I had a chance yesterday to watch a tape of last Wednesday's edition of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the morning – with Trey Wingo subbing for Mike Golic alongside Mike Greenberg. This happened to be the morning that Maurice Clarett was arrested, and I am trying to compile some material about that. As with all sports talk – four hours affords ample opportunity both to cover lots of ground, and to repeat the same things over and over again.
But, I just wanted to quickly play the role of fact-checker here – because unlike the PTI boys who have, at times, employed a fact-checker who comes on at the end of the show to call Kornheiser and Wilbon on their mistakes, there’s no such accountability on Mike and Mike – and Greenberg and Wingo made at least three noteworthy ones on Wednesday’s show:
1) Wednesday was also the morning after Roger Goodell was named the new NFL commissioner. In describing the unparalleled success of the league under Tagliabue, how it’s by far the most important, most popular phenomenon in American sports, Wingo said that, no question, the “NFL is at its nadir right now.” Of course, nadir means low point, and Wingo meant to say Zenith. It’s a trivial mistake, but since Greenie and Trey took time out of the same show to insult Paris Hilton’s intelligence (not to mention Mike Golic’s reading ability) I thought this was fair game.
2) In their discussion of where the NFL is today, compared to when Tagliabue took over in 1989, Greenberg asserted that many of their young listeners would not remember that baseball was still king of American sports in 1989. This is untrue. In fact, according to several sources, including Ken Burns’ exhaustive nine-part series, “Baseball” – football overtook baseball as America’s most popular sport as far back as the 1960s. Football has widened that advantage over the past dozen years or so, as Gary Gillette showed in his recent ESPN article (http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/insider/columns/story?columnist=gillette_gary&id=2537972) scrutinizing Bud Selig’s claim that baseball has never been more popular. But, while, according to some measures, baseball has now slipped behind even basketball, by 1989 football was clearly King in America.
3) Finally, in comparing Drew Brees to Jake Delhomme, Wingo argued that Delhomme was the better QB and noted that, in the past two seasons, Delhomme had 53 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, compared to 51 TDs and 22 picks for Brees. Now, I have watched a lot of Panthers’ games over the past two years, and I like Delhomme a lot, but the host of ESPN’s NFL live has got to know that Delhomme does not perform at the level of efficiency of a Joe Montana. Those numbers should have sounded wrong to him as soon as he saw them on the card he was reading. In fact, Delhomme threw sixteen interceptions in 2005 alone, and his two year totals are 53 TDs and 31 interceptions – much less efficient than Brees. This is an egregious mistake – the rough equivalent of calling a .300 hitter a .350 hitter.
A couple of other quick comments about the Wednesday show. One, it’s been a summer of controversy in sports – from the Floyd Landis and Justin Gatling scandals, to the legal troubles of the Bengals, to the bizarre Clarett saga, but it is still striking to me how much of the sports conversation is taken up with discussions of character – whether in discussing the various off-the-field legal troubles of athletes, doping scandals, various and sundry falls from grace, or whether Greenie should or should not have bought a baseball for his four year old son that had Barry Bonds’ autograph on it (Greenie returned it to the shelf while hisson wasn’t looking). Much of the four hour show was devoted to these issues.
Two, and related to the first comment, Greenberg and Wingo had an interesting discussion that day of falls from grace, prompted by the early-morning arrest of Clarett. Among those mentioned were Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Pete Rose, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Greenberg and Wingo agreed that by the Fall of 1998 McGwire was the biggest star in sports (I’d have to agree) and noted how well he handled everything – his emotion, his desire to include the Maris family in the celebration as he approached and finally passed Roger Maris’ record. But, they also observed that while McGwire was “Bunyanesque” and “universally beloved” he was also often surly and ornery with the media. I can’t help but wondering here whether any Black athlete could be both surly and ornery with the media and universally beloved. For those of you started reading this blog more recently, I addressed this issue in some depth back in May, in a discussion of Barry Bonds and race. Here’s the link, FYI: