Stephen A. Smith’s CNN ramble, worst part of ‘The Last Dance’


No more phone calls, please! We have a winner!

First, a moment to give thanks for being truly blessed throughout this pandemic to have been served by relentless over-the-air geniuses — especially Mike Francesa and Stephen A. Smith, both of whom take themselves very seriously as per their advanced media megalomania.

Both stir themselves into a thick gravy for Blowhard Stew, to be served to audiences eager for double-talking redundancies, bad guesses dished out as facts and generous slices of Self-Promotional Pie for dessert.

We had to wait to see if it was a record, and last week it was confirmed: Smith, chosen and paid $10 million per to be ESPN’s Mr. Knows Everything, on March 22 appeared on CNN, breaking the broadcasting record for giving the longest non-answer answer in public discourse history.

What Smith could have achieved in four words — “I have no idea” — he accomplished in a speech that blended Professor Irwin Corey’s mangled-English stage routine with Sinclair Lewis’ phony evangelical money-chaser, Elmer Gantry.

CNN anchor Michael Smerconish opened with a crack about the paucity of live sports programming on ESPN during the pandemic, to which Smith delivered one of his rambling say-nothing, grammar-defying speeches. I don’t know where to insert the commas, periods, colons, semicolons or Bartolo Colons, let alone where paragraphs end, but hang on to your Fritos, here goes:

“Well, listen, as far as I’m concerned, at this particular moment in time, obviously we’re dealing with very trying times. There’s no denying that, you can’t get around that, but the flip side is that all week long on “First Take” on ESPN [co-hosted by Smith], we been talking a lot about NFL free agency — let’s not forget that the NFL was king.

“Right now with free-agency, we were wondering about where Tom Brady was going to go, what he was going to sign for, the Drew Brees’ of the world signing an extension, Todd Gurley getting let go by the Los Angeles Rams and ultimately signing with the Atlanta Falcons, so the list goes on and on.

“So you’ve got NFL free agency in terms of what teams are going to do to improve. And the NFL draft coming up, as well.

“Now obviously, you’re going back and forth with commentary, pundancy and what have you. There’s a lot of different opinions out there about a lot of different things — whether it’s the NBA, the NFL, what have you. There’s usually something to talk about. Clearly we’re compromised to some degree because the games are not going on right now because of the suspensions by the leagues or what have you.

“But nevertheless, right now there’s still been a lot of content to engage in and to banter back and forth about, because that’s what we been doing. And to be quite honest with you, that’s what we plan to continue to do.”

And that was just for starters.

Sensing that Smith paused to inhale, Smerconish, who had retained consciousness, asked another question to which Smith gave a similarly protracted, worthless answer. This time, however, he said of an abbreviated NBA season, “Who knows?” — the only sensible words he spoke though he asked it rhetorically then word-danced his way to, “As NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPNs very own Rachel Nichols, you know what, they’re working with health officials.”

As for Smith’s self-impressed word inventions — pundancy! — he reminded me of Dr. Elmer Staffley, the word wizard played by Ray Goulding on the old Bob (Elliott) and Ray radio shows.

Dr. Staffley would explain word derivations and meanings with, “Do I make myself adhesive?” “Have I clarificated that?” and how he’s always happy “to have applicated.”

In total, Smith spent 6:22 saying anything and nothing. As gasbags go, he made the Graf Zeppelin appear like a “Get Well Soon” balloon.

Sports-less sports channels doesn’t mean refund

Once again the loss of live sports programming has inspired cable and satellite systems and programmers to continue to pocket the money of subscribers in return for nearly nothing. No refunds, no credits, no one answering the phones.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James two weeks ago released a statement calling for fair play by the TV industry in at least reducing the cost of sports-less sports networks and delivery systems, but such gentle efforts are easily ignored by an industry steeped in influence peddled to politicians by lobbyists.

Letitia James
Letitia JamesAP

If James and her office want to be taken seriously by both the TV industry and the constituents she has vowed to protect, she must muscle up and start throwing her weight around.

And for those subscribers who felt that the Dolan Family abused them when they owned Cablevision — a justifiable position considering it was the most expensive system in the country — Altice, the French-owned giant that purchased Cablevision (no make-goods on lost programming), makes the Dolans seem like benevolent despots.

Who’s the best? Who cares?

The worst part of that ESPN Bulls documentary is that it has fueled sports talk show hosts to renew foolish, childish debate as to who is/was better, Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Can’t they both be great and leave it at that? Are there no circumstances and supporting casts to consider? Or must it always be a matter of silly rankings?

Fascinating how fans with a modicum of foresight immediately knew the NFL’s new pass interference replay rule would be an absurdity, yet the NFL had no clue.

NBC News’ “Today” show continues to be a shameless platform to sell NBC programming. Last Wednesday, it presented an “Exclusive announcement”: “Today” then interviewed a fellow attached to a pro lacrosse league, with at least two mentions that its games are scheduled to appear on NBC.

Tiz the Law, a New York bred, won the Kentucky Derby. It just hasn’t been run yet.

A Russ Salzberg WABC-Radio “Get a Load of This” podcast last week asked a very good question: When this virus pandemic is licked, will it be back to business as usual for leagues, schools and sports business partners of all kinds who depend on cheap and often mistreated Red Chinese labor for their huge profits? I’ll go with, “Yes, definitely.”

So the Capitals dumped winger Brendan Leipsic for vulgar, misogynist tweets. As CBS’ Verne Lundquist told us several years ago, the most dangerous word in our language has become “SEND.”

How I know the virus has changed my life: Last week I begged my wife to take me with her when she went out to buy cheese.

Nurses Week has ended, but in this space the salute and the call remain, “Nurse!”

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