It’s been more than 3 months since ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer saw fit to complete a column, a situation the retired television executive blames on poor health rather than, for instance, having absolutely nothing to say. In his farewell entry for ESPN.com, the former O.J. Simpson crony saved his harshest criticism for other companies (were you aware the New York Times and NPR sometimes fuck up royally, too?) while assuring the handful of readers still paying attention the Worldwide Leader is really doing the very best they can. So shut up, already.
Some might misunderstand the fact that my every comment has not been a scathing, blistering indictment of network miscues. That might be because, after 40 years in the business, I have an appreciation of the intricacies and difficulties of what ESPN is trying to accomplish. There is plenty to criticize in Bristol, but in some respects I marvel at how well the company presents its product on so many varied platforms. The sheer magnitude of the undertaking today makes any other production operation seem puny by comparison.
Is every one of the 30,000-plus programs on air or each of the millions of pages on ESPN.com a gem? No, and that’s never going to happen. Does ESPN make egregious mistakes? Of course. Are there philosophical differences between ESPN’s approach and the way its audience and critics would like to see things? Certainly. Does programming multiple platforms for the widest possible audience run counter to the individual needs and tastes of some in ESPN’s audience? Absolutely. Are some of its efforts going to fall flat? Does Peyton Manning ever throw an interception?
In fairness to Ohlmeyer, we must sympathize with his dilemma. Clearly, he’s been given a mandate to serve as something beyond a mere ombudsman, but a combination ombudsman/apologist/publicist.
The 1996 hoops comedy “Eddie”, starring Whoopi Goldberg as a mouthy Knicks superfan hired by a Doh’lan-esque owner (played by a whoring-it-up Frank Langella) to replace a pseudo-Pat Riley head coach (Dennis Farina, about 30,000 times funnier than the film’s titular star without even trying) has been mentioned several times in this space over the years, usually everytime Dwayne Schintzius makes the news (which is surprisingly often). I’ve long held the opinion “Eddie” is guilty of of numerous crimes against basketball and cinema, but in the wake of the Carmelo Anthony mess in Denver, Hoop Speak’s Zach Harper argues, “on the surface, it’s no less gimmicky than Air Bud or Like Mike in its fantasy-driven ‘how cool would it be if’ type of tale…however, when you dive into the movie, it shows you a glimpse into the life of the professional athlete that we never really think about.”
NBA players appear to have super human abilities, but they’re still human nonetheless. They’ve been humans whether they’re battling racism, family illness and death, a crappy boss to work for, a city they don’t want to live in or whatever the personal reason is. They’re affected by their lives and jobs the same ways we are, even if they live in a world we can’t all relate to.
In the movie, Whoopi Goldberg’s ability to relate to the players and find a way to reach out to them as a common person is instrumental in bridging the gap between the two existences. Indeed it is only once Eddie connects with her players off the court that her team begins to win on it. You don’t have to feel sorry for the NBA players. Just try to remember what affects your job performance can affect theirs as well.
Is Eddie full of kitschy fluff and inaccuracies that cheapen the reality of the story being told? Absolutely. That’s part of what makes it so fun to watch as a self-aware NBA fan. You can make fun of the failed execution of the NBA rules and intricacies in many ways.
But you can’t deny the reality of the human element this movie deals with, in reminding us that pro athletes are actual people.
When last seen in this space, Hearts Of Midlothian’s owner Vladmir Romanov was not only refusing to apologize for his habit of selecting the side’s starting XI, he accused journalists who reported as much of “spreading manure on my crops.” LIttle wonder then, that Romanov’s equally intrusive acts with his Lithuanian pro hoops squad, Zalgiris Kaunas, were meant to be top secret. From BallinEurope.com :
During last week’s Euroleague match with Power Electronics Valencia, Ilias Zouros (Zalgiris’ third this season, for those of you keeping score at home) was spotted on camera more than once conspicuously consulting a scrap of paper, then re-tucking it into an inside jacket pocket.
When questioned by Lithuanian media about the suspicious scrap, Zouros stated that, as a new coach, he still hadn’t memorized some set plays and so wrote them down. Zouros’ purported naivety with the squad made for stark contrast for the eye-popping 42 substitutions Zalgiris made during the match.
Zouros’ cover was soon blown at a “Zalgiris Members Club” event. At a Q&A session for club members, one early query centered on *that* paper. Zalgiris general director Paulius Motiejunas dodged the question a bit as he explained that “the owner’s position is to balance the players’ physical condition [while] letting others improve. To accomplish these goals, he contributes to the preparation of the game plan and its execution is ensured by coach assistants.”
Having no fewer than 3 YouTube videos circulated in short succession that revealed Andy Gray to be somewhat less than enlightened concerning the role of women in the soccer universe, the Sky Sports pundit found himself yet another member of Scotland’s unemployed. Ch. 4′s Joyce Woolridge took it all in and was less than shocked ; “I thought that they were relatively mild and exactly what you’d anticipate hearing, in private, from an ex-professional of Gray’s age and pedigree…many men would agree that women should have no place in football, except in the service industry (and I’ll leave it up to you how widely you define the range of possible services).”
Kicking a ball around, however badly, with the addition of testicles, qualifies you as an expert opinion and potential official; just the testicles make you a real supporter. Women have, for some of the hardcore, done their bit to dilute the atmosphere within grounds and get in the way of the matey, blokeish experience.
The worst I’ve ever been called in print, in a fanzine, was a “c**t”, with the asterisk included (and a fulsome apology for any offence caused followed later) – even the current Culture Secretary has been dubbed that on the airwaves.
But I have always considered myself an outsider as a supporter and writer because I am female, just as Sian Massey and those who follow her will continue to be regarded as for a long time to come.
And no amount of supportive tweets from that unlikely feminist Rio Ferdinand leads me to expect any different.
While Yankee Brian Cashman’s less than enthusiastic response to his club’s acquisition of reliever Rafael Soriano has been noted far and wide, what’s good for the GM isn’t acceptable for the blogging gander. TYU’s Moshe Mandel reports River Ave. Blues — a member of the YES blog network — and the YES-hosted Pinstripe Bible — had differing responses to the above transaction. In the case of the latter, criticism of the deal was removed from the site, while in the matter of River Ave. Blues, “the YES network toolbar had disappeared”.
Because YES hosts Pinstriped Bible, they likely were able to directly censor Goldman, asking him to remove his post and edit it so as to mitigate the harshest points of criticism within it. As for RAB, because YES has limited control over the content of the site, their only choice was to pull their toolbar from the site until the displeasure over the deal settled a bit.
The question then becomes whether there is anything wrong with what YES did in this case. Some might argue that the team has no responsibility to provide a forum for criticism of the club and the moves that they choose to make. The problem with this argument is that YES has already chosen to provide that forum by affiliating with blogs in the first place. PB and RAB are critical of moves made by Brian Cashman all the time, yet no censorship of this sort has ever occurred before, to the best of my knowledge. It is unseemly to suddenly object to the content of the blogs now that they are critical of whomever in the organization was responsible for signing Soriano, particularly when similar criticism of other key members of the organization has gone uncensored in the past.
As of this writing, the YES toolbar is again at the top of the River Ave. Blues front page. It seems hard to imagine Hal or Hank Steinbrenner trolling the sportsblogosphere (not that either site is particularly obscure), but not as difficult to envision a strong critique coming to the attention of a Yankee functionary on a bit of a power trip.
On the scale of relative broadcasting competency, just-fired Sky Sports soccer analyst Andy Gray doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as former MASN mouthpiece Rob Dibble, but when it comes to indefensible sexist remarks heard far and wide, the two have more in common than just unemployment. Following a widely circulated recording of Gray and co-presenter Richard Keys dissing EPL assistant referee Sian Massey, Gray was hung out to dry by his employers with the above clip including additional remarks about Massey prior to the telecast. While the Sky News reporter, Andy Burton, has been suspended, Gray was fired this afternoon after a third offending clip surfaced, this time showing Gray performing a Sean Salisbury impersonation in the direction of colleague Charlotte Jackson. Angered by Gray’s termination, The Telegraph’s Brendan O’Neil argues the analyst is “a victim of thought-policing, pure and simple, carried out by a huge corporation that is being cheered on by apparently liberal hacks and a Twitterati who love nothing more than seeing someone who has a different outlook on life to them “ how dare he! “ being dragged across the coals of public humiliation.”
I have to admit, I’m slightly fascinated by O’Neil’s take on this. If whipping one’s dick out in the workplace is an some sort of political act, perhaps the Telegraph columnist call tell us who was the greater martyr, Dov Charney or David Cone?