Pretend you're Nero-for-a-Day. Pretend you're the big cheese, the head honcho, the man at the top of the sports broadcasting totem pole. Pretend you've got the power to, um, eliminate a pundit of your choosing, to rub out anyone you want, without any more compelling reason than the wanting itself. No questions asked, no quarter given; say the word, and the offending party—ll be gone before you can even think to draw the Luca Brazzi parallels. All you have to do is make the call: who,pray tell who, Meat?,is it gonna be?
If you're anything like the crew at the Spot, you're probably wishing you had more than one choice. Or more than five choices, really. Nauseating commentators are nothing less than endemic in the modern sports world, so much so that you can't hardly make it clean around the television dial without hearing at least one voice that makes you want to amputate your ears with a butter knife. The blame might fall on any number of parties—Howard Stern, Rupert Murdoch, the stimulus-addled, love-starved rejects of Generation Y—but this much is clear: the obnoxious talking heads have come in force, Meat, and they sure don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
So this week's list is as much a public service announcement as anything else, a warning to everyone who's ever even thought about spending the afternoon in front of the old boob tube. We don't really have the pull to get rid of these clowns—not yet, anyway—but we can at least get the word out, and if we can save even one naive soul from the unmitigated horrors of really bad color commentary—well, we'll feel like we've done our job. You make your difference where you can, after all, and so long as we can get people talking about the most asinine analysts in sports history.
We'll look brilliant by comparison, which seems like it's got to be good for something more than nothing at all...
Number Five: Mel Kiper
An easy target to get the ball rolling. It's not so much the spray-on tan that irks us, or the meticulous bouffant or even the flagrantly fetishistic obsession with strapping young men. Straight up: it's the fact that people actually listen to the guy. Respect him. Fawn over him. Treat him like he's anything other than a puffed-up, parasitic avatar of Western cultural decline in the postmodern era. Like Pat Robertson, Kiper is unbearable precisely because his audience worships him, and Lord knows there's more than a little evangelical ardor in the obsessive leanings of hardcore NFL draftniks. If Mel ever starts reading Apocalyptic omens in the 6.66 40 times of massive O-line prospects, we'll know it's time to worry.
Number Four: Peter Gammons
Never in the history of popular rhetoric has well-spoken banality been so widely mistaken for honest-to-God erudition. Gammons is a master of stating and restating the obvious, to the extent that he's managed to put in almost twenty years as ESPN's resident hardball guru without saying anything of substance. His secret? Talking...very...slowly. The dude sounds smart, there's no denying that—smart and thoughtful and even sometimes almost profound, provided you don't listen too hard to what's coming out of his mouth. Of course, we at the Spot know a good gig when we see one one, and so our hope is that, by using commas where they aren't needed, and filling our sentences with convoluted and enormously meaningless phrases, we'll be able, one day, to fool our readers into taking us seriously...
Number Three: Keith Jackson
If we wanted to watch the Rose Bowl with our senile uncle, we'd go visit him at the rest home. As it stands, though, the last thing we need is Jackson beamed straight into our living room, complete with that folksy homespun schtick that's very nearly miserable enough to make a man long for Brent Musburger. After no less than a half-dozen aborted retirements, unfortunately, the old codger seems to be in it for the long haul...which creates the very real (and not entirely uncompelling) possibility that he might eventually Whoa, Nellie himself straight into the grave. We can only image that Dan Fouts would mark the occasion by chuckling dumbly and telling a Bill Walsh story.
Number Two: Dick Vitale
Here's a thought experiment, Meat: what do you think Vitale's like when he's alone? The lights are off, the cameras are gone, the crowds have drifted away—and it's just Dickie Vee, all by himself, shuffling through the rooms of an empty house. Does he blather moronically at the cat? Wax bombastic about the quality of his frozen lasagna? Listen to "Tears of a Clown" on continuous loop while weeping into a bottomless box of truffles and Quaaludes? It can't be easy being a national joke, of course, and the last thing we want is to sound callous here, but you've got to wonder, right?—wonder what it's like to isolate yourself behind a wall of jocular irony, where there's no one to hear you when you sob, and no one to catch you when you fall. Speaking of which: we'd better find the chocolates and the tranquilizers, because it's feeling like it's going to be another long night...
Number One: John Madden
John, from all of us, please: stop. Just stop. The act was cute for awhile—for the better part of a decade, really—but now it's really honestly mostly just sad. Your video game has been on the decline since 1995. Ace Hardware has been all but squeezed out of the market by behemoths like Home Depot. And the Madden Cruiser, John "the Madden Cruiser is a cruel anachronism, a ponderous symbol of wanton prodigality in this age of global warming and three-dollar gas. You had it once, but the world has long since passed you by, and it's time, now, to fade away, to waddle off into the sunset, to plant yourself on a porch swing with Pat Summerall and chatter your way towards oblivion. It may not be the most glorious of all possible endings, but sometimes that's just how it goes, and when you're gone, John.
When you're gone we'll be stuck with all Joe Buck, all the time, which somehow has us thinking that maybe, just maybe, six-legged turkeys aren't so bad after all...