An Odd Hill To Die On

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I’ve absorbed the Jemele Hill kerfuffle – and that’s all it is, this too shall pass – for a week now. And I guess I am left with this one question: “What makes her happy in life?” I would assume she’s thrilled at this broadcast opportunity she’s been given – hosting SportsCenter with her kindred journalistic and ethnic brother Michael Smith. What a break! What a gig!

Talking sports on TV. That MUST make her happy, no?

So in light of the controversy, is she happier now that she’s been lionized by her supporters for not just speaking “truth to power” but shit-talking it to it’s face? Or is she miserable and paranoid that a weak moment on social media has perhaps poisoned her best chance at a lengthy and influential run on the (still) premiere sports network in America?

I’ve heard both theories. Jason Whitlock seems to think this is a well orchestrated exit plan, for a show that’s sinking. Bill Simmons however, thinks she’s brilliantly checkmated the network into “needing her, more than she needs them.” I dunno. I suppose it depends on what her “long game” is. She could certainly hop-step to another non-sports cable network like CNN or MSNBC and be another political voice for the left. But that field is crowded, and full of more experienced and talented on air personalities that already share her social virtues to the hilt.

I read a good piece about how this new SC6 came to be, and how Hill had bounced around the Bristol TV Funhouse and various shows up until now. I totally understand how she and Smith wanted to make THEIR version of SportsCenter one that delivered the sports, but also delivered a more black-oriented pop culture, all while being socially conscious.

If they could make that combination actually WORK, while bringing in and holding the curious and open minded. If they could somehow deliver sustainable ratings, what a powerful addition to the media landscape that would be! What doors that might open to the NEXT Jemele Hill and Michael Smith? Right?

So far, its not working. Prior to the Trump Tweetstorm, ratings for the 6 p.m. SportsCenter were down almost 20% from a year ago. This won’t help. It’s hard to think a viewer, aware of the controversy who voted for Trump for a variety of reasons but none of them racist, would feel welcome inviting Ms. Hill into their home. If ratings plunge another 20% this year, then I’d have a hard time seeing ESPN renew her deal. No matter how much her immediate bosses like her style, and agree with her politics, there are people and forces above those bosses who might end up calling the shots.

I would hope that Hill cares most about making every effort to reward her company for the chance it gave her, by delivering a show that’s economically viable, if not robust. If she doesn’t feel she owes it to ESPN, then I’d hope she at least sees the SC6 project as bold, but fragile, and something that deserves protection from downward forces above all else. It’s her baby. Protect it!

To quote one of the 3 rap songs I know anything about… as Eminem said..

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime….

At this point, the shot has been played. You can’t go back, fluff it up, tone it down, explain it away. It’ll either make her a modern media superstar, or sink ESPN’s latest experiment to Make SportsCenter Great Again.

18 COMMENTS

  1. When she graduated from Michigan State, Jemele Hill got a job at the Detroit Free Press, writing MSU sports. At the time I was struck by how awkward her writing was. Later it smoothed out a bit, as if they assigned an editor to watchdog her articles. But if you were to ask me then which Freep writer not named Mitch Albom would become a national figure, I wouldn’t have guessed Jemele Hill in a million years. She has no appreciable talent for writing and only an armchair knowledge of sports … which, as it turned out, was the ideal skillset for where ESPN wanted to go.

    My highly fallible crystal ball says it won’t take. It didn’t work for Keith Olbermann, who has a great deal of talent. Skin color won’t be enough to make the difference for Ms. Hill, who will be podcasting to thousands within a couple of years.

  2. Worked at place once where company was afraid of discrimination law suits some times different rules for different people could be what is going on here

  3. Thus why I have given up on the 4 Letter network. If I want political commentary [left or right] I’ll watch that type of show. I want sports, sports , sports.
    Miss ya Czabe, as our local morning sports talk is Mike and Mike, or what ever they are calling themselves. It is horrible.

  4. I wish someone would finally call BS on this Trump supporter white supremacy crap. If she really believes what she says then call Tom Brady and Robert Kraft white supremacists. She has the platform to do it. The Patriots gave Trump a ring. Are they all white supremacists. No, they are not. Is Tom Brady one, No. Is Robert Kraft, No. ESPN and their stupid hosts know this too. This has gotten so out of hand.

    • I have an idea for ESPN. Put together a show where Jemele Hill, Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant can give their “facts” on why Trump is a White Supremacist. Then let Ben Carson, Robert Kraft, and Sheriff Clark respond. I’d pay good money to see that! Please Lord let that happen.

      • I wouldn’t say he is a white supremacist, but he has clearly shown over the years that he is a racist human being. Based on the things he has said, and done it is hard to argue that

  5. My impression of the show was that they showed intro credits/ Jemele & Michael ditties for what seemed like 20% of their broadcasts. A 3 minute intro to the show? Returning from every break with a Jem & Mike skit, like they were trying to fill time. That’s when I stopped watching.

  6. You are quick to comment, when the players take a political position. Apparently they are to just stick to sports and shut up. But all is fair for Trump to attack the players with derogatory language right? Will you provide your opinion piece on that too?? You are quick to point out that ESPN is out there to improve its ratings, but i didn’t see any single article from you when Curt Schilling said what he had to say on ESPN too. Different rules for different people, based on color is it not? Can’t wait to hear what you have to say

  7. Mike & Mike have led the AM sports broadcasting telecasts because of their deal to stick to sports. They have been around for almost 20 years and have not diverged from this concept. If and when they do touch on politics in sports, it is brief and well said…then back to sports. They understand their audience is vast, diverse, and have many points of view. SC6 and ESPN in general could take many lessons from them. Is it a coincidence that during this time of left shift associated with the 4-letter that they are also ending the aforementioned long running show?

  8. This isn’t new – ESPN hasn’t stuck to sports in over two decades. I stopped watching Sportscenter long long ago and only tune in when it comes on after the game I was watching and only when I can pause it, come back then skip through the stories I don’t want to hear. I miss when sports channels and sports broadcasts discussed sports from an x’s and o’s standpoint instead of obsessing about who is in the stands, what a panel of 50 ex-athletes thinks about something insanely minute, crappy sponsored segments and pre-recorded clips, and useless closeups on the players and coaches sometimes at the expense of the actual game. Do we really need animated starting lineups or special graphics for Phil Simms’ keys to the game? Just show the damn game. That includes the anthems, the breast cancer pink flags and all the other crap larding up a broadcast. I want Tirico in a booth with Mike Mayock or Hubie Brown and the old wildcat satellite feed. I’m so done with the lard.

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