Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sports Analysts-The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: ESPN Edition

I have reached the final part of my favorite/least favorite sports broadcasters list.  I've really been looking forward to this one because I have such mixed feelings about the mothership that is the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

ESPN has so ingrained itself in sports that it is impossible to talk about sports coverage and not bring up ESPN's greatness, like Michael Jackson with pop music or Ohio State with pizza deliveries.

On the surface, how can ESPN not be a good thing? 24 hours of non-stop sports coverage, from games to highlights, analysis to feel-good stories.  When it breaks news, it is always backed by good sources, which is saying something in our instant Twitter-news world (Rob Lowe anyone?).  There are also a number of talented analysts, especially on the, which still embraces some old school journalism (such as Grantland).

However, there is the evil side to constant sports coverage.  Over-saturation, over-analysis, causing the smallest issue get blown way out of proportion-these are all effects of a full time sports network.  This has led to things like LeBron's decision or Tebowmania.  At their base, they are probably good things, but they get talked about so much from so many different angles, fans get confused and angry.  Do people really hate Tim Tebow, or do they hate the media's version of Tim Tebow?

ESPN employs a ton of analysts, and each one wants to set themselves apart from one another.  This is a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, you get to listen to a variety of differing opinions and thoughts on your favorite sports and teams.  On the other, there are only so many points to cover, which leaves analysts stretching to put an original spin on a story.  But a story only has so many ways to look at it, and the analysts are left saying things just because they can.  Besides misinforming viewers, the analysts often say things without really thinking about them.  These things are often against ESPN's view, causing analysts to have to make forced public apologies.  These so-called apologies seem to have risen exponentially over the past decade.

We can't forget that ESPN is a major company-its main objective is to make money.  An article written by an IU sports journalist Jason Fry makes an excellent point:
"ESPN’s relationship with sports is like Google’s with search, or Microsoft’s with operating-system software a generation ago – the company will always be held to an impossible standard, yet is so important to its industry that doesn't feel unfair."
The Worldwide Leader in Sports holds huge power, and can wield it however they choose.  The avid sports fan must hope for, and even demand, that ESPN works to make its viewers more knowledgeable.  There is no escaping ESPN, but is there really is no desire to?  I myself can't imagine an ESPN-free world. I may complain about how overcoverage can kill the games, yet not a day goes by when I am not plugged in to ESPN or

With all that in mind, here is my list for my favorite and least favorite ESPN studio personalities.

ESPN Studio - The Best
  • Scott Van Pelt:  Van Pelt is easily the best SC anchor in Bristol.  Although he isn't on as frequently as he used to, he has his own radio show every afternoon.  Van Pelt is funny, original, and in-touch with the sports fan.  He works through the highlights intelligently and is an excellent and adaptable interviewer.  I love that he is able to drop references that make the diehard sports fan appreciate that Van Pelt knows what he's talking about.

  • Buster Olney: I don't think that there is a guy in the baseball world who is more "in the know" than  Robert Stanbury Olney III, other than the GM's themselves.  Buster is always the guy breaking news on free agent signings and trades in the MLB, even with the most minor of moves.  He also does a nice job analyzing what each team needs and the guys that can be traded on each team.

  • John Kruk: Kruk is a former major league first baseman and is the best Baseball Tonight analyst ESPN has.  He breaks down the game vary well and has a great understanding of how the common man watches baseball.  During his playing days, he was quoted as saying, "I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a baseball player."  He is a likeable guy who is easy to listen to, which is more than can be said for a majority of the Baseball Tonight guys (see Singleton, Chris)

Same time tomorrow, knuckleheads
  • Mike Wilbon/Tony Rieali: Pardon the Interruption is the best show on ESPN.  You get intelligent insight on number of leading stories, and usually get a different spin that what you would get elsewhere on ESPN.  Mike Wilbon is the better of the pair of him and Tony Kornheiser.  Both guys started (and still are) sports columnists, so they bring some original and clear thinking to their viewers.  Wilbon is likeable and has much less radical views than is partner, and backs up his points with sound reasoning.  He is also a Chicago boy, so I gotta love him for that.  Rieali, or Stat Boy, is also the host for Around the Horn.  As the host he does a great job of directing the conversation and asking pertinent follow-up questions, and does it all with some great humor.

  • John Buccigross:  I like him as a SC anchor, but Bucci's real strength is in his hockey analysis.   Maybe it's because he is American, but he is by far the most unbiased analyst for hockey, especially when compared to the Overrated Mullet, Barry Melrose.  The guy knows the game, as he used to host "NHL 2Night" in the long, long ago on ESPN.  He is another guy who is fantastic on Twitter (which is becoming a must for analysts these days), and does his famous Bucci's Overtime Challenge,  where he has followers send him a player from each team that will score the game-winning OT goal, and he will retweet those who got it right.  He is genuinely interested in promoting the game of hockey and getting everyone involved in discussing the sport.

ESPN Studio - The Worst
  • Stuart Scott: Stuart is a guy who I have never liked.  He is ESPN's attempt to attract a young, hip crowd, which I saw through even when I was younger.  You can't help but feel that he doesn't actually know anything about sports.  His phrases were fun for about 5 minutes, but they only hid his apparent lack of sports knowledge.  This is a huge problem when you work for a sports network.  What do I think of ESPN dumping Stuart Scott as an anchor? Boo-yah!

Rumblin', bumblin', stumblin'
  • NFL Countdown:  I couldn't single out a single one of these guys to put on this list.  Mike Ditka is the most manageable and clear cut, but that may just the Chicago in me talking.  But the rest are poor analysts and just unbearable at times. It's partially EPSN's fault.  I get that the NFL is by far the most popular league in the US, but 3 hours of "breakdown" every Sunday is a bit much, especially when there are enough guys babbling to make the Occupy Wall Street folks jealous.  Tom Jackson is too old for today's NFL and no longer offers useful analysis.  Keyshawn Johnson was a prima donna as a player, and though he is getting better, he says a lot of things that are either very obvious or way off mark.  Finally, there's Chris Berman.  Boomer is Dicky V part 2.   His bit was once fresh and exciting, and made watching highlights a lot of fun.  But now, I could really do without his "He-could-go-all-the-way's" during every highlight.  He has become a persona of himself, and its very annoying.  And don't get me started on how awful he is at calling anything to do with baseball.

  • Colin Cowherd: To put it nicely, Colin Cowherd is a tool.  For those that don't know, Cowherd hosts a mid-morning  radio show, "The Herd," on ESPN Radio.  His main purpose is to make people angry, or at least I hope that's his purpose.  If it isn't, he maybe be one of the dumbest people in sports. He says so many baseless things it would make your head spin,and often in hyperbole.  I'd like to think his purpose is to get people talking  about the issues in order to prove what an idiot Cowherd is.  The worst is that he says everything in an I'm-better-than-you way.  Here's an example of Colin's wisdom: "Who cares if Braylon Edwards drops passes? Drops are overrated."  I bet Colin thinks they are even more overrated in the endzone.  
This actually makes him look smarter
  • Skip Bayless:  ESPN certainly has a type.  Just like Cowherd, Skip's MO is to get people raging about every single topic in sports.  I can count on one hand the number of times he took the majority view on anything.  He says incendiary things without evidence to back them up (aka Shock Journalism).  Instead he tries using big words and insults (which he tries to mask as wit)  to prove his point, which anyone who has a pulse can see right through.  I suppose that it's honorable that he sticks to his point, but he takes it to a whole new level.  I think he is just looking for story that ends up working out like he says, just so he can say, "I told you so." This is a very bad strategy when every other side you take is completely wrong and indefensible.  Going 1 for 100 is really nothing to be proud of (unless you're Thomas Edison).
  • Stephen A. Smith:  Stephen A. is exactly like Skip Bayless, except he brings race into about everything.  Worse, he is often paired with Skip on First Take, and the two fight about everything.   Where Skip insults the opposing point, Smith just screams at it.  He thinks that the louder and more passionately he speaks, the more correct his point is.  The thing is, he point is rarely correct, and often just angers multiple groups of people.  I don't think there is a guy at ESPN who sticks his foot in his mouth more than Stephen A.   I like a guy to speak his mind and all, but not when it's racial charged and meant to be inflammatory. 

ESPN - Special mention
  • Erin Andrews: An incredibly attractive woman who is great at her job, which just happens to be in sports (btw, I'm totally ok with her knowing more about sports than me). Need I say more?

I'll just leave this right here


  1. Cowherd's show is eerily like Hannity/Limbaugh (I've had 10-hr drives to thank for knowing that), Olney is the shit (even though I don't care much for baseball), and Barry isn't the best, but should they hire Don Cherry?

    1. That's an interesting name you have. And no, they should never touch Don Cherry. The man hates American Hockey. No reason to steal one of Canada's few national treasures. He did give us this though:

    2. Oh yeah, I don't know what happened there, the computer must of freaked out or something... you ever watch a CBC NHL game? Because the play-by-play and color are both excellent in my opinion.