Embrace the Hate
Max Kellerman is in the public hot seat for an empirically bad Larry Fitzgerald take. “Larry Fitzgerald is like a Vince Carter,” he said. “He might make the Hall of Fame and the way he was willing to keep playing without being an MVP-kind-of-level guy anymore.”
Fitzgerald, of course, is an absolute lock for Canton. The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver is second all-time in yards, third in catches, and sixth in touchdowns. The 35-year-old will only add to his already impressive list of achievements as he plays out the twilight of his still-productive career.
The negative response is understandable, but here’s an honest question: Do First Take viewers watch the show for buttoned-up, unimpeachable opinions? Or do they watch because there’s a tacit understanding they’ll be privy to outlandish, possibly insane commentary?
And more importantly, are these so-called gaffes good for the sports-shouting bottom line? The cynic in me believes that when it comes to First Take, all press is good press. Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith are relevant because they move the needle. Even if that needle is pointing toward absurdity, it’s still in motion.
There’s an argument to be made that viewers know they’re going for a wild ride and that unpredictability is part of the fun. It’s like getting in a cab with the knowledge the driver is going to veer off course periodically when he spills coffee on his lap.
Not for everyone, but occasionally it’s fun to spice things up.
A Parade of Gasbags
Off the Clock, featuring ESPN’s NBA gang, is nothing like First Take — though Paul Pierce could make it so if he continues to declare series over in bold, wrong fashion. One thing it does have in common is talent who feel comfortable enough to fart. One month after a flatulence investigation brought Bristol to a stand-still, Pierce let one rip while seated next to Michelle Beadle and singlehandedly derailed a conversation.
Like the NBA, supporting programming can be a copycat league.
The Fart Renaissance is here and it is appropriately stupid.
MLB Tonight, on MLB Network, is perhaps the most underrated sports show on television and succeeds largely because it cannot get stale. There are too many games each day providing real-time content and debate fodder. That’s baked in. But another reason why it remains fresh is the diversity of thought from across the baseball spectrum. The network has done a thoughtful job in terms of roster construction. Harold Reynolds represents the old guard. Brian Kenny the stats nerds. Eric Byrnes the optimists and Billy Ripken the less sunny. Greg Amsinger is particularly adept at bringing a surprising viewpoint. This makes conversations about the issues of the night unpredictable and different depending on who is sharing their opinion.
The Eggman Cometh
A good rule of thumb for these trying times is that things can always get weirder. With that in mind, let’s consider Johnny the Eggman, who enjoyed internet virality yesterday. Just as the jokes were tapering off, Splinter News‘ Jack Crosbie published a deep dive into the Babe Ruthian breakfast, revealing the possibility they were prop eggs being rotated in front of diners.
So often we talk about the great public service journalism can provide. And this, friends, is exactly what we mean.
NOTEBOOK: The NFL Network is being forced to trim $20 million and is cutting at least five shows, per Andrew Marchand of the New York Post … Meanwhile the network has brought in Joe Thomas for Thursday night broadcasts … Sinclair is becoming an even bigger player in sports media … John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal detailed what that could mean for your local station.
One Last Thing
Attempting to put together a list of the 15 best SportsCenter anchors in the history of ESPN was a tall task bound to result in snubs. Two main takeaways: the stable of excellent broadcasters who have sat in that seat is insane. We’re talking hundreds who have found a way to put their own mark on the venerable franchise. This is a testament to its place as the pinnacle of sports television. If it were a sporting team there would be so few busts. The rigorous process it takes to ascend to the mountaintop keeps its legacy pristine.
Secondly, it’s worth wondering if those coming up through the ranks have any chance of cracking a similar list in five years. And not because of a talent disparity. Because SportsCenter simply occupies a much smaller slice of the pie than it once did, through competition and the highlight revolution. But perhaps most importantly, because it takes up less real estate. One wonders what the cultural impact of those on the list would have been without morning repeats. There was simply more opportunity to get to know these anchors.
The suits know a hell of a lot better than I do, but those back-to-back-to-back-to-back morning viewings did a lot of brand-building, both for the talent and the show.