Monday, July 19, 2010

A mic in my hand

When I was little, more than a decade ago, I would watch all the sports talk television. I do not recall the specific titles of these shows, but they were the PTI's, the Around the Horns, the Herds of the 90's. One show I do remember was The Sports Reporters. It was on every Sunday morning (and still might be.) I would watch every week before leaving for Sunday School. They were great. I loved sports so I loved hearing people talk about sports. I didn't know any better.

I still love sports. In fact, I think I like them more, or appreciate them more than when I was just a lad. However, I hate sports talk television. Some people, as they grow up, learn that athletes are not role models. They either have a favorite player or a hero that they look up to, but that person does something wrong, or just with so many players making human mistakes, they learn to not idolize these guys. I had/have favorite players, but I never had this problem. I never came to the realization that athletes weren't heroes because I don't ever recall feeling that. They were super famous, super talented, tv stars, but so was Drew Carey. (I know I used super talented very liberally in that analogy.) When I started being older than some of the players I was watching, it was just one of those things. David Price is the same age as me. Would I expect myself to perform at the stage that he does every night? No. But I expect it from him; that's what he does. His age doesn't really factor in it for me. So I never encountered that mental downfall, yet I did with sports talk television.

Sometime during college, or perhaps late in high school, I started getting annoyed when these 'people' spouted their opinions off like it was common knowledge. When I was younger, I actually thought it was common knowledge. They were reporting what everyone thought to me, the viewer, who didn't know any better. Now I realize none of these people are any smarter than me. The only thing that separates a sports fan like me from a talking head on First Take is inside knowledge. They can speak with the athletes, the reporters, team employees and get more info than I ever could. They use this to mask the fact that they aren't any more qualified for their job than I would be.

Here is a normal give and take when I watch these shows: Talking head #1 says something obvious. The host agrees with them. Talking head #2 says something stupid because he's an idiot. Talking head #1 sees their point but reiterates their very obvious first point. The host again agrees with them.

The best example of a television personality pissing me off occurs when a story happens in a sport they aren't very familiar with. The show host has to talk about it, yet it comes off as forced, like if someone demanded I write a blog post about America's Cup. The most recent example of this happened earlier this month, right before the MLB all-star game. Colin Cowherd, who is known for making odd arguments, I assume to just create controversy, is a football guy. He never talks about baseball because it doesn't push the ratings. However, Joey Votto had been left off the NL all-star roster and Colin decided to defend this. At the time, Votto was probably the favorite to win league MVP. He was a no-brainer to make the team, and eventually got on, yet Cowherd wanted to argue he didn't deserve the spot. The argument was something along the lines of Votto wasn't a top notch player; he hadn't had the past success of a Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols; he wasn't a brand name, and we shouldn't use a couple months of hot hitting to mark him as an all-star. That was Colin Cowherd's argument. Since he doesn't know anything about baseball, maybe I should have given him a pass. But since he's on tv, talking like this makes sense and isn't dumb, I got upset. The fact is that someone's all-star candidacy is literally based on the exact opposite of everything he was saying. Whether someone should or shouldn't make the 2010 all-star roster is entirely based on the first half of the season and past success has absolutely no relevancy to the discussion. When I was a little kid, I might have listened to this misinformed, misguided man, and actually believed Joey Votto didn't deserve to be on the team. After all, Colin was a man with a microphone, with a platform to talk. He must know what he's talking about. How naive I was.

Another popular ploy of the sports show host is to make an outlandish, yet defend-able argument, yet never bring up the obvious point that refutes it. Since on most of these shows they control call-in or email responses, the anchor is free to blabber on. Just this morning Michael Jordan released a statement bad mouthing LeBron a bit, explaining how he would never have wanted to play with Magic and Larry Bird. So the people with a mic decided that Jordan was being too high and mighty (even though many others said literally the same thing as Jordan did last week.) 'Michael wasn't being fair, he got to play with Scottie Pippen and how can he compare the guys LeBron is playing with to Magic and Larry?' The guest host on The Herd was making this argument. These are fair points, yet Jordan's viewpoint still stands and still makes sense because what the host decided not to bring up was that Dwyane Wade won a championship and is the third best player in the NBA. Doesn't that fit the billing of Magic or Bird? Sure Wade might not be historically as good as either of those hall-of-famers, but other than Kobe, there isn't any other player in the league at his level. This seemed like an important factor in the discussion that he decided not to mention.

Of course the worst part of sports talk television is when a big story occurs. See: Tiger or anything related to Brett Favre. It becomes unbearable. The same story is digested and regurgitated over and over one show after another for weeks at a time. I have actually come to hate Brett Favre. I actually truly dislike him as a person, and I'm not sure it's actually his own fault. He likes the attention and likes the media around him, but he doesn't control it. It is ESPN's fault I hate Brett Favre. After hearing six people tell me whether they think he'll return, I don't really need a seventh and an eighth and...

The people I do enjoy hearing talk are the actual sports reporters of the world. The show Sports Reporters does not, ironically, fit this billing. That show provides the viewer with reporters, but they aren't reporting news. They are yapping opinions like all the others. The people I like are the Tim Kurkjians, Buster Olneys, John Claytons. These men report news they hear or stories they are told are in the works and tell us. That is what I want from my sports talk television. Tell me something I wouldn't have any way of knowing otherwise, because I don't talk with people in the know. Tell me when one team is looking to move a player or this team is searching for a new GM. Sports talk television should inform viewers of things a normal sports fan wouldn't already know.

In the end, of course I still watch the shows I have come to despise. But it's more like being a smoker. I hate myself afterwards and know it's probably bad for me, but I can not help it. And I certainly can't stop cold turkey.

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