Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Love/Hate: Sports Personalities

Apologies for the extended absence. As E mentioned in an earlier post, I was in Disney World for a week and then getting caught up with work and other things the last week. The long Memorial Day weekend didn't help matters. But I am back.

Do you find yourself hating on a lot of sports personalities? I know I do. The hatred usually stems from two things...

  1. the commentator/analyst/expert/personality in question works for or is completely biased (in your eyes) to a rivals team
  2. the commentator/analyst/expert/personality is completely aloof and you feel that you know more on the subject they are preaching about
There is a third reason but one in which no individual usually admits: jealousy. You may yearn to be in this certain person's position with the team or within the sport. He/she is famous for doing something you wish you could do. The reasons for hatred are not exclusive; you can be a hater for just one, two, three, or a mixture of them.

I have been paying attention to sports for as long as I can remember. Over the years I have developed a strong love, hate, and love/hate relationship with many sports personalities (excluding players). Below is my list. Obviously opinions will vary.

Let's first start of nice. I don't want to focus just on the people I despise. There are plenty of people in the wide world of sports that I respect and admire, for many reasons. Here is a short list of my favorites (in no particular order).
  • Chris Berman - I know that there are many people out there that dislike him and much of what ESPN does and is about. Whatever. I love Berman. He is witty, funny, and it can be argued that he is the reason why ESPN has succeeded. Pop culture was influenced by this mans sports quotes on the air.
  • Al Michaels - Does anyone have a beef with him? He has won 5 Emmy's as an Outstanding Sports Personality (Play-by-Play host). His voice is well recognized and the way he handles himself in the booth is top notch. He rarely makes a mistake and has never shown any bias towards a team.
  • Bob Costas - A very decorated sports broadcaster. He controls NBC sports. Costas is usually thrust into the spotlight during an Olympics and does a great job. And it's hard not to like someone who is compared to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
  • Brent Musberger - Possibly the best college football play-by-play man ever. His voice is almost calming. The way he welcomes the audience to a game is great time and time again. He has done many different sports but his work with college football is his best.
  • Lauren Hart - A lot of people may not know who she is. Lauren is the daughter of legendary Philadelphia Flyers announcer Gene Hart and is currently the anthem singer for the Flyers. She is an amazing voice talent and does a lot of charity work in the Philadelphia area. Lauren has taken over for Kate Smith in the eyes of Flyers fans. She is a cancer survivor.
  • Peter Gammons - One of the best baseball analysts around. He is well respected as a journalist and reporter, as demonstrated by his numerous interviews with superstars as well as his famous connections around the MLB. Gammons returned to his role with ESPN three months after suffering a brain aneurysm.
  • Dan Patrick - He, along with Keith Olbermann, brought about the ESPN renaissance and ushered the network into the spotlight faster than Chris Berman could have hoped. He picks his moments well and knows when to be sarcastic or serious. He is well versed about many sports. His 'Just My Type' column in Sports Illustrated is one of the best parts of the magazine.
  • Jon Miller - Quite possibly the best baseball announcer not named Joe Buck (I kid, I kid). A great imitator of announcing legends, Miller has great pronunciation and annunciation. He is anything but dry and keeps the audience entertained during boring stretches of the game.
  • Harry Kalas - Impeccable play-by-play announcer of the Philadelphia Phillies. You can also hear his voice during NFL games on the radio station Westwood One and during presentations by NFL Films. He is loved by people in Philadelphia, mostly because he is loves the city and is very open to the fans. He has a deep voice and is known for his excitement during a Phillies home run, in which he'll state ...a long drive, watch this baby, and that ball's outta here! Home run (player's name)...
  • Joe Paterno - Yeah, sorry, a little biased here. I know people who don't like him. But I like him. Not just because of his success on the football filed but because of his HUGE donations to Penn State. The University has given him a lot but he has given A LOT back. Most people that hate on him talk about his age and his inability to speak coherently to the media. Not many people know how much he has done for the University.
  • Woody Paige - There are teams that Woody bugs me but nearly enough to drop him out of this category. He is one of my favorite writers and brings a sense of humor to ESPNs Around the Horn. He was brilliant on Cold Pizza, too.
  • Michael Wilbon & Tony Kornheiser - I like them both for their work on Pardon the Interruprion. Both confront their biases and stories head on. They argue in a way that makes you like each of them. Tony may be hard to take at times on Monday Night Football, but he more than makes up for it in his syndicated columns and on PTI. I enjoy Wilbon for his takes on racism in sports (a topic that unfortunately comes up often).
It's important to note that I am only focusing on people that I have witnessed in my life. While I'm sure Howard Cosell, Harry Caray, and Jim McKay (among others) were great, I have no recollection of them. Sorry. We are working in the time period of approximately 1995 to now. If I don't remember anything about someone they don't make the list.

This set of personalities can drive me insane or make me very happy. These people walk the love/hate line with every word they speak or every column they write.
  • Barry Melrose - ESPNs hockey analyst has his moments, both good and bad. He has a passion for the game, which I respect. But some of his comments scream of homerism and his bias towards Canadian teams is blatant. As is his disdain for the Flyers. However his hair suits him well.
  • Mel Kiper, Jr. - The 'Draft Guru'. This is an example of the jealousy I mentioned earlier. But I have reasons to both like and despise Mel. He has keen eye for some NFL talent but too often he takes teams passing on "his" guy personally. He needs to relax. Also, as the draft nears some of his projections become more and more bold. I believe he is trying to find the next hidden gem and say "I told you so" more than actually evaluate the talent in front of him. Like Melrose the hair looks good.
  • Bill Simmons - Pretty much a typical Boston/New England fan. He was thrust into popularity in 2004 during the Red Sox run (ya know, before parts north and east of New York became unbearable). Simmons is excellent at satire and his recollections of sports past is top notch. But he is extremely homeristic and his piece on the Patriots last fall is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read about sports.
  • Jerry Jones - A Cowboys and football legend. He is brash and resilient; a real go-getter. He has a sharp eye for business and has been with the Cowboys since 1989 and built 'America's Team' in the early 1990s. He is very involved with his team, which can be good and bad. He has forced out coaches (Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson) and hired ones not right for the job (Chan Gailey, Dave Campo). He is cocky and opinionated.
  • Mark Cuban - Brings some much needed excitement and passion to the NBA. I would really like to see him own the Chicago Cubs. His is very involved with the Mavericks. His excitement and involvement can, at times, be too much.
  • John Madden - An expert coach and football mind that will forever be pasted into American football culture. He isn't the best commentator, usually due to the fact he speaks incoherently and points out the obvious. He also has a huge man-crush on Brett Favre (not a good thing).
  • Roger Goodell - He didn't waste any time taking over for Paul Tagliabue. He has instilled a stronger sense of discipline in the NFL and has made some key decisions elsewhere. However, his handling of Spygate has been abysmal at best. Also looming is the potential for a work stoppage. A new CBA must be agreed upon by March 2009 for there not to be an uncapped year in 2010. His legacy may be determined within the first three years of his term. So far it has been up and down.
  • Bill Parcells - The Tuna is a great football mind as he has shown the ability to turn around awful or medicore teams into playoff caliber ones. However he is extremely arrogant and can be a lot to handle. He is overrated in terms of his draft evaluations. If he can return Miami to respectability he may bump into the LOVE category ;-)
  • Lou Holtz - The old timer is a bit annoying as a commentator but not nearly as annoying as he was when he was the coach of the Irish. Still, he can be funny and I don't despise him nearly as much as his partner on ESPN (see the HATE section). Holtz's pep talks are hilarious.
  • Jim Rome - Extremely opinionated, which is why I can't LOVE him. I, too, am extremely opinionated when it comes to sports. Jim and I usually only agree 50% of the time leaving 50% for me to hate his guts. Some of the stuff he says should be heard by the masses. Some of the other things he spew should be intended only for Satan's minions.
  • Bobby Clarke - A Philadelphia hero in the 1970's but now finds himself a bit of a rogue to the City of Brotherly Love. Clarke made some big mistakes as the Flyers GM and never brought another Cup to Philadelphia. The recent success of Paul Holmgren as GM doesn't help him. Still, the things he did for the city over 30 years ago can not be ignored (even though I wasn't around to see him do it).
  • Casual sports fans - These people run the sports world. These are the folks advertisers, owners, and the league executives need around to thrive. Unfortunately as a die-hard sports fan they drive me insane. They seem to only go to games for the purpose of going and saying they went. They don't care about the outcome and they don't care about the experience for everyone else. However, they are needed for the sports leagues to exist so I can't hate them, can I? However if they turn into something evil things change (see the last item of the HATE section).
  • Bill Belichick - Surprise, surprise. This is public enemy number one, and for good reason. He is arrogant, ignorant, a cheater, and above all else, a huge ass. He MAY be one of the smartest football minds ever, but who knows now? His shortcomings far outweigh any good he has ever done, if there even is any. Until he is removed, I will hate the Patriots. Belichick must go.
  • Mark May - One of the most ridiculous people at ESPN. He is paired with Lou Holtz and makes Holtz look good. May is the definition of a homer (he went to Pitt) and is completely biased against Penn State. This leads him to state verbal vomit in the form of predicting Akron (or other inferior teams) will beat Penn State. Shut up Mark May! This comes from my bias for Penn State.
  • Jay Mariotti - Ridiculous. Just plain ridiculous. He is hated by his own city (Chicago). The stuff he says on Around the Horn is unbelievable at times. He trashes the city's players and doesn't deserve any awards or recognition.
  • Skip Bayless - Much like Mariotti, Bayless is a buffoon. He is the most opinionated person on this list (more so than Jim Rome). When he is proven wrong he makes lame excuses. He is said to hate LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and doesn't like Allen Iverson either. He makes outrageous claims. He thinks the NBA regular season is more exciting than March Madness and that Tiger Woods is not the greatest golfer of all-time. Skip actually thinks kicking should be removed from football. Seriously.
  • Stephen A. Smith - Just writing some of these names down gets me angry. Smith is, simply put, awful. He is a terrible journalist and an idiot on the air. He speaks as if he is an expert on all sports when he only knows basketball. He always makes controversies into something involving race and racism. And why all the yelling? We can hear you, Stephen A.
  • Colin Cowherd - Another person that makes the list for his constant blasting of Penn State. He takes pride in hating the Nittany Lions. He was called "appalling" and "indecent" after saying that Sean Taylor's death was caused by his gang-related past catching up to him. He is extremely biased towards the SEC.
  • Steve Young - Not the QB but rather the talking head on ESPN. They are not the same person. The analyst Steve Young has a hidden agenda to convince the world he was the greatest QB ever. He is always relating his QB life to those of people that, frankly, have nothing in common with him. He has gotten worse as the years have passed.
  • The Steinbrenner's - George, Hank, and Hal. All equally ridiculous. They are great baseball minds but they don't know when to stop their mouths. Hank and Hal have visibly taken over the Yankees this past year and have said numerous boneheaded things. They continue to yearn to be the best, which is fine. However they rarely go about it the right way.
  • New England/Boston fans - They have gotten completely unreasonable and ridiculous since 2004. I was rooting for the Red Sox that fall and was ecstatic when they toppled the Yankees in that historic comeback. But ever since that region has become unbearable. They believe it is their right to win everything and be the face of sports. When they aren't in the news they bitch and moan. They defend Belichick which I can't even comprehend. They are suddenly basketball fans this year which leads me to...
  • Fake fans/Bandwagon jumpers - These are the people that I HATE the most. If you like a team show it AT ALL TIMES. I don't care if they have won only one game this season or haven't won a championship in your lifetime. Show loyalty and dedication because it will make the good times even better. Perhaps the best example of bandwagon jumpers is with New England/Boston "fans". A lot of them will tell you that they have been a Patriots fan since 2001, a Red Sox fan since 2004, or a Celtics fan since 2007. Mighty convenient, don't ya think? "Red Sox Nation" has grown exponentially in the last four years. It is maddening. The Red Sox also have a huge casual fan base which can transition into fake fans. These are the fans that know absolutely nothing about a team but preach and talk as though they've been a fan for ages. They will buy a hat or a shirt of the team and wear it in public settings. If you actually hold a conversation with a fake fan you'll know because they really know nothing about the team at all. The Red Sox and Yankees may have the largest fake fan base. Other teams with a lot of fake fans include the New York Mets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Los Angeles Lakers.
Unfortunately for Steely McDonati his Penguins have seen a renaissance of fake fans and bandwagon jumpers this year. The success of the Penguins is no surprise, I actually predicted them to be the East representative in the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season and before the playoffs started. I guess I should have realized with that I'd be anointed with annoying fans who were nowhere to be found just 2 years ago. Couple that with the fact that it seemed like the Penguins were leaving Pittsburgh just a few years ago and you get a fan base that is full of fakes. Thankfully Steely McDonati is a die-hard by all means. He bleeds for Pittsburgh and for that I thank him. And I thank all of you out there that do the same for their teams.

Anyway back to the topic at hand. There is a small list of the sports personalities that I love/hate and why. I encourage you to submit your own list in the comments section and suggest any I may have forgotten.

I'm sure I am missing a few people. If I think of them I will add them.

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