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4/11/12

Poor Jalen Rose Goes Slumming on First Take with Skip Bayless

I have a policy that explicitly prohibits me from watching First Take. It’s my own personal “common sense” clause. I just can’t get caught up in things that I PERSONALLY believe insult my intelligence. First Take is a lot like wrestling except wrestling thrives on the fact that everyone knows it’s fake. First Take survives by people–especially athletes–thinking it’s real.

It’s like going to see a drama and being shown a bad comedy.

I have been enticed to watch First Take THREE times since my common sense clause went into effect. Once for Nnamdi Asomugha who is so dreamy I just had to see him talk. Once for Chris Bosh who is currently my favorite basketball player (just a bit above Kevin Durant) and a frequent target of Skip’s offensive sexual baiting (Bosh Spice? fuck you, dude).

Today was the third time I watched (and I didn’t watch it all, let’s be clear). But I had to at least see a little bit of it because Jalen Rose was on and I’ve been a HUGE fan of his for a very long time (reference point: long before he made peace with Larry Brown!) and I hate that he’s on at odd times and I can never catch him doing anything. Today’s broadcast was sparked by Jalen’s appearance on-air yesterday where he confronted Skip about his inability to play basketball sparking a fuller ratings ploy… I mean conversation, for today.

From the parts that I saw, this is what stuck out to me:

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  • There was a point where Jalen literally had to explain to Skip that he wasn’t nice. I really don’t understand how one man has to explain to other grown men why name calling someone is wrong. If you want to name call (and sometimes I do!) then that’s your bag, but don’t pretend (as Skip did) that you made it to 60 years old and didn’t realize that wasn’t a nice thing to do.
  • Stephen A. Smith is still riding his relationship with Allen Iverson. He mentioned that Iverson should love him because there’s lot sof things he knew about him he could have written but didn’t. I blame Iverson for the fact that Stephen A exists. When I lived in Philadelphia I couldn’t stomach Stephen and I can’t stomach him now. There are definitely times when he’s done good interviews and gotten information out of athletes that others may not have been able to get out of them. But his sheer arrogance makes him so hard to take and despite bragging about his relationships every two seconds he still doesn’t get the role that they’ve played in providing him a platform to speak at all. You owe them Stephen, not the other way around.
  • There was also a weird part where Stephen said Shaq’s mother told him that she was disappointed in him because he hadn’t been hard enough on Shaq. That was a sort of dog whistle to me. Shaq’s mother may have said something to that effect, I won’t argue that. But Stephen’s decision to bring it up (along with other examples of folks being angry about his coverage) just feeds into the broader meme that these athletes all ultimately need external forces to push them cause you know people just laze their way into starting NBA positions no hard work necessary.
  • In one segment of the conversation Skip and Stephen unwittingly indicted themselves and their work while, I assume, trying to make themselves look better than other analysts. Skip said there’s been times when he’s gotten close to athletes and had difficulty reporting on them. He said that he worries that others get too close to athletes and then take shots because they’re, presumably, upset about what Skip has said about their “friend.” I figured this was in reference to Chris Broussard’s relationship with Lebron which sparked a fight between the two last year. This illustrates the difficulty with having people who purport to still be working reporters–which could just be having a radio show the way Stephen does–who have regular contact with athletes and then have to go and analyze them. This is something I think bears discussion on a credible show.

The biggest point of contention people seemed to come away from this with was whether or not people who haven’t played a sport can criticize athletes. I think that’s an idiotic question; however, I do understand the catalyst behind asking–it stems from wondering whether or not a media so self-obsessed with its own ability to “make or beak” an athlete’s reputation can be TRUSTED to provide an opinion that doesn’t belong in a toilet.

But the reality is, the phenomena of athletes acting as broadcasters with such frequency is still a fairly new occurrence.  The thought of limiting analysis to athletes would have sounded silly on its face 15 years ago. I think both journalists and professional athletes have shown themselves capable of handing analysis (or bombing at it).

The bigger question here is can members of the media cover athletes in a way that informs and entertains while still treating athletes with basic respect? For a long time the answer was unequivocally yes. But, increasingly, on television at least, the answer is no. But again, whether or not someone treats athletes with respect comes down to the individual.  Having played professional ball in the past isn’t the biggest indicator of whether or not someone will be fair.

I believe it was mentioned by Jalen that even bad professional basketball players are still incredible at what they do. But as I’ve complained about before again and again and again Joe Sixpack sitting at home, whose biggest contribution to sports analysis is that Russell Westbrook takes too many shots isn’t really interested in nuanced analysis. This is his soap opera. His reality TV.

Desperate appeals to that kind of laissez faire sports fan have become norm and First Take is the leader of the movement. ESPN has made it very clear they are happy to feed that beast as long as they’re trending on twitter.

What disappoints me is the athletes who allow themselves to be racially or sexually baited into coming on the show and yes that includes Jalen although he is employed by ESPN. ESPN has convinced athletes that their masculinity is somehow in question if they won’t “stand up” and debate puny little Skip Bayless. It’s the biggest scam ever pulled in sports television. And one that I do not happen to enjoy. I’m a woman so pay this opinion no mind, but I think that an adult male that wants another adult male to come on his show should approach that adult male like an adult male. But there must be something in the testosterone that makes any challenge seem like a good one.

I said this morning that Jalen’s appearance on First Take was beneath him. And someone said “how so?” I didn’t answer then, but I’ll answer now. If you take a subject seriously and another person doesn’t, when you choose to engage in debate with them you already lost.

So yeah, everyone’s on Jalen’s dick today. And they’re all like “yeah yeah Jalen killed Skip.”

But like I’ve said a million times before: You can’t kill someone who won’t know they’re dead.

 

Update 1:  TV sports ratings says that 263K people watched First Take today but of course that doesn’t include those who watched post-video and not the live show.

Update 2: In my rush to get my thoughts out I neglected the obvious point: Jalen was so good–respectful, eloquent and thoughtful. But of course that goes without saying. So I didn’t say it. But I’m saying it now.

 

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