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).