On Private And Public Behavior

edpodolak

Over the weekend I posted an item at Awful Announcing regarding photos of Iowa Hawkeye football color commentator Ed Podolak surfacing from an Iowa State message board and being publicized via the Wiz of Odds last week. The photos showed Podolak drinking, looking down a woman’s shirt, etc., while in Tampa for the Outback Bowl and are fairly tame as far as photos of folks taken at bars go. I didn’t post one of the photos, mostly based on personal choice*, but I still thought it was a story.

Now, apparently Podolak decided to retire (or, if you believe, got urged to leave) as a commentator after Iowa AD Gary Barta expressed a rather downbeat tone about the whole matter, and it has spawned some spite towards the Wiz of Odds: Black Heart Gold Pants called editor Jay Christensen an assbag, Brian Cook called it “complete bullcrap” in the tags, and I can’t blame them for doing so. I think it’s a bit of an overreaction by Barta, but I’m not going to hold Christensen at fault for this — and if you think I’m completely, utterly wrong on this, don’t hesitate to tell me. I’m more than willing to change my mind.

As a publicly recognizable figure, both as a media figure and former pro athlete, Podolak has to know better.  I work with people who are on television. I am fortunate to call many of them friends and drinking buddies. They are recognizable faces in the community.  By no means are they shut-ins, but they know that they have to comport themselves in a certain way when they go out on the town. It’s a double standard, it’s not fair, but that is kind of implicitly agreed to when you sign a contract to be a media representative of a university, by extension (even though Podolak was hired through another company, technically.)

In Podolak’s case, this incident came after he got arrested for public intoxication previously with a .23 BAC a few years back in Iowa City. I don’t think it would have come to “resigning” had this been a first-time incident.  I hesitate to say Gary Barta has any real right to determine what Podolak can and cannot do with his off hours, but ultimately, media figures give up certain things when they sign on the dotted line — even in cases where the goalposts have moved. Iowa officials in 1997 said “charges” were necessary to trigger suspension or firing. Drunken photos aren’t that, and Barta is apparently tougher on broadcasters than he is on the players in his revenue programs, which doesn’t look particularly good either — especially when another writer at the FanHouse is noting that Podolak’s bar times were not exactly a secret. It seems selective by Barta rather than any sort of principled stance.

(*The reason I didn’t post one of the pictures is because the woman wasn’t identified and it was a little more sensitive in nature. This may be my personal brand of journalism ethics training kicking in. I have no compunction about grabbing images via Google with randoms [mostly people with athletes at charity events or signing autographs, etc., just for photos for live blogs], but this was a bit different in my mind.)

Keeping Track Of The Stupid This Weekend

(He gazed at her longingly, while trying to ignore the words coming out of her mouth.)

I’ll be assisting BP at Awful Announcing with the Pam Ward Chronicles tomorrow. Your tips and quotes in the threads will be appreciated and probably posted quickly. It has become a sad note that I watch on Saturdays just as much for Pam Ward, Ray Bentley, Paul Maguire, Mike Patrick, and Gary Danielson saying silly things as much as I do for the hitting and passing.

It will be nice to have Uncle Verne Lundquist back with Crazy Cousin Gary.

Also, as usual, NFL live-blog at the same site on Sunday night, with the Steelers headed to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

Do join me.

Peddling My Wares For Others Again

A quick announcement, since I’ve been bogged under the past couple days with real-world ish: I will be back at Awful Announcing on partial weekend duty this football season, providing Sunday Night Football live blogs and chipping in with the Pam Ward Chronicles (the day in college football announcer quotes) from time to time.

Oh, Al. Oh, John. How I’ve missed your quarterback slobbering so.

The Eye Has Had Enough Of Billy Packer’s Act

After years of frustrating plenty of college basketball fans with his crotchety, no-fun act on CBS’ March Madness coverage, the Eye has thought better of Billy Packer, saying it will not bring him back for another season with Jim Nantz, preferring to promote Clark Kellogg instead to be its main color commentator for college basketball.

Again, I have no quarrel with the ditching of Packer (although the split seems very mutual, as Packer told the Miami Herald he’s tired of commentating). Somewhere during the last decade, the crabby act got really old and tired, plus his admission of not being a fan of sports along with his “fagging out” joke on Charlie Rose didn’t endear him any further (this isn’t even getting into the mess he started with St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli over its #1 seed in 2004 or calling Allen Iverson a monkey). Nantz is hard enough on me as play-by-play; while Packer can be considered about as college basketball as Dick Vitale, I’m not gonna miss him all that much.

But I’ve got to side with Lozo on this: why Clark Kellogg?  He may be next in line at CBS (and it’s probably because he works solely for CBS), but they have a more talented analyst in their midst during March who ought to be working Final Fours for them: Bill Raftery. I mean, having Raf give us an “ONIONS!” or a “Send it in, ____!” during the game is damn near a highlight in and of itself. He mixes great analysis with fun, and it’s clear he loves the game.

However, Kellogg is as good as we’ll get, because CBS won’t have its lead color guy for college basketball come from the ranks of guys they hire as contractors from ESPN — which is what really might have killed off any chance of getting the best analyst in this sport from getting its most plush job.

Photo: AP/Michael Conroy

Dick Ebersol Collects On-Air Talent Like Jon Gruden Collects QBs

Eventually the set for the Football Night in America program on NBC will collapse under its own weight. NBC Sports’ head honcho Dick Ebersol’s philosophy towards on-air talent has to be similar to Tampa Bay Bucs coach Jon Gruden’s theory of quarterback hoarding, because there’s really no other explanation for bringing in Dan Patrick to work with Keith Olbermann on the highlights end of the program this season. This leaves Bob Costas to shoot the shit with Cris Collinsworth, Jerome Bettis, and Peter King, as the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir is reporting.

After live-blogging damn near an entire season of Sunday night games last season for Awful Announcing, it was more than apparent that the booth for the pre-game show was already much too crowded for my liking (and that of many others) — NBC has taken the “too many cooks in the kitchen” approach of every pre-game show in the business and pumped it full of B-12, andro, or whatever else certain baseball players are pumping in with needles as of late.

More than four people on a pre-game show does nothing for the show except make it a stiff, dull affair — with that many people, there is very little opportunity for rapport or improvisation, cross-talk — because everyone has to get their on-air space to justify the contracts sports executives sign them to. CBS wins the NFL pre-game show contest almost by default because of this: not only do they have James Brown hosting, but the analysts are kept to four and they add in Charley Casserly for the front office view of things.

Obviously, what Ebersol hopes to gain from landing Patrick is the same interplay that he had with K.O. at SportsCenter in the 90s — which is some kind of nostalgia trip I’m not completely down with. I’m not saying it’s a bad hire or decision with regard to Patrick, but if you really want to nail that interplay down, take your new highlights pair, and ditch everyone else save Collinsworth and Bettis. (This will never happen, of course; Costas is too much of a face of the Peacock in terms of sports.)

Eventually the sports divisions of networks are going to feel more of the crunch that has hit news divisions, and an executive will stumble upon the idea that it might work to pay fewer people multi-million dollar contracts in pre-game and halftime coverage; not only will it save you money on an already bloated budget (as fees for television major sports will not be dropping any time soon), but it might actually make the program better.

As it stands now, the concept behind studio pre-and-post-game shows is similar to music executives signing any band with a possibility of being labeled “alternative” in the early 90s to a multi-million dollar advance: it reeks of desperation, trying to figure out what sticks in an uncertain market.

Patrick and Olbermann Will Reunite Their Act on NBC [New York Times]

Full Of Sound And Fury, Signifying Everything

(Video via Awful Announcing.)

Everyone’s up in arms today over last night’s Costas Now, in which Will Leitch basically fended off H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger and Bob Costas as they ranted about blogging’s abusive tone and profane writing.  Bissinger’s particular diatribe reeks of a noxious sort of desperation, one that a writer of his talent should never have had to feel so insecure as to express on television.

Blogs are basically a means of open expression, whether used for journalism, comedy, or opinion, and this applies to the sports world.  I am mystified by folks like Bissinger, Costas, and MIchael Wilbon, who seem to be threatened by the medium, considering it part of the downfall of society (how amusing is this hyperbole when it rolls around every decade or so from a generation that cannot stand to see a loss in power, anywhere?) when, by all accounts, the methods and medium of journalism will change dramatically in the upcoming decades, but quality writers and journalists will always be in demand.  This misconception of blogs seeking to “replace” the mainstream media in any form is absolutely ludicrous and really ought to be nipped in the bud.

I can only speak for myself now — as this particular blog is little more than a means to express opinion based on what I watch on TV.  No, my opinion isn’t any more valid than the beat reporter or columnist; I’m a 25-year old liberal arts major whose only print journalism/sportswriting experience is a stint on the high school newspaper.  That’s not why I write about sports or participate in discussions about them online. I don’t think my opinion is any more or less valid than yours. I do it because it’s fun, and it’s part of the interaction of being a fan. Do I (and others) get profane? Yes, although I make an effort to avoid abusive.

The irony of Bissinger’s missive and Costas’ ploy to paint the Internet as a massive repository for the basest impulses of people online is that there are oh so many folks, in print and on your television on a regular basis, who have the capacity and have been more abusive and profane towards athletes than any blogger ever could — and with a significantly larger audience than Deadspin could attract on even its best stats day.  Skip Bayless, Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom (how ironic is it to have the sports world’s Jayson Blair lecture about the ethics of sports journalism on TV; it’s as if everyone forgot he faked a column), Bill Conlin (some pleasant language used towards sabermetric-loving folks), Wallace Matthews (Mr. “15 is the new 30” in trying to brush off Clemens-McCready), and damn near every columnist, commentator, and pundit who gives credence to Roger Clemens yet would not dare give Barry Bonds the benefit of the doubt.

Also include Leonard Shapiro and the talk radio blowhards who gave two cents to the concept that Sean Taylor’s past off-the-field troubles had something to do with his death last year, when he really was protecting his family. Jason Whitlock’s entire oeuvre about the Black KKK, his double-speak and hypocrisy about hip-hop and the misogyny and violence in rap affecting athletes deserves special mention.

Add in every columnist who employs a mindset that allows him or her to slap a thug label on the majority of the NBA because players have tattoos and some even dare to have cornrows or dreadlocks, and who blanches at every incident of violence on the court as a sign that the league as a whole is out of control.

If you don’t mind me saying so, that’s a fuck of a lot of profanity and abuse heaped on by those supposed guardians of the Right Way of doing things.  Glass houses, stones, throwing….right, you know the deal.

Takes on the program: Both Will and AJ from Deadspin, Orson at EDSBS, Brian at Awful Announcing, D-Wil at Sports on My Mind (who agrees with Bissinger), FJM’s Ken Tremendous, The FanHouse’s Michael David Smith, and BDD at KSK (yes, vulgar and profane).

Stop Being Such A Tease, Billy Packer

Unfortunately, with the Final Four starting tomorrow, we’re gonna get more than an earful of college basketball’s cranky, smarmy old bastard Billy Packer teaming with Mr. Milquetoast himself (Jim Nantz) for what looks to be three of the most competitive games of the college basketball season (this is the bonus of all #1 seeds making it; no one can say on paper than any of these games looks like a blowout.)

Natch, USA Today’s Michael Hiestrand gives us the profile of Packer on the eve of the games — and what’s annoying is that Billy has to be such a damn tease about whether this is his last tournament or not.

Billy Packer, when asked if this NCAA men’s basketball Final Four will be his last on CBS: “Who knows?”

Please, oh please, let it go, Billy — give Raftery, Bilas, someone, anyone who really seems to like and enjoy the game — rather than rag on the selection committee for not picking your favorite ACC teams every year — the chance to call a Final Four. I don’t want someone who’s completely in the tank; criticism is nice, but at some point, when an analyst or announcer sounds like he doesn’t enjoy the job regularly, isn’t it time to say “fuck it” and move on?

That said, I did learn some bizarre things about Packer that make him seem less cranky and more like a bizarre eccentric:

  • Randomly asked more than 100 women if they’d vote for Hillary Clinton
  • Took Picasso ceramics, put them in plexiglass, and made a work desk with them
  • Played golf courses backwards (shoot from green to tee)
  • Started Richard Jewell defense fund because he was sure they had the wrong man in the Olympic bombings (they did)
  • Hired a psychic to find the murder weapon in the O.J. Simpson case

The last one is the one that really sticks out. I’m trying to imagine Billy hiring some Miss Cleo knockoff with bad head-wraps in order to find the knife, and rolling over doing so.