FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
Our May media lessons/conclusions:
### Your mailman has as good a chance predicting these NBA playoff series as the guy on television.
Charles Barkley bristles whenever TNT's Ernie Johnson calls him an expert. “We’re just guys giving opinions,” Barkley says.
Barkley’s right, if only because his recent predictions couldn’t have been more wrong. And he isn’t alone.
Jeff Van Gundy, one of the best TV analysts in any sport, inexplicably predicted, in mid-April, that the Houston Rockets would win the championship.
Barkley said in February that Evan Turner’s acquisition would seal the Eastern Conference title for the Pacers (Turner’s impact has been negligible), said the Wizards would beat the Pacers (they didn’t) and insisted San Antonio’s “old players” would struggle against Portland (they were very good). And Barkley, of course, predicted the Pacers would oust the Heat from the playoffs last season.
Shouldn’t analysts know more than the average fan? Sure. But predicting results is risky business, and Barkley expresses opinions with such conviction that he leaves himself open to ridicule when he’s wrong.
TNT pays Barkley for his larger-than-life personality, snappy one-liners and ability to draw casual fans to a postgame show that often airs very late on the East Coast. And if faulty predictions undermine Barkley’s credibility with fans, it hasn’t seemed to hurt his talent for drawing eyeballs. Viewers are watching Barkley to be amused and entertained –-- he does that better than anybody --- not for advice on bets.
(And what about Barkley's assertion that Heat supporters aren't "real fans"? It's unjustified, obviously, but don't take it seriously. He likes to needle Heat fans after they taunted him during TNT's postgame shows outside AmericanAirlines Arena a few years ago.)
### Be careful trusting mock drafts.
Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock do outstanding work, but Kiper had only five player-to-team picks correct in his final first round mock draft, and Mayock four --- an indication of the difficulty of this exercise. As recently as February, Kiper’s mock draft listed UF’s Marcus Roberson and Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson as first-rounders. Neither was drafted.
### Show professionalism when criticizing players.
WQAM-560’s Brandon Guzio was a bit too personal and confrontational in recent Twitter criticism of Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline.
It’s fine for Guzio to say the Dolphins should cut Hartline based on cap savings and that Brandon Gibson is “the better player,” though I don’t agree with Guzio on either opinion.
But Guzio crossed the line by tweeting: “Hopefully, Fins cut Hartline after this [Jarvis Landry] pick. Get that fool off my team.” And “take a walk, Hart.”
Guzio then added: “Catches balls with his chest, zero yards after catch, no separation, only reason he gets # is because him and his wife hang out with Tannehills.”
(By the way, Hartline's 4.4 yards after catch average ranked 77th of 111 qualifying receivers last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.)
Hartline, trying to become the first Dolphins receiver with three consecutive 1000-yard seasons, responded on Twitter with this, among other comments: “I embrace criticism but your lack of knowledge is astonishing.”
Guzio shot back: “Lack of knowledge!? I think Dolphins fans who are realistic think my evaluation of your game is spot on.”
WQAM program director Andy King said he does not believe Guzio's tweets were inappropriate and noted Guzio did not include Hartline’s Twitter handle in his tweets, which King believes makes a difference. (I don't believe it makes any difference. Calling someone a "fool" is insulting regardless.)
### Steve Kerr is going to be missed badly on TNT’s NBA game coverage.
Kerr’s sensible analysis, understated humor, candor and quick retorts to Marv Albert’s quips have made him one of the top 10 TV analysts in sports, and his decision to coach Golden State leaves a huge void on Turner’s staff.
Reggie Miller holds one of TNT’s top two analyst slots but there’s no obvious choice for the other. Chris Webber has improved marginally but still spews too many head-scratchers, such as “you can’t take losing for granted.” (Huh?)
Greg Anthony and Steve Smith are serviceable but too dull to enhance the viewer experience during games that aren’t compelling. The wild card could be Barkley, if he asks Turner to allow him to do more games. Retiring Heat forward Shane Battier also figures to apply.
### If you say you want to be treated just like everyone else, don’t give the green-light to your own reality show.
Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, presumably learned that lesson when he decided, along with Oprah Winfrey’s Network, to put on hold (perhaps permanently) his reality show.
### It’s not a good idea to order the beaning of a 10-year-old player during a youth baseball tournament, even more so if you work in television!
Former Phillies closer Mitch Williams reportedly did that recently (according to Deadspin) and now he’s on leave from his job as an MLB Network analyst.
### Former players hired without broadcasting experience need more coaching.
Exhibit A: Carl Pavano. The former Marlins pitcher, hired recently for a Marlins studio job, has a pleasant demeanor, but isn’t anybody at Fox Sports Florida telling him he needs to say something substantive?
Pavano’s cliché-ridden analysis has consisted largely of stating the obvious or offering something of a pep talk to struggling players. Based on off-air discussions with him over the years, we suspect he’s capable of more, but it would help if somebody at Fox would offer guidance on what qualifies as cogent analysis and what doesn’t.
### Networks can’t resist hiring sideline reporters, even if they feel they’re obsolete.
After previously opining that sideline reporters aren’t particularly necessary on NFL games, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus promoted Tracy Wolfson to that role this week, on the network’s lead team. She had been working CBS’ SEC games.
Wolfson will work CBS' Thursday night package, among other games. Incidentally, James Brown, Deion Sanders and Bill Cowher will handle the CBS pre-game and postgame shows on those games.