Tag Archives: John Skipper

ESPN17: Start Bailing ‘Little Buddy,’ This Skipper Can’t Steer a Ship Either

4 May

ESPN president and Disney Suit John Skipper would never be confused on sight with Alan Hale’s seafaring TV character of the 1960s shipwreck comedy, Gilligan’s Island (’64-67 CBS). Now “Thurston Howell III,” Jim Backus’ sarcastic and always well-attired millionaire on the high-traffic but officially deserted key, he might bear a slightly better resemblance, at least in trappings.

Hale Jr. (“Skipper”), the son and near image of his famous actor father (mother was silent star Gretchen Hartman) and namesake who teamed with many greats including Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (38) (“Little John”), played the perpetually frustrated captain with the half-dozen castaways and bore little physical likeness to the contemporary Cufflink and Columbia graduate.

But were you to compare the two on their judgment and disposition of respective charges (“S.S. Minnow” v. ESPN), “Mr. Howell” might very well say this of both leaders: ‘Now I say, Lovie, there are two men cut from the same cloth…burlap!’

Disney ≠ sports

Last week the Disney (ESPN) sports network made the real news page when they announced the firing of 100 or so employees, some of long standing like NFL reporter / insider, Ed Werder and anchor Jay Crawford.

You want details on the pink-slip parade? You’ll have to peruse the net yourself. I can’t afford the megabytes, not with usage rates soaring skyward (oy vey).

Suffice to write, if these terminations are consistent with the industry approach in recent years, most of the pinkees were male, white, older (35+) and performed their jobs with overall skill and dedication, i.e., too many college degrees for too few jobs and with too many niche markets to meet.

Do we care about the cut-down, even as sport fans? Hmmm, not really. Aside from the smidgen of camaraderie I feel for the majority in that I too am male, white, degreed and older, those fired should’ve seen this coming years ago and prepared accordingly with resume updates in phone #s and references.

This mass, forced exodus may be just one more phase in a pattern of ill-advised changes that’ve been steadily implemented since Skipper took to steering content calls in 2005. Though, in the case of fired NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, the former QB had not been the same since he seems to’ve taken that bad (saboteur-ish (?)) advice from “Kenny Mitchell” on the set to develop an edge (See; Rob Parker).

What the downsize does do is provide a sounding-board for this former Disney devotee to vent views on likely motivations behind the on-going chintzy changes being wrought by Skipper & Co. to the network’s motif & mission, and then the big markers along this sad journey that have turned what had been a sport fan dreamland (1979 – 2010) into a nightmare that seems to have no good end.

♫ Those Were The Days My Friend ♫

I was a regular of ESPN’s early entrée in the 1980s. I think those like me had grown up on ABC Wide World of Sport and figured this was the next best step.

Diversity in race, gender and games was absent in the anchorage and content in this Mercury stage of cable media, so to speak. But by Apollo phase (85 >) pay-load in variety had launched, hit pay-dirt ($) and has been in orbit ever since.

Bottom-line: Everybody was welcome. Male or female, black or white, young or old, USA-born or foreign, most viewers had a common thread running through their collective letter jacket: A sincere love of sport. We didn’t care if you were a purple octopus from Venus reading the copy, if you knew your stuff, we could tell and we watched. And if you didn’t, we could spot that too. But those fakes never showed up on the Sportscenter back then or were awful terrific actors.

If a fan of the American majors (MLB, NFL, etc.) and highlights, you were in clover. Sport news served piping hot, before poker (Zzzz), college aid (ESPNU), morning fashion plate, kid content (X Games), music promos, Sportscenter specialty segments and all those boorish talking heads. Had the foreign sporting fare been served up (soccer (fútbol), rugby, béisbol – 野球 – 야구), their fans too would be waxing sentimental and grinding their teeth over ESPN’s devolution.

And there was always the ticker at the bottom of the screen as your fall-back to get scores, sans the endless sabrmetric snooze for today‘s fantasy gambler.

For $12 a month, basic cable gave you a whole new world of information, not as broadly capable as the internet but less pricey and totally cool.

For news you got locals, networks and CNN Headline 24-7 with neutral anchors who just read the copy. For sport you got TBS (Braves), WGN (Cubs), USA network and Bristol-based ESPN: Also 24-7 with anchors in standard-issue blazers. Then came the acquisitions by ABC (‘84), Capital Cities Communications (‘85) and in 1996 the game-changer in The Walt Disney Company.

The anchor personalities were memorable (Tom Mees (d.1996) and Charley Steiner come to mind), all clear, often clever without being cute. There wasn’t a clunker among ‘em. The savvy Linda Cohn and Bob Ley are the two remaining but most moved on to greener pastures ($) only to fall off the map, so to speak.

And now it’s all gone, gone with the wind in Turner vernacular.

Youthenization

In the 90s began the serious expansion and then dilution of the ESPN product.

First came ESPN Radio (‘92), ESPN2 (93), ESPY nite (Only SAG name is worse) and then the X Games (95), the start of a youthenization that’s swept the TV dial (Expect a “Harry Potter” marathon on TCM in the not too distant future) and all consumerland (See; Honda Civic). All reasonable enough ventures but started a process of change that’s become OCD with the Suits & Skirts in charge.

With Disney’s stewardship an arrogant air began to permeate the place. Contra-indicated, given the history of Walt‘s baby, but this wasn‘t your father’s Disney.

Media high-hats arrived like Tony Kornheiser, Stephen Smith, Skip Bayless, most on the Sports Reporters not named Dick Shaap or John Saunders, radio Colin Cowherd, onliner Bill Simmons, host Trey Wingo and former jocks in Marcellus Wiley, Tedy Bruschi and Mark Schlereth, all displaying to differing degrees, that boyish bravado to stoke confrontation and then have come to define the new ESPN gestalt: Edgy and most often annoying as hell, for sport fans, anyway.

Once at the content wheel, John put his Disney-sized staple-remover to work.

Out went trusty ESPN News (b.96), bread & butter for the sport junkie.

SportsCentury, the hour-long documentaries hosted by Chris Fowler, before he took residence in the weight room, that did more for sport and history than anything Ken Burns ever did (or likely will), was given the boot in 2007.

Pulled from premium, mid-level satellite – cable package was ESPN Classic where light-hearted (Cheap Seats) and thought-provoking diversions (Woody’s World), made with equal parts of insight and comedy, were showcased.

And due to the network coined ‘instant classic’ phrase, any game, even from the nite before, qualified as vintage, meaning, Howe v. Hull, Lasorda v. Herzog, Bird v. Magic, Marino v. Kelly, were permanently shelved as pre-historic.

Then came the clearest sign that Disney no longer had any interest whatsoever in keeping up the pretense that their ESPN property was a sports network.

Even as 1st and 10 had became the most highly anticipated daily sport debate in all of American media (2003-11), sometimes as a segment (Cold Pizza / First Take (AM gab-fest format)), later stand-alone but always diverse, Skipper pulled the plug and replaced it with a niche-market sabrmetric / diversity combo show called Numbers Never Lie, then His & Hers. Perfect.

I don’t watch much Disney (ESPN) anymore. I’d suspect not many sport fans do (unless an engineer or heart surgeon, “numbers (can) lie” plenty). Why go where you’re not welcome, especially when the time allotted for real sport news is thinner than the newest female anchor?

Who’s likely to watch the “leader” in sport coverage nowadays?

1) College females and family with a connection to Title IX;
2) College males and young brothers with fantasy play lineups;
3) Foreign-born citizens and residents (ESPN Deportes 2004);
3) NBA followers; and
4) NFL fans who have by August developed a ravenous appetite for anything football. The exits of the too comfortable Tom Jackson – Chris Berman can only fuel the hunger to feast whatever‘s put onto the plate.

Cohn spoke recently about the firings, stating that she believes “politics” played a role in the employee upheaval. That’s very likely but something long standing, more deeply engrained in the Disney dynamic is really at its root.

Youthful whimsy in cartoon defined the Disney company Walt and his brother Roy began in 1923 Los Angeles. That core purpose in selling to children and adult sentimentalities to that end has remained the focus in today’s diversified media and entertainment giant. Modern empire-builders, the Disneys understood the emerging, malleable market that were Amercia’s youth (plus their giving parents) and designed a template for success that worked as a sort of incubator of early youthenization marketing which John has simply carried over to the ESPNs.

Even as yesteryear’s cartoons and theme-park pirate patches have been replaced on the network with slinky club-wear, rap music motifs, fantasy-driven stat-parades and ESPN phone-apps, the goal remains the same: Selling to kids.

What’s good for the Donald has not always been what’s good for the Daisy.

Most perplexing in John Skipper’s management of the ESPN monopoly is that in its multitude of channel options, sufficient to cater to all their target markets in kids, females, foreign fare and angry men (radio), he could’ve quite easily stayed connected to the substantive news format on one of those channels to retain the base viewership that had always been the network’s real sustenance.

But when a better, more sport-centric, likely more popular product is juxtaposed along-side a channel that runs so much niche stuff or downright gobbledygook, that arrangement can make programmers, not necessarily prospective viewers, very uncomfortable for having slotted the ephemera in the first place.

Me and my ilk departed from ESPN Islands long ago. There’s a free charter on the south end with weather updates on the hour. It’ll take you anywhere you want. All you need to board is a suitcase full o’ frustration and a love of sport.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: TheWaltDisneyCompany, wordmark, wc.cca; A.Hale.Jr., 9.12.66, wc, GilligansIsland, CBS; ESPN, wc, word mark; ESPN2, wc, word mark; ESPN, wc, 2.26.10, Jaworski, Wingo, Schlereth, Bruschi, J.Kern; ESPN-studio, wc, Jkinsocal, Bristol-CT, 2.2.13; StraightShooter, citrus.fruit-label
Posted: 5.4.17 @ 12:28am EST, edit 5.4; Copyright © 2017

Advertisements

NFL14 Cherry Picks W10: Red Zone Blues

7 Nov

Achilles Heel

It’s their foible, their flaw, the weak link in the 49ers notable chain of success lo these past 4 years, the Jim Harbaugh era.

It first reared it’s ugly head in 2013 in that wild & wooly Super Bowl 47, when the lights went out in New Orleans and the Ravens, who saw their commanding, early lead slip-sliding away, held on long enough to take the victory & hoist the hardware (34-31).

On that strange February night when “swing time” was the mood, San Fran roared back from a 28-6 third-quarter deficit to cut the lead to 5 (34-29). With under 2 to play, red & gold drove to Baltimore’s 7 but stalled in the red-zone, unable to punch it in for the win.

Then there was last January’s NFC championship game where the Niners found themselves once again on the doorstep to greatness.

Down 23-17 w/30 seconds remaining in the game, ball on the Seahawks’ 18 and 1st & 10, 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick lofts an end-zone corner pass to Mike Crabtree that’s deflected and then intercepted by Seattle’s Malcolm Smith. Hawks run out the clock and head to SB48.

.......Kaep.wc.cca.2.3.13.Au.Kirk

Most recently the 49ers faced their red-zone challenge last Sunday, trailing host St. Louis, 13-10, 1st & goal from the five w/45 ticks on the clock. Again, SF was unable to break the plane on four attempts as Colin coughed it up on a QB-sneak and Rams recovered.

Those dark days just following their gut-wrenching loss in last season’s Conference title game had to be emotionally trying for the Miners. Besides the obvious missed prospect (SB48), it placed two burdens squarely on the shoulders of San Fran’s brain-trusters:

1) Compensate for the loss of star linebacker NaVorro Bowman, key cog in their success;

2) How to school the athletic Colin Kaepernick on the finer points of being an NFL QB.

On the defensive side they usually keep it close.

Led by safety A. Bethea (37t / 2i) and stout linebacker corps of Willis, Wilhoite & Borland, 49ers come in at #18 in points allowed (22.2) but just behind NFL leading Lions in yards per game (291.9 / 2).

But offensively there’s still a glitch in the system.

Either Harbaugh & Company don’t see a problem with their goal-line giddy-up, no new strategy, or whatever he and Colin cooked-up hasn‘t yet the right ingredients.

.............SF.ball.1975.wc.cca.Ford.Msm.thumb

Kaep’s C% (64.2) is quite splendid and TD-ratio fine (12-5i), but when the field shortens into that red, meaty part, this run-QB lacks the passer mentality and skill-set to slice & dice opposing defensive schemes, making their job a lot easier.

Take away Kaepernick’s open field where he can free associate when it strikes his fancy, and he, like other flash-quarterbacks, are exposed as single-wing tailbacks posing as signal-callers. That won’t cut it in the pros, not outside Green Bay, not since the 40s.

As long as the 49ers fail to solve their red-zone mystery, their quest for Super silver will remain unfulfilled and Jim & Kaep’s San Fran futures uncertain.

Raking the Muck

If the NFL was ever to award a Purple Heart-like medallion for strength in the face of harassing media & politicos, the Washington Redskins enlistment and commissioned staff would be 2014’s indisputably most deserving recipients.

It’s safe to write that every losing team (3-6) has a degree of dissension in their ranks.

It’s also safe to write that that’s no good reason for some to attempt to ameliorate apparent slip-shod reporting by one Britt McHenry (ESPN) of a supposed quarterback rift in the Washington locker-room last weekend.

............ESPN.Jkinsocal.wc.cca.2.1.13.thumb

And it’s still safe to write that such she-nanigans start at the top (See; J. Skipper).

Someone’s killed off my ESPN, our ESPN. It was a monopoly before Mr. Skipper took the reins (‘05), but a skilled one at that. Kinda’ like Ma Bell before the break-up (‘82).

Formerly a standard-setter in TV sport journalism & entertainment, ESPN (Disney) has undertaken a change in direction over the past decade. Muckraking (Sam shower story, etc.) and selling to the lowest common denominator (least discerning audience) now seems the typical tack. Ms. McHenry is, in modern parlance, merely a tool carrying out network – corporate policy. Not everyone would earn their pay as such, but many do.

The silver lining in this dark cloud for the Redskins is realization that when a teammate faces hostile fire (RG3), it’s cause to circle the wagons and find a better focus for the job at hand (winning) and to shut out those who sling arrows and violate journalistic code.

Curious Quotes

............Simms.10.7.04.wc.cca.STL.USAF.thumb

Phil Simms (CBS 11-2): “This off season Denver built for Seattle, New England built for Denver (NE 43-21).”

Mike Francesa (CBS 11-3): “The Jets quarterback is not on their roster. If he (Idzik) says it is, that’s a fireable offense.”

Question to Mike: Since you postulate the query, are you the one who’s gonna’ put the Jets’ GM on the spot and ask John, in the midst of the 2014 NFL season, who is their quarterback of the future? I wouldn’t want to be that guy.

.......cherries.B.Kua.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 10: Silverdome Surf & Turf

Browns (5-3) @ Cincy (5-2-1): 11-6 8:30 NFLN: CIN wins
Chiefs (5-3) @ Buffalo (5-3): 11-9 1:00 CBS: KC wins
Miami (5-3) @ Lions (6-2): 1:00 CBS (GOTW): MIA wins
49ers (4-4) @ New Orleans (4-4): 1:00 Fox: Saints win
Giants (3-5) @ Seattle (5-3): 4:30 Fox: Seahawks win
St. Louis (3-5) @ Arizona (7-1): 4:30 Fox: Cardinals win
Bears (3-5) @ Green Bay (5-3): 8:35 NBC: Chicago wins

Record: 47 – 25 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Kaepernick, 10.27.13, wc.cca, D.Hartwig; Colin, 2.3.13, Au-Kirk, wc.cca; SF-football, wc.cca, 1975, Ford Museum; ESPN-HQ, CT, wc.cca, Jkinsocal, 2.1.13; Simms, wc.cca, 10.7.04, USAF, St. Louis; Cherries, B.Kua, wc.cca
Posted: 11-6-14 @ 9:10pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W9: Contender Poor

1 Nov

The Great Pretender(s)

You might’ve heard Carl Sandburg’s famous line, “Sometime they’ll give a war and no one will come (The People, Yes (‘36)).”

Not as serious but in that same vane: What if they held a playoffs and “no one” showed?

Unfortunately, everyone invited will make the NFL‘s post-season party, even though at midway point in this 2014 season it’s looking like serious contenders are in short supply: Denver, New England, Arizona, Philly and a few borderline.

Where have all the contenders gone?

Packers and Cowboys, clubs on the rise and media darlings of week 8, both looked ready to rule the roost and then proceeded to lay an egg with loses against New Orleans (3-4) and Washington (2-5), respectively, two teams who had looked pretty tepid in 2014.

Ravens and 49ers were also making their cases for contendership but recent slip-ups reminded football fans that rumors of their ascension to serious status were slightly exaggerated.

............Rivers, J.Beall, wc.cca, 1.12.14, thumb

Two of last season’s more memorable playoff performers in Super Seattle and AFC dark horse San Diego started where they left off but have since showed some chinks in the armour and appear not quite the same teams.

It’s not just the losing. Excepting the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriot, teams are gonna’ have their ups & downs in the course of a 16-game season. It’s when and how teams choose to falter that makes contender such an ephemeral tag in the pro set.

After starting 0-2 w/loses to heavy-hitters in DEN & PHI, Colts went on a five-game win streak and had the ranking-set all a flutter. Then they ran into AFC rival Pittsburgh (W8: 34-51) and have prognosticators scratching their heads. But when one considers how Indy got spanked by NE in 2014-PS (22-43), this recent shellacking is no shocker.

Former early hopefuls the Bears, Falcons, Texans, Panthers and Giants have all been knocked to the canvas and show little sign of rising for the bell, let alone raising the belt.

............Eli.1.15.12.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.GB.thumb

There’s still time for turnarounds & tune-ups. Someone’s gotta’ fill these playoff slots and it’s looking like 8-8 could fill one in both conferences.

And there are positive signs.

Pre-season hopefuls KC, Cincy, Pittsburgh and New Orleans are building back w/recent impressive wins, surprise squads in Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit are hanging tough while nobody’s pre-season pick to challenge for a playoff spot outside of Floridians and this writer, Miami, is proving Bullygate did not destroy this franchise while the early, frequent calls for Mr. Tannehill’s head (62.3 C%) have faded to silence.

Where have all the (hopefuls) gone, long time passing…
Oh, when will (we) ever learn,
Oh, when will (we) eeeeevvveeer learn (Seeger ‘55)?

Swing Time

It might be the new betting craze: in lop-sided NFL games, plunking down money on the high likelihood of a massive swing in 2nd-half momentum where the team trailing turns the tables and snatches victory from the lollygagging leader who shockingly goes flat.

It’s a lock.

One might suspect skullduggery to explain these inexplicable flips in on – off (player performance) switch, from one half to the next. But that’s quickly dismissed by the near impossibility in pulling-off such a dastardly deed with the vast loyalty-factor it’d require.

..........Astaire.RKO.1936.Follow.thumb

Swings in momentum are nothing new.

Sometimes they’re attributable to weather, injury, turnovers or even adjustments.

But what goes on today is more frequent (See; SB47), predictable, sustained & staggering to chalk up to something as simple as a few turnovers. There’s a pattern here

Watch for the next lopsided score. One team’s up 14, 21, 24, and like clockwork, they’ll squander every last point, while the riser, who couldn’t seem to tie their shoes the previous half, are an unstoppable juggernaut in the second round.

And is there a fan in 2014 who doesn’t anticipate just this same super swing in momentum when they peruse the halftime scores and spot a blow-out? Not bloody likely.

Crazy as it sounds, you’re almost better off not going up big in half-one, for if you do and you‘re not fully prepared, the swing-back in momentum will knock you out cold.

If not orchestrated, what then the explanation?

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder?

A concentration that can hone in like a heat-seeking, missile, then dissipate as quickly as it came about. On the other side, one that lays dormant, unable to formulate but later, somehow, coalesces in the locker-room at half.

Latest case-in-point: NFL’s showcase game at London’s Wembley Stadium last Sunday morning (EST), between Detroit Lions and designated home team Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta jumps out 14-0 (1Q), then parlays a 21-0 commanding lead to go intermission.

The savvy gambler would have, if permitted, laid down a wad on Detroit to roar back, expecting the birds radar to go on the fritz as they fly straight into a plate-glass window.

Swing time.

............Astaire. Rogers.Flying.RKO.33.wc.cca.thumb

And that’s just what happened as the teams returned to the field, the roles completely reversed and Detroit squeaked out a 22-21 victory.

So here’s a team (DET) that hadn’t a clue how to play football in first half, then, during the break, figures out how to ‘split the (pigskin) atom,’ on both sides of the ball, mind you, as the hot shots from Hotlanta seemed to’ve mis-laid their playbook.

The same thing happens on the college scene where defending champ Florida State fell down 0-21 to host University of Louisville Thursday night (7-21 H), quickly tied it in the 3rd, held the now flat-lining Cardinals to 10 points and won away, 42-31.

Some call these shocking turnarounds, rallies. I’m not sure what to call em, but they ain‘t rallies. Equal parts resurrection from the dead and sinking of the Titanic.

Maybe this is one for the psychology folk.

Today’s player may simply be given to powerful mood swings (PEDs), the highs too high, the lows so deep they’re like quicksand from which you just can’t extricate yourself. Coaches & captains try to keep things even keel, balance the emotional scale but just can’t control the widespread tendency.

Whatever’s going on, it making for some pretty sorrowful football.

Curious Quotes

NFLN’s Brian Billick commenting on Tom Brady’s bodacious numbers compiled against the woeful Bears in Patriots huge win on Sunday (51-23):

............Billick.8.8.07.wc.cca.k.Allison.thumb

“If that (30-35 / 354y / 5td) is not (deserving of) a perfect quarterback rating, what is? The (QB) number is the most useless rating in the history of this game (Billick).”

When it comes to saber-think, Brian (QBR, WAR, etc.), ours is not to reason why, but to simply, obey. So they demand.

Wardrobe Dysfunction

Sunday NFL Countdown sought to fill morning air-time last game-day with a cutesy kids segment to honor the festive spirit of Halloween. It was called “Da Pumpkin Patch” as Mike Ditka handed out pumpkins & candy to youngsters dressed in their favorite team’s garb. All nice, all in good fun.

What wasn’t nice was the fashion statement in person of the female hostess (?) haunting the segment.

............ESPN.Jkinsocal.wc.cca.2.1.13.thumb

With advent of the new, hip-hop, flashy, noisy, hi-techy, stand & deliver ESPN, the “worldwide (monopoly) in sport” has seen fit to fit their female anchors with the latest & greatest in club-wear. The men remain in standard suit & tie.

This kid’s segment featured the hostess in high-heels and skin-tight leather pants. Inappropriate for any sport segment unassociated with TMZ and the like, but certainly poor style for a Sunday morning kid show.

I suspect the wardrobes of anchors and analysts are corporately directed. That means ESPN President John Skipper’s hand may be the one guiding the style or the hands of those that do “da” selecting.

There was another “Skipper” awhile back whose look was a tad mundan, for sure (See; Gilligan‘s Island), but at least Alan Hale’s wardrobe fit the deserted isle theme. As for “Ginger,” well, formal evening wear’s alwyas ship shape.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 9: Who Want’s It?

Cards (6-1) @ Dallas (6-2): 11-2 Fox 1:00 EST (GOTW2): AZ wins
Eagles (5-2) @ Houston (4-4): Fox 1:00: Philadelphia wins
Chargers (5-3) @ Miami (4-3): CBS 1:00: San Diego wins
Broncos (6-1) @ New England (6-2): CBS 4:30 (GOTW): Pats win
Ravens (5-3) @ Pittsburgh (5-3): NBC 8:35: Steelers win
Colts (5-3) @ New York (3-4): ESPN 11-3 8:35: Giants win

Record: 43 – 23 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: T.Romo, 9.26.10, wc.cca, A.Guel, 2m; P.Rivers, wc.cca, 1.12.14, J.Beall; J.Cutler, 11.1.09, wc.cca, M.Schadle; Astaire, RKO, Follow, 1936, wc.cca; Astaire & Rogers, Flying, wc.cca, RKO, 1933, wc.cca; B.Billick, wc.cca, 8.8.07, K.Allison; ESPN-HQ, Bristol, 2.1.13, Jkinsocal; cherries, wc.cca, 6-11, picdrome
Posted: 10-31-14 @ 11:58pm; edit 11-1 @ 10:43am EST

Spur-ring Change in an ESPN World

17 Aug

Earlier this month the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs took “one small step for (woman)” when they announced the hiring of the first female game coach in Association history in the person of Becky Hammon, a long time WNBA guard who is currently rostered on Spurs sister organization, the San Antonio Stars.

Side-bar: Sisters in step have to include 2014 Little League World Series ball-players Emma March (VAN) and Mo‘Ne Davis (PHI) who’re leaving their own imprints on the surface of Planet Equality.

Hammon will not be the first woman assistant coach in NBA history. That honor belongs to Lisa Boyer who worked as a Cavaliers practice coach in 2001-02 under John Lucas but was paid by the now defunct WNBA franchise Cleveland Rockers (1997 – 03).

Reigning NBA championship guru, Gregg Popovich, had this to say on the hire:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs (NBA.com / “Spurs / 8-5-14).”

......B.Hammon.wc.cca.5.09.P.Shilikov.1.2m

It remains to be shown this writer, however, if in fact Becky will actually be on Spurs’ payroll or instead compensated indirectly as was Ms. Boyer back in 2001 (“terms of the (Hammon) contract were not announced,” as is “club policy” / “Spurs” / NBA.com).

One would guess the Spurs go all in and make BH an official NBA coach upon conclusion of this WNBA season, her last, and then buckling-on her spurs for duty.

Side-bar sequel: Bear in mind Spencer Tracy’s (Drummond: Inherit the Wind (‘60)): “Progress was never a bargain, you have to pay for it.” Will more girls rising to higher levels of play simply mean more youngsters will feel pressured into using PEDs?

But while San Antonio and NBA look to’ve taken a step forward for gender equality, Disney’s sport media arm ESPN, the self-anointed “worldwide leader” in all things athletic, seem to have taken “one giant leap (backward) for mankind” when they recently opted for suspention (suspension + vacation) of their acerbic & self-satisfied First Take co-host, Stephen Smith, rather than outright dismissal, after Smith made dicey dialogue in wake of the NFL’s suspension of troubled Ravens’ run-back, Ray Rice.

......R.Rice.wc.cca.8.17.10.USAF-SS.B.Hughes.1.36m

The general Rice facts:

The Ravens’ star and then girlfriend Janay Palmer were both arrested in February for a disturbance at an Atlantic City hotel. The event occurred in an elevator where, upon exit, Rice was seen on video pulling Palmer, apparently out cold, into the hallway. Rice was charged with 3° aggravated assault. The next day both were married. In May, he entered a not guilty plea seeking entrance into a State “pretrial intervention program” or in alternative, a plea bargain requiring A/M counseling (“Ray” / NFL.com (AP) / 5-1-14).

In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the League’s punishment: a two-game suspension for Rice to start the 2014-15 season.

What exactly transpired in the elevator has not been made public and Rice is not talking, or, as ESPN’s Keith Olbermann has put it, Ray has not “owned up.”

The fact Rice was initially arrested, then indicted (GJ) in what looks to be an absence of mitigating facts that Palmer’s prone state was internally or drug induced, leaves only one reasonable assumption: she was victim of a serious, physical blow by the accused.

.......R.Goodell.8.30.12.wc.cca.2.9m.SSG.T.Wade.USMA

Goodell’s taken flak for what some see as serving up ‘punishment light’ in the Rice case, and that on top of what could seem to the casual observer as a kid-gloved prosecution.

I was in that camp myself early on, disappointed in what appeared a lack of leadership by Atlantic County prosecutor and NFL headquarters both. But I’ve come around.

When a party (Palmer) appears to have little or no desire to see the system of justice carried to its fullest extent, stronger evidence is wanting, the other party (Rice) is 1st time offender and precedent looms, ‘book throwing’ is out of the question . That’s this.

And keep in mind too that Goodell is hardly lacking in the wherewithal department when it comes to punishing wrongdoers, as Bountygate and Bullygate suspensions attested.

While my heart says Ray got off easy, the brain says Goodell’s 2-game ban was prudent.

But curiously, prudence proves a poor substitute where public perception demands more.

In the public’s eyes, League’s response to Rice speaks to a woeful lack of concern on the issue of domestic violence against women. Due to that perception, right or wrong as it is, NFL’s hard-on-the-eyes, pink-wear campaign, designed to aid fight versus breast cancer, with a welcome up-tick in female fandom, could experience a consumer backlash.

NFL’s actions on Rice are somewhat shaped by precedent, not so, for ESPN.

State crime codes, along w/ ancient mores & norms, provide that a person is permitted, even encouraged, to defend themselves or others in close proximity if under a physical threat that’s imminent, unavoidable (locales vary on retreat), presents threat of bodily harm and the force used is reasonable & necessary to repeal the threat.

Might such a defense be what Mr. Rice claimed: a physical force used on Palmer in the elevator was justifiable?

And this is where Mr. Smith’s comment red-flags.

On ESPN, Stephen used the word “provoke” to describe how generally, one (Palmer?) may help to bring about a physical retort by their own behavior. The concept self-defense would’ve sufficed there, but then, what self-respecting macho man wants to publicly admit to such a need in the presence of a woman?

Putting aside cheap word games, the question of force reasonably necessary arises.

A punch, slap, physical aggression from any adult, whichever gender, can be hurtful, even deadly serious. America’s female correctional facilities do not lack for residents.

But Ray Rice has thighs the size of tree trunks, arms as big as logs, and twice as fast.

That he appeared no worse for wear in video, albeit, not the clearest imagery, while Janay was laid-out prone on the hotel carpet, strongly suggests Rice was either the aggressor or at least exceeded his grant in S/D, or “provok(ery),” if you prefer.

.......S.Smith.wc.cca.7.31.10.Diversity1.101k

Smith is more than simply a TV commentator, he’s a network motif.

Beginning around 2012, the CT-based media giant swung to a different tack.

Stephen became the mid-day face of the new ESPN, a hip-hop happening network where everyone’s touchin’ screen, movin’ & groovin,’ but where at times you may feel you’re inside a big cocktail shaker: one part Ketel One® vodka, other, Real Housewives.

Then there’s old man Skip Bayless, the former face, back when his very popular 1st and 10 segment ruled the ratings but which was then surprisingly given the boot, who’s been demoted to the George “Gabby” Hayes saddle, i.e., side-kick.

ESPN’s new mission: youthenize, everything & always. These folk used to set the standard. Now they just drive in the same tired trends.

First shake-up, ditch the old reliables like Classic and ESPN News, in same manner CNN dumped Headline News for hardcore gossip. As if kids couldn’t handle quality.

In its place: ESPNU (can’t get enough SEC redo & Title IX), radio-TV amalgamations and their double-dip commercial spots, a flagship program (Sportscenter) that, when it’s not reduced to ticker-tape status at screen’s bottom is so packed to the port-holes w/teen soundtracks, club-wear dress & talking heads you’d think you were at a discothèque.

Enter Stephen, who joined forces with cocky kindred spirits C. Cowherd, T. Kornheiser and spit-sure, ex-jocks like Ted Bruschi, Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley as members in ESPN’s AKC: All-Knowing Club.

And the kids, like the adults who tune-in religiously to shock-jockery AM radio, eat it up like it were a Skittle®-coated, Oreo®-cookie ice-cream bar, so the Suits think.

If ESPN president John Skipper (2012) and Disney cohorts think for one minute that the new face and his line (“provoke”) will continue passing muster with the viewership they so desperately court (kids and women), they’ve got another thing coming.

But that’s one of the many beauty-marks on the monopoly figure: she’s never wrong, and when she is, she’s not. Hey, you want all-in, metaphors come with admission. Welcome to equality.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Posted: 8-17 @ 6:44 pm, EST
Photo credit: B.Hammon / wc.cca / P.Shilikov – 5.09 (x2);  R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSg – T.Wade / USMA / 2.9m;  R.Rice / wc.cca / 8.17.10 / USAF – SSg B.Hughes;  S.Smith / wc.cca / 7.31.10 / Diversity1 / 101k.

Edit: 8/17 @ 8:48pm