To somebody, this looked like a winner. I’m sure.
Mostly likely, this show sounded great to likes of Andy Roddick, Donovan McNabb, Gary Payton… and legendary o-lineman Ephraim Salaam. “A sports show? About nothing but our opinions! I’m in!”
I’m guessing their agents rolled in and pulled out guns to some dopey Fox TV execs at gunpoint who thought they were assembling the 1927 Yankees of sports television. Nothing smells like fresh TV talent money, all wrapped in hope at toppling the mighty 4-red-letter cable monster in the Connecticut woods.
I mean, shocker that the magical chemistry of a one-time grand slam winning tennis player chatting up sports, life, and general bro-life with a random ex-NFL lineman had very little appeal, or staying power. Shocker. Makes me wonder which athletes just missed the cut in the audition room.
Shoulda just sat the lovely and sharp Charissa Thompson (bias alert: fellow USCB alum!) on a couch and had her take calls and read scores. I woulda watched.
Then of course, there was Regis with “Crowd Goes Wild.”
And these were just the start of a long line of bad ideas and half-baked concepts over the next 4 years of FS1’s existence. Ken Fang of Awful Announcing has an excellent timeline of all of this here.
The latest incarnation of Jamie Horowitz’s “Embrace Debate” strategy is also doomed to fail. Mostly because it’s not going to be sustainable. In a few years, the public will tire of forced debate, microwaved opinions, and the constant mashing of whatever is deemed “hot” at the time. (Tebow, Cowboys, LeBron, Lavar Ball.. and so on…)
Of all the current FS1 “stars” only Whitlock comes across to me as being remotely “real.” And yet he polarizes, because some think he takes intentionally counter-intuitive stances as part of his “schtick.” I don’t see that. He supports his stances intellectually with some meaty arguments, especially the more controversial ones. I feel like if I sat next to Whitlock in first class on a cross country flight, we’d have a great conversation full of both disagreements and laughs.
If I sat next to Cowherd, I’d put on my headphones and fall asleep. Bayless, I’d ask to move back to coach.
Of course, nothing may matter anyway if your sports network doesn’t have THE GAMES. Or if cable-cutting continues at its current pace. Still, I’d like to think there’s an audience to be found when you present game highlights in a way that stimulates the rabid sports fan.
I seem to recall that the ORIGINAL Fox Sports national highlight show delivered much meatier highlight packages at night, with some coaches-level analysis of what was going on. Or maybe I’m dreaming. Good sports TV shouldn’t be a mystery to produce.
Get smart people who are independent thinkers and can communicate. Have those people love sports, not themselves. Then let these people splash around in the sports pool as their creative instincts move them. If they want to mercilessly mock Russell Westbrook’s pre-game clothing, let ’em do it. If Westbrook or his agent calls to complain, say “fuck you” and hang up.
Be beholden to nobody. Sports leagues take cable TV money, then turn around and act like THEY are the client and can push around producers and hosts into being non-controversial pussies. “Hey, we just wrote you a check for $1 billion to carry your games. Piss off.”
If a talent is a no-name now, but creative as hell, hire him anyway. If he’s good, he’ll be famous soon enough. Think Jimmy Kimmel. Ever heard of him?