I’m convinced that there’s actually more people out there TELLING us about sports than there are people actually playing sports. I mean, if you think about it, at least half of all retired professional athletes enter some kind of media field (the other half go to jail, or own an Arena Football team), and if you add that to the “journalists” and other “media folk” who went “to school” to get a job, then that’s a lot of people. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t count myself among these media moguls, because I don’t get paid for this, and nobody knows who I am, and I’m also not on TV, because apparently, I’m not “TV material,” or, as one person put it, “smart.” Whatever. Anyway, with such a surplus of sports media personalities, there’s bound to be some good ones, and some bad ones, and some really bad ones. So, because I have nothing better to do, I’m going to tell YOU who’s good and who’s not at telling US about sports. But because there are so many, I’m limiting myself to ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Talking Heads.
Peter Gammons. Probably THE best baseball media personality today. Gammons does it all - he writes, reports, investigates, and is a regular on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.” Nobody uncovers more inside information than Gammons, and to boot, he comes across as a really down to earth guy, who would talk baseball at a bar with someone like me the same way he would with a real, “smart,” media celebrity, like Connie Chung, or someone who likes baseball. The one knock on Gammons is his bias in coverage towards the Red Sox (he used to report for them) and because of that, the Yankees. But hey, I have no problem with that. A lot of things that happen in baseball revolve around the Red Sox and Yankees, and nobody reports it all better than Gammons, which is why he was just recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ron Jaworski. Does anybody so obviously love what they do as much as Jaws? You can’t wipe the smile off this guy’s face, which says a lot, considering he played in Philadelphia for all of those years, where egos go to die. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – can break a football game down like Jaworski. He can tell you where the waterboy was standing during the crucial third-and-long of the Colts-Chiefs game, and how it affected the outcome. If anything, he likes his job a little TOO much.
Greg Anthony. Calm, cool, and collected, Anthony is by far ESPN’s most engaging and knowledgeable NBA analyst. He’s so good that it’s easy to forget the bad boy reputation he had as a player.
Suzy Kolber. The only woman on earth who can talk about football without wearing a bikini, and have guys listen. And of course, she handled Joe Namath’s public advances on her with grace and professionalism, which is more than I can say for myself, because I had to slap him.
Stuart Scott. Few people conduct a more awkward interview than Scott, who tries waaaaay too hard to connect to the youth and sacrifices his credibility in the process. Asking John Madden whether or not Priest Holmes is going to be “off the hizzle tonight” doesn’t necessarily earn him the respect of his viewers. When he hosts a studio show, things always get out of control. There’s yelling, laughing, and everyone is talking at the same time because Scott gets wrapped up in it all, instead of diffusing it like a good host should.
Larry Bowa. I don’t know how Bowa got a job on “Baseball Tonight,” but I’ve noticed that ESPN only features him on the show like twice a month, and that’s probably because he’s so awful. It seems as though he’s trying to escape his managerial reputation as intense and fiery by being as laid back as possible. I think they have to poke him with a stick when they go on the air. “Hey Larry – wake up! We’re rolling! No, over here…the camera is over here!”
John Clayton: Not because he’s a bad journalist or anything, just because he looks exactly like Mr. Mackey from “South Park.” I’m always waiting for something along the lines of, “And that’s why head coach Marvin Lewis may move him to cornerback…Mmmkaay.” One of these days, his head is just going to float off into the atmosphere somewhere. Plus, he’s always sitting in front of some fake background that’s supposed to represent the city that he’s reporting from, when he’s probably just sitting in his mother’s basement without any pants on.
Stephen A. Smith. About three weekends ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning, turned on the television (which was already on ESPN) and dropped the remote on the couch. The second the TV actually came on, I had to lunge onto the couch, grab the remote, and quickly turn down the volume. If I hadn’t, everyone within three square miles of our house would have had their windows crashed in from the sound. The reason? Stephen A. Smith was on the tube, SCREAMING, as is his custom, at the top of his lungs. Apparently, this guy is under the impression that the only way he can get his point across is by yelling as loudly as possible, while looking very angry. That’s how we are supposed to know how serious he is. If Ron Jaworski beams joyously on TV, then Smith is his polar opposite, appearing as if he really wants to hurt the person who dares to disagree with what he is screaming about. Really though – sometimes I think he’s mad at ME. When I’m watching ESPN, I usually prefer to just sit in front of the TV and eat my Apple Jacks in peace, but when Stephen A. Smith is on, I have to wear my earplugs, and I eventually end up hiding under the sofa. That’s NOT the kind of sports analysis I’m necessarily looking for.
Woody Paige. Paige is all that is wrong with sports journalism today. He can be found on “Around the Horn” and “Cold Pizza” daily, saying something completely outlandish just for the sake of saying something completely outlandish. Before the NFC Championship Game this past season, Paige’s “analysis” consisted of him telling the world to expect Falcons’ southpaw quarterback Michael Vick to throw the ball RIGHT HANDED to confuse the Eagles’ defense. I mean, are you kidding me?! Who says something like that? He’ll say anything just to bring attention his way, and it’s gotten to the point where you’re not even sure if he’s being serious or not. If he has something on Stephen A., it’s an endearing nature. If Stephen A. has something on him, it’s credibility. But I could do without either of them.
And that’s my analysis of those who provide analysis. Obviously, I am a very bitter person who could only wish to make as much money as these people, all the while being able to mingle with the world’s greatest athletes. Sigh. Maybe I need to yell more. Or maybe I should have been nicer to Mr. Namath. He did say that he “knows people.”