On Monday, I chose the seven media-type people/entities who had a terrific 2012. Alas, we live in a world that requires balance; there is a yin to every yang, a Garfunkel to every Simon, a Tiki to every Ronde, a Creed to every Nirvana, a Stallone to every Streep. So, regrettably, we now look at the seven media-type people/entities that had a poor 2012 or made 2012 worse for the rest of us.
Herman Edwards. It’s not really fair to single out Herman Edwards for ESPN’s brief -- well, maybe not that brief -- slide into Tim Tebow Dementia (Tim-entia, as ESPN might have called it, were they not so gripped by the disease). Certainly, the whole network went lunatic there for a while. But I still somehow feel like nobody lost their dignity more than Edwards. Part of this is because Edwards was one of the few people over there who had dignity to lose (Marcellus Wiley probably qualifies here too). But most of it is because the guy, responding to corporate fiat, so willing to please the bosses, put on a birthday hat and sang “Happy Birthday” and ate cake because it was the birthday of the Jets’ third-string quarterback. The bottom video at this link is one of the most depressing sports clips I’ve ever seen. No one should have to go through that.
The “First Take” Dopes. Sure, what Rob Parker said about RGIII was idiotic, but the whole debacle took away from the central fact about “First Take”: It’s making our world of sports dumber. Keep in mind that the show has been playing this race-baiting game for years; a friend once joked that the show should be called, “Black Men Justifiably Yelling at Horrible Things that Skip Bayless Says to Bait Them (and Therefore the Audience).” It's revealing that the voice of reason in the Parker incident was Stephen A. Smith. If that guy is the one who restores order and logical discourse, it’s time to reevaluate how you arrived at this point. The problem is not that “First Take” is awful; every industry has hucksters aiming at the lowest, lamest, easiest fruit in the orchard to score quick, cynical profits. Most industries see this for the dreck that it is -- even when it’s successful dreck -- and know that you need to balance the lowest-common-denominator approach with at least obligatory nods at quality, at discourse, at value. The problem is that, in the same way everyone in sports blindly aped the successful “Pardon the Interruption" (which led to “Around the Horn”), everyone now is trying to copy the "success" of "First Take." (And it’s key to put “success” in quotes there.) It's horrifying to ponder what the Xerox’d, third-level removed, “Around the Horn”-esque version of “First Take” could possibly be. My guess: a show with monkeys throwing feces at each other, or maybe two people hitting themselves in the head with rocks.
Lynn Hoppes. ESPN's resident entertainment writer is such a minor figure at the network that putting him on this list (or putting him through the ringer so thoroughly as Deadspin regularly does) seems beside the point, piling on… eradicating an ant with an atom bomb. But the scary part about Hoppes’ apparently thriving existence at ESPN is how it can feel sometimes like a representative of just how far that place has fallen. When you have John Walsh -- Inside Sports founder John Walsh! Rolling Stone managing editor John Walsh! The guy who’s supposed to be the grownup over there John Walsh -- telling a journalism class (of all places) that Deadspin has gone after Hoppes’ plagarism and hackery because of a “rumor” he heard about a dispute over a girl, a “rumor” immediately and hilariously debunked… you know you've got concerns. Lynn Hoppes is not the problem at ESPN. Lynn Hoppes -- who once defended Dan Snyder! -- is, however, the most worrisome, and glaring, symptom.
Rick Reilly. Reilly has a distinct advantage over everyone else on this list in that he has been great before and therefore could perhaps be great again. But I doubt many are holding their breath for that to happen, as I've covered in detail. Perhaps he can garner some tips from Steve Young.
T.J. Simers. Simers used to be the snide, this-is-all-kind-of-silly-isn’t-it? palate-cleansing columnist for the L.A. Times. He was derivative, but had his appeal. Now, though? Now he’s the guy who goes into locker rooms and press conferences just to call everyone a jackass and then pretends it somehow resembles “journalism.” At least when Skip Bayless trolls, he’s smart enough to get TV money for it. (And doesn’t pretend he’s above it all.) I’m not sure what Simers is trying to prove, other than that a huge number of people enter the world of sportswriting because they love sports, only to retire hating everything and everyone associated with it.
The Sporting News. I say this as someone who still writes for the organization occasionally -- at least until they read this, maybe! -- and deeply admires many members of the editorial staff: They can talk all they want about SN just going through a “transition,” but the fact is, the print publication that has been around for 126 years no longer exists. I don’t blame them entirely for this -- ‘tis the way of the industry, and hey, I obviously love the world of online -- but we should probably all stop pretending we aren’t losing something important and lasting, no matter the (justifiable) business reasons. There are still lots of smart, devoted people working there; it’s just sad, that’s all. That said, if you decided you had a hard time having much sympathy for the organization that published this, I’d understand where you were coming from.
Isiah Thomas. He was just hired by NBA TV as an analyst, which means I can include him on this media worst-of list now. Because Isiah Thomas must be included on all worst-of lists. I think it’s a law now.
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I had more fun writing the best-of-2012 column. Remember, this column is meant as a valve, a release, for when you’re yelling at your television during games, or, after reading a particular column, you’re pounding your fists into your computer. Obviously, I’ll need your help to do that. Anything you want me to write about, let me know, through email or Twitter. I am at your beck and call.