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Sports Media Musings: Bryant Gumbel & Shock Value, The Big Lead Impresses, Zolak Bolsters Broadcast

Bryant Gumbel on "Real Sports" (Courtesy Huffington Post)

Shocking…But That Was The Point

Bryant Gumbel knew his well-written, yet very misguided rant about David Stern and the NBA lockout would garner Hank Williams Jr.-esq attention. Gumbel compared Stern to a plantation owner on HBO’s “Real Sports.”

“Stern’s version of what has been going on behind closed doors has of course been disputed, but his efforts were typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys. It’s part of Stern’s M.O., like his past self-serving edicts on dress code and the questioning of officials. His moves were intended to do little more than show how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place.”

Gumbel ceded the analogy wouldn’t exactly go over well, which was alarming on many levels.

“Some will of course cringe at that characterization but Stern’s disdain for the players is as palpable and pathetic as his motives are transparent,” Gumbel said.

Usually when a public figure makes an off-color remark – whether premeditated or not – it is viewed as a short-sighted moment of self-inebriation. For example – and I’m only using this because it was recent – Hank Williams Jr. stumbled into his Obama/Hitler analogy. He didn’t participate knowing he wanted to get that one-liner off his chest.

Gumbel, on the other hand, acknowledges that the public will “cringe” and said it anyway. To me that suggests this was said to draw the ire of viewers and gain attention. I don’t buy the theory Gumbel was looking for street credibility among the black community. Why would he wait until now to use his “Real Sports” platform to espouse his image that way?

I actually caught wind of this on Wednesday, and assumed it would be something fresh for the BSMW readership. To my surprise, “The Big Show” spent a few segments broaching the subject Thursday. It was a nice change of pace. The co-hosts showed good rapport as Glenn Ordway was deferential to Michael Holley on the matter. Ordway and Holley were right to point out the Shaun Powell piece on ESPNNewYork. Powell’s take down of Gumbel’s proclamation was spot-on.

Meanwhile, during the same hour of programming, “Felger & Mazz” teased their rebuttal to the Dan Shaughnessy piece with Red Sox CEO, Larry Lucchino. I’m going to side with Bruce Allen’s media column – this is getting weird.

Michael Felger and (to a lesser extent) Tony Massarotti believe the story is about them. And that’s NEVER a good thing. Lucchino’s notes the media is “misleading” the public. It is transparent Felger is excited to be enthralled in this mess. He hasn’t been this fired up since Shawn Thorton said, “Suck it, Felger” following the Bruins Stanley Cup victory. The duo needs to retreat and start talking about the Patriots defense or the Bruins early season struggles to get back on track. For instance, the Kerry Byrne segment yesterday was a breath of fresh air.

I haven’t said this much, but Thursday was a win for the “Big Show.”

Quick Musings, Links

CSNNE.com has a better design. Still needs tweaking, though.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Gerry Callahan is still awesome in print.

Last night, on my way home from the gym, one of those elaborate “Free Credit Report” songs came on 93.7 FM. It sounded like an actual tune. And for a second, I was euphoric. My credulous attitude led me to believe the “Planet Mikey Show” was tossed in favor of Mike FM tunes. Hope quickly evaporated. Poor John Ryder.

Hated this column by WEEI’s Rob Bradford. He argues captains are worthless in baseball. Just because Jason Varitek was an awful captain doesn’t devalue the title. And yes, I realize only three teams in MLB have captains — but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be beneficial for more teams to appoint a leader.

In fact, I’d argue Varitek’s biggest failure this year was his admission the ‘C’ had no real impact on his role. Way to own it, Jason! Furthermore, this is an example of a column produced in reaction to the collapse. Look, its sports, sh!t happens. Not everything has to be a macro issue. Simmer down.

Colin Cowherd is delusional: He thinks his NFL picks move the lines in Vegas. I don’t listen to Cowherd’s radio show, and have seen “Sports Nation” sporadically — but he seems like a braggart. I can’t believe CBS almost launched a sitcom based off his life and career.

Speaking of ESPN’s Cowherd, remember when he was scolded for ordering listeners to blow up The Big Lead’s server? Feels like 10 years ago…

Now TheBigLead.com is, for my money, the best sports blog on the web. Even after being bought out, Jason McIntyre has maintained the integrity of the site and content has stayed on par. As a Patriot fan, McIntyre’s incessant Jets posts can be carping, but the rest of the country has to deal with ESPNBoston Bill Simmons. It feels like a fair trade. Another aspect which bothers me are the “sponsored posts” — but it’s only a slight mar on an otherwise great site. Here are two good sample posts from this week…

1.) Why did Adam Schefter sit on news of the Carson Palmer Trade?

2.) Stephen Douglas destroys FOX Columnist Bill Reiter. This is really an exemplar of what the blogosphere is all about. Reiter wrote a terrible piece and the ultimate watchdog – IE ‘The Internets’ – cries foul. A tidbit I enjoyed about the piece is Douglas insinuating Reiter knew the blogosphere would kill him for the column…

Before I get into the jackassery -  Yes, I’m fully aware that Reiter likely wrote this column in hopes that blogs would tell him what a jackass he was being. Reiter is “trolling hard,” as they say. You can’t simply say that LeBron James is one of the best basketball players alive. You have to take a hard stance one way or the other. He either is or he isn’t. Get on the train or f*** off. Pick a side and watch those page views grow.

Before I move on, I’m aware Deadspin and The Big Lead overlap with many of their stories. I just find Deadspin’s updated site design laborious to navigate. Plus, I enjoy each of the five regular writers on The Big Lead.

Liked this piece, by Chad Finn, on Scott Zolak’s new role as sideline analyst during Patriots radio broadcasts. I’ve said this about Zo before, but his enthusiasm is infectious. His passion is evident both on his mid-day show and also during game broadcasts. Two things I took away: 1.) Zo’s blunder leaving the mic on during the last Pats touchdown. High comedy; 2.) His reaction to the Tony Siragusa comparison, calling him a “goofball.” Umm, is it me or is Zo a goofball too? His Twitter description includes, “Shake & Bake.”

About Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is the author of the weekly Sports Media Musings column at Sports Of Boston. Hadfield is known as one of the top sports media critics in Boston. He also contributes to Boston Sports Media Watch. In November 2011, Hadfield helped launch the new SoB Point Taken blog featuring his podcasts & musings on sports, media and culture. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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