5-at-10: ESPN's latest political fiasco, NFL Hall of Fame nominees, Baseball pennant races, Rushmore of Moses

5-at-10: ESPN's latest political fiasco, NFL Hall of Fame nominees, Baseball pennant races, Rushmore of Moses

September 13th, 2017 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

ESPN's next dilemma

Jemele Hill co-hosts the 6 p.m. SportsCenter on ESPN with Michael Smith.

Personally, I think Hill is smart and very good at her job. She and Smith have great chemistry. I watched them more in their previous gig during the midday than now — the radio show is over at 6 and by the time we get home, well, we're looking for a family-oriented sports break.

Still, Hill, who was an award-winning sports columnist at the Orlando Sentinel when the Orlando Sentinel was one of the country's great sports sections, made national news with a social media rant against President Donald Trump.

Hill's Tweets were harsh and over the top — Hill called Trump a white supremacist and a bigot and said he was ignorant  among other things— and ESPN's official statement made it sound like she used the wrong salad fork. ESPN's statement on Jemele Hill:

"The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."

And that was all that was announced. An ESPN spokesman did tell Yahoo.com that it was "Not discussing discipline publicly in this instance." 

We couched our views of Hill's skills and job performance on the front end of this. And now we'll say this: She is dang lucky to still have a job. And ESPN is dang foolish not to issue some tangible and serious punishment to Hill, especially since it plays into the liberal narrative of the World Wide Leader.

As we have said for a long, long time, perception of the liberal media is real. We feel that it is overblown. But what is undeniable in the matters of ESPN is a growing and real double-standard how employees are treated when saying controversial things, and that double-standard is divided by the liberal or conservative basis and perception of the things they say or post. Consider the following:

A tennis announcer was fired for saying "guerilla tennis" about one of the Williams sisters, and the thought — and public blowback — that he meant 'gorilla tennis' led to his termination.
Linda Cohn was reportedly suspended for saying that ESPN talks too much politics.

Of course ESPN also fired well-known conservative Curt Schilling, but that dude seemed to have a few loose screws regardless what letter was next to his candidate. The final straw for Schilling was posting some sentiments against radical Islam — which we can draw a fair comparison to the nut-bar white supremacists that Hill said the leader of the free world is a member of. Of course, Schilling also got suspended for putting up something on social media saying that transgender people should use the restroom that matches their sex. 

Bob Ley, easily the most respected on-air person at ESPN, said last year to ESPN public editor Jim Brady that the organization has "miles to go" in "diversity of thought."  

In fact, when getting information for that column, which was posted Dec. 1, 2016, ESP president John Skipper was asked whether he worries conservatives feel left out or shunned. Skipper's answer: "I do not. Vigorous debate and opinion are important to us, and no one should be concerned about expressing an opinion as long as it is not personal nor intolerant. [Recently,] Randy Moss and Trent Dilfer offered very different points of view relative to Colin Kaepernick's actions [protesting during the national anthem], and I believe both were comfortable doing so."

We feel it's pretty important to note here that Dilfer, one of the best NFL analysts ESPN had, was part of the layoffs last spring no fewer than six months after that lively debate.

There are other reports from unnamed sources from ESPN — and they are unnamed because they claim to be fearful of retribution — that caused one employee to tell Brady for this column that ""If you're a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers. There's even a fear of putting Fox News on a TV [in the office]."

Brady wrote that almost every executive he spoke with for his ombudsman-type column late last year said there was no double standard. Of course, ESPN denies that with its words. But its actions in matters like this tell a different story.

In fact, when Brady asked one famous ESPN on-air personality asked the above anonymous quote, the answer was a harsh denial.    "I would challenge those people who say they feel suppressed. Do you fear backlash, or do you fear right and wrong?"

Those were the words of none other than Jemele Hill, who apparently fears nothing. Why should she? She's on the right — make that the left — side in the view of her powerful bosses.

Former NFL player Terrell Owens watches play between Karolina Pliskova, of the Czech Republic, and Angelique Kerber, of Germany, during the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Former NFL player Terrell Owens watches play between...

Photo by Julio Cortez

NFL greats

While the week 1 action of the — cue Ron Jawarski — NATIONAL Football League was pretty wretched, there was some news of some of the all-time greats Tuesday. Before we get there, let's look back and know the following:

* The Thursday night opener was down double digits in the ratings, and that was one of the better games of the week.

* Other than the last quarter or so of a relatively sloppy Bears-Falcons game and the one-score drama and the Aaron Rodgers factor of the Packers-Seahawks, there was very little in terms of compelling action.

* Heck, the Monday nightcap of Broncos-Chargers had arguably the best finish but in our world it had already been derailed by the antics of sideline reporter Sergio Dipp, the terribleness of Rex Ryan as a color analyst and the most directly impactful was the power going out as the Broncos took a 24-7 lead of what became a 24-21 win.

* The quarterback play was bad. The offensive line play was worse. And the offenses struggled mightily.

As for that last point, maybe the narrative is as simple as the offense being ahead of the defenses this early. But there are other theories out there and those theories are at least based in believable foundations.

There's the thought that QBs and OLs coming from all these spread systems are not ready for Sunday's more traditional styles. There's the thought that the lack of pads-on practice time under the current CBA has left teams with a lack of physicality and toughness on offense. There's the thought that teams understandably treating the preseason as optional for their stars — whether they are sitting out or holding out — make the first couple of games very clunky.

And we believe that when the ratings of the opening weekend come out, in a time when the NFL is already battling a noticeable decline in TV viewers after last season, bad football will equal bad Nielsen numbers. (Yes, we think the Cowboys-Giants will likely do a big number — it's America's most popular team against America's biggest market — but conspiracy theorists will still add the late-addition of Ezekiel Elliot was all part of the ploy.)

But the NFL has bad news by the buckets.

Remember, this was about NFL greatness. The 108 nominees to be part of the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame class were announced on Tuesday night. Here's the story and the list is pretty impressive.

There will be between four and eight new Hall of Famers selected. There are a couple of no-brainers among the first time nominees in our view. Ray Lewis and Randy Moss were dominant in their era, easily making the short list of best linebackers and receivers — if not overall players — during their time in the league.

We also think Terrell Owens should already be in, too. So that's three. 

The secondary and wide receiving groups are filled with familiar names. Linebacker is also loaded — Brian Urlacher and Zach Thomas also are first timers.

Offensive line includes Joe Jacoby, Alan Faneca and Kevin Mawae. Running backs include Edgerrin James (12th all-time in rushing), Fred Taylor (17th) and Corey Dillon (20th). The five quarterbacks are Randall Cunningham, Rich Gannon, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair and Phil Simms.

That's a tough group and we didn't even mention the coaches, which include Don Coryell and Jimmie Johnson among a lot of others.

Ah, NFL greatness. Oh how we remember you well and long for your return.

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber, right, and catcher Yan Gomes celebrate a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

...

Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The 'er' months

We have frequently said that baseball talk is background noise until the 'er' months.

Septemb-ER. Octob-ER. Heck, even when TV, weather and postseason series have combined to get a game in Novemb-ER, that counts too. Here are a few things that matter:

The Dodgers ended an 11-game win streak and notched their first win since Sept. 1. It also clinched a playoff spot for L.A., the club's fifth straight trip to the postseason. But no one this side of Vin Scully could possibly feel super confident about a team that less than three weeks ago was on the cover of SI with the headline stating "Best. Team. Ever."

The Indians won their 20th game in a row. That's as crazy dominant as it sounds friends.

Here's the standings as we know them this morning and what that means (remember to calculate the magic number, it is any combination of the leading team's wins and the chasing team's losses): 

  • AL East: Boston leads New York by four games. Each team has 18 games left.
  • AL Central: Cleveland leads Minnesota by 13.5 games. The Indians magic number to clinch the division is five.
  • AL West: Houston leads L.A. Angels by 14. The Astros magic number is five to clinch the division.  
  • NL East: Washington has clinched the division.
  • NL Central: Chicago leads St. Louis, which has made a monster comeback after a dreadful first couple of months, by two games. Each team has 18 games left.
  • NL West: L.A. Dodgers lead Arizona by 10 games. The Dodgers magic number to clinch the division is eight.

As for the wildcard races, here's the breakdown, and remember there are two wildcard teams from each league:

American League

Yankees 78-66 — +3

Minnesota 75-69 — 

L.A. Angels 73-71 — 2 games back of the Twins

Kansas City 72-72 — 3 games back of the Twins

Texas 72-72 — 3 games back of the Twins

Seattle 72-73 — 3.5 games back of the Twins

Tampa Bay 72-74 — 4 games back of the Twins

National League

Arizona 83-62 — +3

Colorado 80-65 —

St. Louis 76-68 — 3.5 games back of the Rockies

Milwaukee 76-69 — 4 games back of the Rockies

God bless the 'er' months.

This and that

— Our man Weeds — that's TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer to those new around these parts — has a spot-on view on this week's UTC-UT-Martin game. And his lead paragraph is 1,000-percent correct. To quote: This is the week we begin to learn just what this University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team can become. Bingo.

— Speaking of college football, and we'll explore more of that tomorrow, it appears UT-Florida is game on as scheduled. Good times.

— Call it shoe wars. Russell Westbrook got a 10-year Jordan shoe extension. Kevin Durant did some trash talking from the sole. (His stats and messages are quite clear inside his new sneaker.) Ah, good times. 

— Did anyone else watch the HandinHand fundraising event on HBO last night? I thought it was pretty cool and there were a ton of A-listers there who helped raise $44 million in an hour of broadcasting for those affected by the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. 

— Danica Patrick is leaving Stewart-Haas racing. She wants to stay in NASCAR, but there are not a lot of competitive offers out there. Not saying Danica is overly competitive in the grand scheme of things, but what she does bring is star power and a connection with a lot of sponsors that may not be interested in a lot other drivers. Heck, she may decide not to come back and get on with her life. Who knows? 

Today's question

Shall we play one-word Wednesday? We think we shall.

Jemele Hill should be __________ by ESPN. The best team in baseball is ________. If you had only one vote for the NFL Hall of Fame, among these nominees, you would vote for ______________.

On this day in 1956 IBM introduced the RANAC 305, the first computer with a hard drive that used magnetic disk storage. Hardly a laptop, it weighed more than a ton.

Milton S. Hershey was born on this day in 1857. That man and his family made a lot of kids smile.

Tupac was killed on this day in 1996.

Also on this day in 2015, Moses Malone died. he was only 60.

Rushmore of Moses. Go

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