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA but didn’t credit me and the Chicago Sun-Times, only referring to “a newspaper.”
Young, promising podcasters — I shot an objecting email to sports radio god Bruce Gilbert when he said, during an industry conference, that podcasts are like a-holes — everyone has one. He’s right to say there are gazillions of them, but the wisecrack wasn’t fair to broadcasting aspirants who are using the platform to attract prominent ears. I’ve made recent guest appearances on several podcasts, and I was impressed by the questions assembled by hosts of Chicago-based “Friendly Confines” and New York-based “You Know I’m Right.” I wasn’t as impressed by a Chicago loser who misrepresented himself, asking to discuss Tiger Woods when he actually wanted me — ready? — to apologize to the White Sox. What am I apologizing for? The Sox, who have been to the playoffs once in 12 years and have rigged as many World Series as they’ve won the last 102 years, still have to prove they can consistently beat right-handed pitching and not let fly balls conk them in the head before winning games in October. Fortunately, that goof is the exception to a pleasant surprise: The kids get it. Encourage them, please.
Turner Sports — The same could be said for sports documentaries these days — like a-holes, everyone has one. But this one is meaningful and timeless, the story of how baseball helped a nation spiritually after the attacks of 9/11. Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine, who managed New York’s teams at the time, have collaborated on the project as executive producers. As pointed out by the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, the partnership is particularly compelling given Valentine’s remarks years ago, when he said the Mets were much more involved than the Yankees in the public recovery. “I was dealing with players who were dealing with this fear factor, and even some of them dealing with a little bit of a guilt factor,” Valentine told WFAN. “Then there was the situation with the Yankees across town. Because let it be said, that during the time from 9-11 to 9-21, the Yankees were AWOL. You couldn’t find a Yankee on the streets of New York City. You couldn’t find a Yankee down at Ground Zero talking to guys who were working 24-7. Many of them didn’t live here, and so it wasn’t their fault. Many of them did not partake in all that and so there was some of that jealousy going around. Like `Why are we so tired, why had we been to funerals and the firehouses and the Yankees are getting all the credit for bringing baseball back?’ And I said, `This isn’t about credit, guys. This is about doing the right thing.’ ” Twenty years later, a horrific moment in time demands a raw canvas — doubly important during a pandemic that sees sports carry on without much outward sympathy for COVID casualties. I know, another week of Six Who Get It.
THEY DON’T GET IT
Bill Simmons, rockhead — I remind you that this guy, miscast as editor-in-chief of the now-defunct ESPN site Grantland, approved a published article that outed a transgender golf inventor — who subsequently committed suicide, prompting Simmons’ 2,720-word apology. Why am I not surprised he has learned nothing from that mistake in judgment? Apparently not current on news events that include anti-Asian hatred and violence in America, Simmons mocked CBS’ Jim Nantz for his socially responsible call that concluded the Masters: “Matsuyama is Japan’s first Masters champion!” Simmons said Nantz was “scared” and afraid of “cancel culture” when, in fact, he was being mindful not to exacerbate tensions that include a recent shooting rampage at Atlanta-area spas, where six women of Asian descent were murdered. Said Simmons on his podcast, offering his idea of a better call: “I had the savvy one. `Heat of the Moment,’ which was a song that won like five Grammys by a band called Asia in the 80’s. I think Nantz could have gone stealth and done, `It was the heat of the moment, Hideki Matsui is our Masters champion.’ Something like that and then it just would have been really underground. Nobody really would have gotten it. But he just played it chalk. You know what? You just signed a new contract, Jim Nantz. We don’t want a scared Jim Nantz. Come up with some sort of line. Anything? Disappointing.” That Simmons described Hideki Matsuyama as Hideki Matsui, the former major-league ballplayer, is beyond disgraceful. But his flippant take on the entire matter compels me to ask, as I have before: How in creation did this overgrown fanboy ever become a leader and entrepreneur in sports media? When someone does the narration of Simmons’ life, which is becoming less likely by the day, the tag line should be: “Once a bartender, always a bartender.”
CBS, ESPN and All Tiger Protectors — Not that Nantz ever will be confused with a journalist. He and his fellow mush-and-gush twin, Scott Van Pelt, are brothers from another mother in their zeal to paint sports as an ongoing fairy tale. When the networks and most mainstream media ignored a responsibility to present a disturbing story bigger than anything at Augusta National — the grisly SUV crash of Tiger Woods, his history with opioids and whether police accorded him preferential treatment by not seeking blood tests — they insulted a public that deserves an investigation of Woods, not blanket protection. Shame on CBS boss Sean McManus, son of legendary journalist Jim McKay, for not devoting a hard-news segment to Woods during Masters coverage. Van Pelt didn’t even explain what happened, simply saying, “Tiger knows that the competitors here are thinking about him” before shifting into weepy mode and adding, “It was impossible to miss a young man hugging his father in ’97, and that man, now a father (in 2019), hugging his children in the very same spot.” As I wrote last week, we’re still not getting answers from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department about Woods, who was driving almost double the speed limit on the back roads of Palos Verdes Peninsula. Most public figures of his stature would be subjected to media probes and robust opinion pieces, but for some reason, Tiger is sacred. Do the media not realize he is extremely fortunate not to have killed other drivers or pedestrians that morning, or himself, when he was speeding between 84 and 87 mph on a curvy, downhill road with a 45 mph sign? I grasp that the networks are in it for the revenues. But don’t cowardly abandon journalism so TV executives can buy their third vacation homes.
Twitter — From personal experience, Twitter’s gatekeepers continue to allow misinformation from trolls even when challenged with documents. But when commentator Jason Whitlock, who is Black, pointed out an unavoidable fact — Topanga Canyon “has a black population of 1.4%” while voicing dismay that a Black Lives Matter co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, purchased a $1.4 million home in the Los Angeles hillside community — the Twitter police suspended Whitlock’s account, determining that he can’t post “other people’s private information without their express (sic) authorization and permission.” More likely, a moderately paid worker given unchecked authority decided Whitlock was an anti-BLM propagandist. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey should spend less time grooming his Abe Lincoln beard and more time on policy consistency. For a while now, I’ve used Twitter only as a billboard for published columns and podcasts. My motto: Use Twitter, but don’t let Twitter use you.
ESPN “Daily Wager” — It’s painful enough to see sports coverage invaded by relentless references to point spreads and prop bets. Now, ESPN2/ESPN+ will broadcast an entire NBA game with an all-gambling focus, choosing this evening’s Nets-76ers game as the “first alternate presentation fully driven by sports betting content.” With a minute left, say the Sixers have a 15-point lead while giving three points. Say the Nets score six quick points and cut the legitimate lead to nine with 30 seconds left. When the actual game is all but over, are the “betting analysts” sitting in a Las Vegas studio — Doug Kezirian, Joe Fortenbaugh, Tyler Fulgham and even former NBA player Kendrick Perkins, who should know better than to dip into this alternate-universe sludge — going to start shrieking like it’s a tight game? Attention all gamblers: What you’re watching and betting on is not real. At least these experiments aren’t on ESPN’s blowtorch feed. Yet.
Dave Portnoy, Barstool Sports — Of course, he would release a sex tape. Of course, the woman with him in the tape was wearing a leather dog collar as he yanked her neck with a metal leash. Of course, the New York Post would run with it. Of course, the stock price of Penn National Gaming — which owns a chunk of Portnoy’s company — would slip. Of course, Portnoy would launch a rant: “A stock is down because somebody has consensual sex? Are you f—ing kidding me? I would jump on this (stock) and I would f— it. No pun intended.” Of course, his tape partner, who goes by Sydney Raines, wrote on Instagram, “Some might not approve of the video content but it was entirely consensual and it’s unfortunate that it is no longer private, but (Portnoy and I) are still friends with no animosity between us.” Of course, Portnoy would say it’s one of three sex tapes he has produced. Of course, the degenerate-male demographic loves it. Of course, this is America in 2021.
Hawk Harrelson, unworthy Baseball Hall of Famer — Our sixth entry comes from New York. Braindead from too many apologists in soft markets such as Chicago, where Harrelson took hillbilly homerism to new lows, I was thrilled to hear Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez call out their team for a cheap victory. When Michael Conforto intentionally leaned into a pitch in the strike zone, he should have been declared out on a third strike, as home plate ump Ron Kulpa later acknowledged in a … Mea Kulpa. Instead, he ruled Conforto had been hit by a pitch, which forced in the winning run — and, refreshingly, angered the voices who are financially connected to the Mets. “They’re trying to get it right. They don’t get it right. So why even have replay?” Darling grumbled. Why couldn’t Harrelson, a 2020 Hall inductee only because White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf greased the political skids, have practiced such professionalism instead of embarrassing himself every single day? Hawkeroo would have celebrated in the booth, then rushed downstairs to hug Kulpa. Too bad the White Sox didn’t hire current voice Jason Benetti, the delightful polar opposite of Harrelson, many years ago.
Kevin Durant, social media loser — And, of course, a late seventh entry. At this point, after humiliating himself with homophobic and misogynistic direct messages to an equally pathetic Michael Rapaport, Durant should be shutting down his devices and preparing for a postseason media circus with the Nets. Nope. When Fox Sports 1 host Shannon Sharpe mistook a fake Durant tweet as real and referenced it on “Undefeated” — “People argue (LeBron James) is the GOAT, but if I beat him in back-to-back finals, then what does that make me?” — Durant shot back: “Y’all drunk uncle out here lying again. When did I say this @ShannonSharpe ???????????????????????????” Prediction: Durant and Kyrie Irving spar with the local and national media throughout the playoffs, and the Nets crash, prompting Durant to spend his summer as a Twitter arsonist.
Five Who Get It, Five Who Don’t
A weekly analysis of the best and worst in sports media from a multimedia content prince — thousands of columns, TV debates, radio shows, podcasts — who has been vaccinated but refuses to attend a ballgame in Arlington.
THEY GET IT
ESPN — When the company plays God in matters of high-profile firings, I’m known to shift into defense attorney mode. Not this time. Rarely has an on-air personality flouted his public figuredom like Paul Pierce, who exposed his inner party animal by posting Instagram Live videos showing him flanked by female strippers — twerking and all — and smoking a joint. Pierce was nicknamed The Truth during his outstanding NBA career, but this kind of self-candor won’t fly in any workplace, much less the antiseptic world of the Walt Disney Company. Originally handed a promising role as a studio analyst, Pierce tanked in recent appearances, even misidentifying which team won. He seems undaunted in his new ignominy, tweeting in a video, “Big Things coming soon stay tuned make sure u smile.” Beyond work on a porn channel, I can’t imagine Pierce has a future in television; keep an eye on Dave Portnoy, who would give Pierce a 24/7 party cam at Barstool Sports. Let’s just hope he sobers up before his speech at the Basketball Hall of Fame, where he’s expected to be inducted in September … unless he brings the twerking dancers to Springfield.
Aaron Rodgers, “Jeopardy!” host — It’s a tease, right? Don’t be so sure. Always a step ahead in any intellectual game, Rodgers is using his two-week run as the show’s guest host to lobby for the permanent gig. Is Rodgers so fed up with the Packers that he’d ditch his legendary football career to become Alex Trebek’s successor? Maybe not quite yet, but he’s already plotting a way to moonlight on “Jeopardy!” while still quarterbacking. “It’s definitely a dream job for me,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “They film 46 days a year. I worked about six months out of the year this last year. I worked 187 days this year in Green Bay, which gives me another 178 or 179 days to film 46 episodes. … If the shows turn out well and there’s some momentum, I’d be honored to be in the mix to take the job for sure.” In his debut, Rodgers was a natural, playing along when contestant Scott Shewfelt had fun with him: Whose idea was it to kick the field goal in the NFC title game, a strategic blunder that cost Green Bay a possible Super Bowl berth? Rodgers could have stolen the show by wise-cracking, “Who is Matt LaFleur?” — but he already has made his point to Packers management. Any more screwups by the head coach or front office might lead him to a new day job, even if they make him shave the scholarly beard and mustache. And if the show producers want him to work full-time now, without the risk of injuries, well, Rodgers could retire knowing he has won a Super Bowl and a Hall of Fame blazer. Wouldn’t “Jeopardy!” be the ultimate … daily double?
Andrew Beaton, Wall Street Journal — The translucent commissioner, Rob Manfred, never has looked more naked. Since his decision to yank baseball’s All-Star Game out of Georgia as a consequence of the state’s new voting law, he has faced high heat about hypocrisy — such as, why cut a streaming deal with a Chinese tech company if politics suddenly matter to MLB? Beaton took another poke, wondering if Manfred will flip-flop again and travel to Georgia this week for the Masters. Will his exclusive membership at Augusta National take precedence over concerns that the revised law will make it more difficult for Blacks to vote? When Beaton inquired about Manfred’s itinerary, an MLB spokesman declined comment. Memo to Rob: There aren’t many places to hide amid the azaleas and dogwoods, especially when the number of patrons on the course is limited by the pandemic. If he’s spotted on Georgia soil, the earth will scorch from criticism by politicos and media alike. There are times to take advantage of a prized job perk. This is not one of them.
Holly Rowe, ESPN — If some people took offense when Arizona coach Adia Barnes flipped a middle finger after an upset victory over favored Connecticut, even a rockhead would understand why she was late arriving on the court for the national title game. Back in the locker room, Barnes was feeding her 6-month-old daughter with breast milk. “For those of you who think this is too much information, let’s normalize working mothers and all they have to do,” said Rowe, the network veteran. It isn’t usually a sideline reporter’s place to deliver incisive commentaries about life, but in this instance, Rowe’s words were refreshing and spot-on.
Meadowlark Media — I’m not sure what can be accomplished with $12.6 million in a 2021 media world, but at least the new company of Dan Le Batard and John Skipper can pay an electric bill or two. They’ve raised startup money from investors including Venezuelan fashion entrepreneur Carmen Busquets, described by Sportico as “Skipper’s partner.” Since his forced 2017 exit from the ESPN presidency, which he blamed on an extortion attempt by a cocaine dealer, Skipper, 65, has been the most flamboyant executive in sports media. How does a boss with such baggage continue to flit around the industry and raise millions? That is a compelling story for the Washington Post or New York Times but probably not for the Athletic, which, oddly, published a glowing profile last week of Le Batard’s father, Papi. Asserting that his goofy on-air presence with his son “changed sports TV” on “Highly Questionable,” the story neglected to mention the show’s lukewarm ratings and how ESPN couldn’t wait to rub the Dan-Papi tag team off the air. It’s obvious Skipper and Le Batard are trying to gang up against their ex-employer, and with a newly announced Hank Azaria podcast, at least there’s a hint of a foundation. If I once thought Meadowlark would be a lemon, the vehicle has been jumpstarted and is officially bigger now than the original Meadowlark Media, an event videographer specializing in weddings from its base in Fargo, N.D.
Michael Strahan, prankster — His everyman appeal always has been linked to the dental flaw when he smiles: He has a gap in his front teeth wider than an open path to a quarterback. We appreciate Strahan because he never has dipped into his fortune to fix it, but there he was, posting a video of what appeared to be a new set of crater-free choppers. Why now? April Fools! “I appreciate all the comments. I was surprised, to be honest with you, at how many people were like, `No! Don’t get rid of the gap, it’s your signature!,’ ” the multimedia star said in a video. “I didn’t know so many people really cared. I appreciate all the love for the gap. C’mon man! The gap is here to stay. Not going anywhere anytime soon … My mama likes it.” I like it, too, enough to anoint Strahan as a sixth entry who gets it.
THEY DON’T GET IT
Dan Orlovsky, ESPN — Introducing the latest hotshot NFL analyst who fails in basic journalism principles. Amid more smoke than a freshman dorm hall, Orlovsky should carefully differentiate between authentic, pre-draft info and lies spread by agents to enhance their clients’ status. His ran blindly with such a smear job when discussing Justin Fields, one of five quarterbacks jockeying for megamillions, calling him a “last guy in, first guy out” slacker. “Like, not the maniacal work ethic,” Orlovsky said. “I’ve even heard it compared to Justin Herbert, where it was like, dude, when Justin Herbert showed up, he was like a psychopath when it came to working and getting ready for the draft. Or even at school, like, `Give me more; I want to work nonstop.’ And I’ve heard that there are issues with Justin Fields’ work ethic.” This didn’t go over well with his ESPN colleague, Kirk Herbstreit, who, like Fields, is a former Ohio State quarterback and a well-established protector of All Things Buckeyes. With three crying emojis, Herbstreit directly responded to Orlovsky, writing, “Absolutely RIDICULOUS. Even if YOU aren’t saying it… to pass that along from “people in the know” is reckless and absurd!! Embarrassing!!” The ESPN bosses had to step in and speak to both, but there was only one villain here. In one thoughtless swoop, Orlovsky was exposed as professionally shoddy while incurring the wrath of a star teammate. Next time, make a second, third and fourth phone call, Dan.
Turner Sports — When Pierce is fired for tokes and twerks, it reminds us how often Charles Barkley has been disgracefully protected by his corporate bosses. In 2008, when he was arrested at 1:26 a.m. in Arizona and charged with drunk driving, Barkley famously told police, “You want the truth? I was gonna drive around the corner and get a blow job.” He added that the same woman had pleasured him a week earlier, in what Barkley called “the best one I ever had in my life.” Does someone want to explain how Barkley kept his TNT gig? And why Turner executives always have looked the other way, even when Barkley was making recklessly sexist and racist comments — “The big ass women in San Antonio,” as he likes to say — while battling public gambling and drinking problems? Don’t tell me Barkley is worthy of a double standard. In the early days, Turner knew his popularity would grow, like that of a debauched rock star, with every new episode of misbehavior. The network’s tolerance gave him enough runway to grow up, clean up and even become a social commentator, with Barkley using a Final Four platform for a racial injustice rant: “I think most White people and Black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart. The system is set up to where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power.” He shouldn’t protest too much. If anyone knows how to milk a rigged system, it’s Barkley.
ESPN — I cringed when cameras showed an anguished Aliyah Boston, who sobbed uncontrollably after her missed putback cost South Carolina a spot in the national title game. And I continued to cringe because ESPN’s creatives in the production truck WOULD NOT STOP SHOWING HER — returning to the tearful well again and again, prioritizing her suffering over Stanford’s victory. Thankfully, Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie tweeted this to Boston: “Keep your head up #aa_boston. I missed a game winner my sophomore year and thought it was the end… only to find out…it was only the beginning! Beast Mode! See you back on top Champ.” I’ve seen it all in sports. If I’m bothered by the exploitation of personal grief, let’s assume most of the audience shares my concern.
Seth Davis, CBS — As a prominent studio commentator and lead editor of the Athletic’s college basketball coverage, Davis should distance himself from the gambling element and let DraftKings and the sleaze crowd pick games against spreads. Yet there was Davis, touting it up as he broke down Final Four games. In the middle of his written analysis for the Athletic, this popped up: “All Lines via BetMGM as of Friday evening. Want a free year subscription to The Athletic? Bet $1 on any game tonight and win $100 in free bets if your team advances. (use this link). If you’re already a subscriber, your subscription will be extended for a year for free.” Officially, the dirtiest of sports is directly attached to the stench of gambling media.
Bruce Drennan, Cleveland sportscaster — Drennan was the original Craig Carton, serving five months in federal prison in 2006 after failing to pay taxes on gambling winnings. I’ve always wondered why he was hired immediately by a TV network owned by the Indians. Now I know: He’s a cartoonish homer. When a fan joined a call-in show after the first of many losses this season, Drennan shot him down by calling him an “idiot” five times, tossing in an “ignoramus” for good measure. Naturally, he now works for one of the 19 regional networks branded by Bally, the gaming company. MLB allows those networks to hold the rights to 14 franchises, yet Manfred won’t even consider lifting Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling. You can tell I think less of this baseball commissioner than the last one, which is some accomplishment.
Greg Norman, golf analyst — Known these days for risque images of his private parts, Norman is back in the broadcasting game, calling the Masters for SiriusXM. You’d hope he learned from his mistakes as a rookie Fox analyst at the 2015 U.S. Open, such a farce that it started a downward spiral that led the network to give up golf. But when asked by Front Office Sports if he got a fair shake from Fox, Norman whined away: “No, I did not, to be honest with you. I felt like I got rolled under the bus. I’m not going to mention names or point fingers at other people. But I definitely fairly and squarely got hammered with that. Pretty hard, unfairly.” I tried very hard to stay with five who don’t get it this week, but Norman’s double bogey on 18 changed things.
Five Who Get It, Five Who Don’t
A weekly analysis of the best and worst in sports media from a multimedia content prince — thousands of columns, TV debates, radio shows, podcasts — who has been vaccinated and will be shredded for publicizing it.
THEY GET IT
Jim Nantz, CBS settler — Ian Eagle is wayyyyy more fun on the ears than Nantz. He’s quick with a quip, a playful jab at a broadcast partner or a prime slice of inside information, such as coach Andy Enfield’s tenuous job status before USC’s mad run in the NCAA tournament. I speak for many who think Eagle would have succeeded quite well as CBS’ lead sports voice, which helps explain why Nantz opted for common sense, backed down from his $18-million-a-year demands and re-upped with CBS for more than $10.5 million annually, which merely makes him the highest-paid non-ex-quarterback in sportscasting history. I understand Nantz helped create the Romonster out of the embryo and sought “Tony Romo money,’’ but as always in sports, the jock is worth much more than the media guy. Nantz’s currency comes in continuing to broadcast the events he loves — the Masters and March Madness — while remaining a prominent NFL game-caller in the Super Bowl rotation. And, friends, he’ll be with us for a long time, like it or not, as his new deal is said to extend to 2035, when he’d be calling his 50th Masters at 75. Can you imagine how schmaltzy he’ll be then? “I used to joke around in speaking engagements: I know my retirement date already. God willing, my health stays well, and CBS willing, that April 8, 2035, would be the way I would love to close out my career,” Nantz recently told the Associated Press. “But here we are all of a sudden and that’s now well within sight.’’ Now, if he’d just try to have some fun. The Capital One ads with Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee are a start.
Vegas Stats & Information Network — Apparently, I can’t repeat my anti-gambling mantra enough: There are many, many more sports enthusiasts in this country — myself included — who don’t bet on games than those who do. But as long as companies such as VSiN are in business, they might as well try to make their damned fortunes. The Musburgers successfully cashed out in selling their operation to DraftKings, which will disseminate VSiN’s wagering-based content while allowing the startup to maintain editorial independence. I’m not sure what that freedom entails when dealing with sports betting info — my mind is wrapped around potential in-house scandals — but at least Brian and Brent and my one-time sports editor, Bill Adee, can say they didn’t crash in a crowded climate ripe for failure.
Craig Carton, WFAN talk host — Let’s hope he isn’t giving lip service to his debt service. Because when Carton connects with problem gamblers, he’s the lone voice of realism in a mainstream media industry that embraces legalized wagering as a money grab while ignoring the disease. Still struggling after his betting addiction led to a Ponzi scheme and a year in the slammer, he tearfully pleaded with fragile listeners to seek help, saying, “If you’re feeling down in the dumps and you’re worrying how you’re going to get through it and is there a tomorrow — there is a tomorrow. There always is. So please, call somebody. I’m alive today because I called somebody. His name is Charod Williams.’’ He was referencing his former producer, who talked Carton off the suicidal ledge as he pondered jumping off a ski lift in 2017. There’s always a chance that Carton, after bilking investors with lies, can be orchestrating the sobbing to lift his ratings and justify his professional existence; after all, he still owes millions in restitution. But if one down-and-out person heeds his advice, it’s worth the continuing risk for WFAN to employ him as an afternoon drive host, even as the station disgraces itself — reflecting the desperation and grime of sports radio — with constant gambling-based advertising.
The Athletic — The sports site can’t be profitable as currently constituted, with an all-subscription, no-ads business model. As noted often here, a media consumer who wants only one sports paywall in his/her life likely will opt for streaming king ESPN+, which offers live games, shows, documentaries and premium analysis — as opposed to the Athletic’s daily bulk of written content at a similar price point. And free sites, such as ESPN.com and the Ringer, don’t make it any easier to sell subscriptions. So cheers to Alex Mather, co-founder of the Athletic, for approaching the successful news startup, Axios, about a merger. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, consolidation might mean the difference between surviving and crashing. Sports Illustrated, which continues to publish superior content to the Athletic at the elite levels, recently shifted to a paywall and lost impact and momentum. Much as I’d like to think sports readers will pay for all of these professional sites, especially with so much garbage out there, only diehards and industry people will buy more than one. At present, the Athletic is a niche alternative and needs a Plan B to appease investors who’ve poured almost $150 million into the company. Entering Year Six, they want results.
Jon Wertheim, multi-platform journalist — A shining light in SI’s talent pool, Wertheim doubles as a CBS correspondent on “60 Minutes.’’ His profile of sportswriting icon Dave Kindred, who has found peace in the troubled twilight of his life, was a staggering reminder of human fragility. Kindred has immersed himself in covering an Illinois high-school basketball team, the Morton Lady Potters. Explained Kindred: “Had a grandson who died. My mother died three months later. The next year, my wife had a catastrophic stroke that left her an invalid who cannot communicate. You know, so even in the hospital, one of the players’ mothers — I was debating whether I should leave my wife in the hospital unconscious and go to a Lady Potters game — and the mother said, `You gotta go. You gotta go.’ And she was right. You know, I went, and I — and what started as fun became life-affirming, you know? It’s what I am. It’s what I do.’’ When Wertheim asked if the Lady Potters saved his life, Kindred said, “This team did save me. This team became a community. It became my friends. My life had turned dark. You know, they were light. And I knew that that light was always gonna be there, you know, two or three times a week.’’ Only a writer would understand. But it took a gifted writer and reporter to extract the meaning from another.
Dick Stockton, Hall of Famer — Again, we have a sixth entry who gets it. I’ve never told him this, but as a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, I watched him deliver nightly sportscasts on KDKA-TV. It was obvious, at least to me, that he’d be going far in the industry, but oddly, there were local dissenters who thought he was brash. The polarizing effect followed Stockton throughout his career, such as in Chicago, where Bears fans already bitter about life vented when he drew a Fox Sports play-by-play assignment. His portfolio far exceeds any parochial silliness, and I’m glad to see him retire after 55 years — and 1,545 televised sports events — before the yokels get the best of him.
THEY DON’T GET IT
Michael Rapaport, fool — Stung by one of life’s more humiliating indignities — a legal loss to scum site Barstool Sports when a New York judge tossed his defamation case — the actor/comedian/assclown turned his attention to Kevin Durant. Rapaport accuses the NBA star of firing misogynistic and homophobic insults at him on a profane series of Instagram DMs last year, posting the alleged thread Tuesday on his Twitter feed. “I receive threats and disgusting messages DAILY, but never in my wildest dreams did I think @KDTrey5 would be among them,’’ Rapaport wrote. “(Durant) is now threatening me, bringing up my wife and wants to fight. This is supposed to be America’s sweetheart right? KD didn’t get hacked either. Hold this L champ.’’ If the comments came directly from Durant, he’ll be hearing from commissioner Adam Silver. But as a crazed Knicks fan who must loath the rise of Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, Rapaport has no credibility. At this stage of his life and career, Durant should be moving on from his phone, particularly to avoid creeps like Rapaport.
Audacy — In a media world of flashy brand names such as ESPN, Fox and iHeart, Entercom always sounded dusty and last-century. So chairman David Field is rebranding his empire with a name that, to be polite, sounds clumsy — and, worse, reflects the company’s struggles to spin Wall Street positivity. Are we supposed to interpret the new Entercom as an Odyssey, with a twist on Audio? While driving an Audi? First and foremost, doesn’t a corporate name have to be pronounceable and spellable without staring at the word for 30 seconds? With the daily explosion of media deals, Field is using the name change to remind the masses of his company’s presence, with new podcasts arriving from RIch Eisen and Boomer Esiason along with the requisite gambling partnership with BetMGM. Explained Field: “We have transformed into a fundamentally different and dramatically enhanced organization and so it is time to embrace a new name and brand identity which better reflects who we have become and our vision for the future.’’ I’d have preferred Audacity. As in, the audacity of Field to think we’d buy into any of this.
Fox Sports — Amid the current avalanche of gambling madness, sports media companies don’t grasp the unprincipled disconnect: The actual game represents pure athletic competition, while the wagering component is a phony, treacherous and potentially life-threatening alternate universe. Fox isn’t even trying to be discreet anymore, with this mission statement from strategy and analytics executive Michael Mulvihill, per Sports Business Journal: “We’re evolving Fox Sports from being purely a media content brand into a content and gaming brand. In numerous ways, I feel like we’re now doing content that supports the gaming business and we’re doing deals in which wagering and media rights are intertwined.” As I choked on my lunch, Mulvihill added, “It’s part of an evolution that started for us three years ago and is now starting to be an impactful part of the business. It’s a very top-of-mind part of the thinking behind everything we’re trying to do right now.’’ I can’t wait for the day when ratings decreases in sports broadcasting are attributed to gambling overload. Networks, consider yourselves forewarned.
Field Yates, ESPN — When paid handsomely to contribute NFL commentary from home, an analyst should know a basic rule: Have someone take the dog out for a walk to ensure an uninterrupted broadcast. This formality didn’t happen in the Yates household, leaving his golden retriever, Cisco, to wander around the makeshift office studio … and vomit three feet from his owner during an “NFL Live’’ segment. The barf scene caused Yates’ screen to shake on air, with host Laura Rutledge in mid-thought about a Miami Dolphins topic. A still shot of Yates’ panicked face, as captured by the Awful Announcing site, is precious. “Still a very good boy,’’ Yates texted later of Cisco. Isn’t there a nearby field, Field?
Matt Vasgersian, Angels semi-broadcaster — Initially, I was excited to hear he’s joining the Halos in a three-man booth. Living in southern California for the better part of 10 years, I’ve wondered why the Angels’ crew was boring, which only contributed to the team’s secondary in-market status to the almighty Dodgers. But then the engaging Vasgersian, known for having even more fun on local broadcasts than in his uniform role on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,’’ related he’ll be doing much of his Angels’ voice work via a remote hookup due to ESPN and MLB Network responsibilities. So, to get this straight, he’ll be in some far-flung location while Mark Gubicza and Jose Mota are in the ballpark? And when Vasgersian is a no-go, Daron Sutton becomes the play-by-play man? Sounds like a half-assed arrangement for the franchise that still hasn’t figured out how to maximize Mike Trout.
Eamonn Brennan, The Athletic — An editor once told my 21-year-old self, “Son, you’re overwriting.’’ If college basketball media members were placed into March brackets, this prose masturbator would miss the NCAA and NIT fields entirely — and face deportment to Mars. Here’s the opening paragraph of his story about, gosh, I have no idea what: “How old are the constellations? Most scientists generally date the earliest human records of specific star groups to the ancient near east civilizations of Mesopotamia around 3,000 B.C., although it’s possible some 17,000-year-old cave paintings in France depict constellations later adopted by star-gazers in antiquity: Taurus, Orion’s Belt, the Pleiades. The names of the constellations we recognize today come from the Greeks and Romans, of course, but civilizations all over the world, from ancient China to North American tribes and everywhere in between, have peered into the night sky and seen gods, beings and forces of nature that weren’t actually there.’’ Maybe less weed and more sleep would help, Eamonn. Oh, that was my sixth entry? Hey, it was important to save sportswriting, if only for a day.