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.