Craig James as symptom, rather than disease

Stewart Mandel doesn’t exactly have a high opinion of Craig James.

Mandel: I wouldn’t trust Craig James to report on sixth-grade volleyball. It’s been established, via documented emails, that he not only encouraged a sitting Big 12 football coach’s dismissal but hired a PR firm to intentionally manipulate coverage. And yet he’s still walking into Big 12 coaches’ offices every week to break down tape. Now he’s running partisan political advocacy ads, which you would think would be a no-no for a television analyst (I seem to recall Lou Holtz getting in trouble simply for endorsing a candidate). How he’s still on television (and in prominent time slots at that) is one of the great mysteries of modern civilization.

That’s harsh.  Hell, the worst thing Mandel ever said about college football bloggers who got on his nerves was that they needed to shower and shave more regularly.

This wasn’t something overheard between Mandel and a couple of his Montana buddies over beers during happy hour at a sports bar.  It’s part of a rather extraordinary exchange between him, Andy Staples and a couple of other SI.com writers.  And it’s Staples who hits on the real puzzle for me when he says,

… Craig James, because he adds very little to the broadcast, and ESPN has sacrificed much of its journalistic integrity to protect him in the wake of his campaign to get Mike Leach fired at Texas Tech. If ESPN replaced James with any random ex-jock, viewers wouldn’t complain a bit. Yet for some reason the network has bent over backward to protect James. It makes no sense.

No, it doesn’t.  But it’s there, along with the Longhorn Network and ESPN’s absurd reaction to Bruce Feldman’s role as editor of Mike Leach’s book.  And that’s just the latest stuff.

What’s hard to figure is not so much that the WWL can be tone-deaf on occasion – Lou Holtz’ continued presence is a shining example of that – but why the network seems to care less and less about it as time goes on.  No doubt much of that can likely be attributed to the attitude that inevitably comes with the self-awareness attached to being the only 800-pound gorilla in the room (notice how much of their discussion is about ESPN?).  But I get a certain sense that it’s generating more resentment than ever, both from the journalism side and the college side.

I don’t know if the Longhorn Network will come to be seen as some sort of tipping point in ESPN’s relations with the rest of the college sports world, but as big and powerful as the network has come to be, you’d have to think that even it wouldn’t be immune to problems caused by a high enough degree of antagonism with those it has to work with to offer product.

On the other hand, it does throw a lot of money around.  Maybe that’s enough to keep getting by.

36 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness, Media Punditry/Foibles

36 responses to “Craig James as symptom, rather than disease

  1. TennesseeDawg

    James should be sitting next to Pam Ward on the 12 O’Clock Northwestern versus Minnesota broadcast.

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  2. Senator, did you notice where the WWL is broadcasting the Gameday pre-season special from?

    Austin, TX – Is anyone surprised at this point?

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    • HirsuteDawg

      ……and, they were running a “Longhorn Network” banner on the page..

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    • AusDawg85

      They used GD to kick-off the first broadcast of the LHN. To all of 20,000 potential subscribers since most deals with providers have not been completed yet, including any in the Cen-Tex area.

      And the NCAA announced they would be watching closely for any HS coverage.

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  3. HahiraDawg

    I am very encouraged to read how honest they were in their disdain. Kudos.

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  4. Mayor of Dawgtown

    ESPN= Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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    • Cojones

      Wait a minute! That’s APCA. Isn’t that an animal rights organization? Oh! It has an “S” in it. Then that would make it “Absolute sham power corrupts Assholes”. There. That’s a better description.

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  5. Fuelk2

    I’m also surprised that Craig James is allowed to broadcast games in light of the fact that he killed five hookers while at SMU.

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  6. Macallanlover

    James is the flavor of the day, and deserves to be barbequed for his actions, but it is only slightly worse than the Holtz, May, Herbstreit crap we have seen for years. If they had any desire to have professionals on air, it isn’t just James that would be gone. I watch ONLY what I have to for live action sports (basically CFB and opening days of major golf tournaments), but I never watch the other highlight/commentary junk. Well maybe an Ouside the Lines if I have interest in the subject. I would love a competitor to ESPN so I could remove their channel from my TV’s remote along with other garbage channels.

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    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      The real problem is how ESPN gets paid. There is a monthly charge on everybody’s cable bill that goes to ESPN. We can’t avoid it. Even by refusing to watch ESPN’s tripe the public cannot cost ESPN money thereby forcing a change in behavior. It is something anticompetitive that exists in our free economy and needs to be corrected.

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      • gastr1

        Yes, but you know that charge is nothing next to advertising revenues, the real lifeblood of the network. People would have to stop watching in order to really kill ESPN.

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  7. Hogbody Spradlin

    Looking at this from a wierd perspective, Howard Cosell bears a lot of blame for Craig James being on the air. ABC found that the more people hated Cosell, the higher the ratings and profits went. ESPN is following the formula. So when you look at Craig James this fall, try and envision Howard Cosell. It won’t be pretty, but you’ll get some small satisfaction taking Ole Blue Eyes down a notch. I wouldn’t be surprised if James intentionally turns up the assholiness a notch or two, just to draw controversy.

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    • gastr1

      Somehow this is a bit apples to oranges. Cosell was reviled for being outrageously opinionated and bombastic; James is reviled (by those in the know) for his off-air douchery, not his on-air persona. If ESPN really wanted to get someone largely hated for off-air issues they could work on bringing in OJ Simpson in 2018 or whenever he gets out.

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      • Hogbody Spradlin

        Yes, but hated is hated, as long as it drives ratings. In a way, Paul Finebaum is similar, on a small, insignificant scale.

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        • gastr1

          I guess my point is that I doubt James is universally hated anywhere near the level of Cosell…though I am, of course, a leading hater of all things Craig James and am completely disgusted by ESPN’s actions relating to he and Leach.

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    • Scott

      There is no comparison between Howard Cosell and Craig James. Hated or not, Cosell had talent and a voice that turned every sports event into an epic. I can remember begging my parents to stay up for his Monday Night Football halftime highlights. Who can forget the way Howard said “Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium” like it had a hundred syllables.

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  8. Vindexdawg

    Craig James is both a symptom AND a disease.

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  9. emo

    I wonder what kind of dirt James has on the suits at the WWL. I mean he can run for office and remain on the air while Paul Azinger gets scolded for a tweet hammering Obama? http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2011/08/paul-azinger-president-barack-obama-jobs-golf-zings-marthas-vineyard-ryders-cup/1. Uh WTF. Not endorsing anything political but good God can’t they at least try to be consistent.

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  10. 69Dawg

    I think the WWl thinks it has to keep Craig James because like Auburn they went “All in” with him in the Mike Leach matter. Now they are not only employer/employee but co-defendants. It’s better to be paying a co-defendant than to have him running around lose.

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    • Hogbody Spradlin

      You’re on to something there, though maybe a little different. James’s lawyers are probably telling ESPN that if they reduce his stature it might make him think Mile Leach isn’t so bad after all. Remember that the most dramatic evidence in Leach’s case against ESPN doesn’t involve James; it’s the on air comment by Mike Patrick.

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      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        There are probably some backroom things that happened that ESPN does not want the world to know about rattling around in James’ skull that could cause ESPN real liability to Leach. So they keep him on.

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  11. waynebradley

    The only way to strike them is to hit them in the pocket book. We won’t stop watching games, but we can stop watching the commercials and let the sponsors and ESPN know that we are. They have no integrity as journalist as long as James is around and as long as they promoting some programs (ie–Texas) over others.

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    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      And actively lobby against some (i.e. Georgia–remember 2007?).

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    • gastr1

      People have stop watching ESPN one way or the other. The only way they can keep their $3 subscription fee that high is through stellar ratings.

      In the end no one will stop watching ESPN because it’s about the games, though, not about watching the idiots on PTI or College GameDay–unless a legit competitor comes along and starts outbidding them on broadcast rights and draws eyeballs to another stop on the dial.

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      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Actually there is a way–it’s called “a la carte.” The public could pick the cable channels each home wants to see and ditch those it does not want by request to each individual cable company. If that happened and all the little old ladies who don’t watch sports and all the sports fans who are pissed off at ESPN (like me) elected NOT to have ESPN on their TV sets, ESPN would really feel it. Such a proposal has been before Congress and, you guessed it, ESPN lobbied extensively against it. To my knowledge it has never reached the floor of either House for a vote. Bottled up in committee perpetually.

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  12. Cojones

    waynebradley- Name’em and I’ll boycott’em. Of course the Senator should be asked for permission before he is having to be listed with Leach in their lawsuit. You mean that I have to watch in order to see who advertises? Inadvertently, I’m probably donating more than $3/mo because I don’t know their advertisers. I stay away from ESPN. Now, against my wishes I’ll be watchin’em to see my Dawgs if I want to see some games real time.

    I look for the enemy and I be him.

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