On Monday morning’s First Thing First, Nick Wright admitted to rooting against Grayson Allen and Duke during the Regional final against Kansas. This is a normal admission for an average Joe to make, but slightly different for a television talking head. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla was nonplussed by the content and used it as a springboard to call FTF-type shows “worthless.”
Full disclosure? I’m not the biggest fan of organized sports shouting either. But Wright is absolutely doing his job as a personality on one by offering an unfiltered opinion. Part of his shtick is not pretending he checks fandom at the door (see: his LeBron James love affair). That’s what helps him connect with viewers who, by and large, are sports fans themselves, grappling with the same biases.
Perhaps there’s a line Wright overstepped in taking joy in the failure of a college kid. Perhaps presenting this as “rooting for” Kansas as opposed to “rooting against Duke” would have been better received. Many, like Fraschilla, would still walk away with the opinion that the content had no merit. That, of course, is fine.
But the truth is that there is some worth in what Wright does, what Skip Bayless does, and what Stephen A. Smith does … on Fraschilla’s network. To some people who connect with the style. It’s not for everyone — nor does it have to be.
Believing, as Wright does, that Allen didn’t deserve to have a redemption story after a controversial career full of objectionably dirty play and a failure to truly fix it, is not a fringe opinion. Again, it’s not mine, but it’s well within the mainstream of fans. It is slightly jarring to see it represented from behind a studio desk. It elicits a strong reaction, either in support or anger. That’s Wright’s mission, even if you don’t like it.