ESPN.com’s Front Page Lays Waste To English Language

November 19, 2010

This Brady vs. Manning checklist is an abomination. It starts out with two nouns – “deep ball” and “accuracy.” Fine. Then it goes to two comparative criteria – “tougher” and “stronger arm.” Since we started with nouns, how about “toughness” and “arm strength”? No? Okay. Then we’re on to “smartest,” even though we’re comparing only two people, so it should be “smarter,” but only if we’ve decided that that’s a better choice than “intelligence,” which it isn’t. And finally, we end our hectic digression into the horrifying bowels of modern linguistics with a return to three nouns – “leadership,” “mobility,” and “mechanics.” Which is pretty much where we just needed to stay all along.

Keep it up, ESPN!

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Kevin Youkilis Did Not “Tackle” Rick Porcello

August 12, 2009

From ESPN.com’s recap of last night’s Tigers-Red Sox game, which included a brawl initiated by the hyper-emotional Kevin Youkilis:

Youkilis led off the second inning and was hit in the back with the first pitch. He dropped his bat and ran toward Porcello, throwing his batting helmet at the pitcher — and missing — before wrapping him up and bringing him to the ground. Players ran out of the dugouts and trickled in from the bullpens, but they mostly milled around as the umpires sorted things out.

From the Boston Globe:

Youkilis charged the mound after Rick Porcello hit him in the back with a fastball. After the benches emptied and Youkilis, who threw his helmet at Porcello before tackling him, got thrown out, Lowell entered as a pinch runner.

Now, the video:

Youkilis tackled Porcello? I know this is stupid and pretty inconsequential, but still: Youkilis tackled Porcello?

I’m reminded of this scene from My Cousin Vinny (pertinent part starts at 3:15):

I’m absolutely patting myself on the back for squeezing a My Cousin Vinny reference into a post.


ESPN’s Adoption Of OPS Deserves Commendation

June 15, 2009

A quick perusal of Fan Interference’s archives will reveal that I have been quite hard on ESPN for the last two years. One reason for this is the network’s ubiquity; it is everywhere, creating a shortage of other targets for my criticism. Another is its tendency to employ shoddy analysts that produce equally lousy insight, all while maintaining a misguided sense of entitlement. I do not begrudge ESPN for its enormous success, just for its general inability or unwillingness to be a pioneer in sports coverage in a meaningful way.

Recently, however, ESPN has made a small change that has challenged my near-instinctive distaste for the network’s products. The powers that be decided to start including the statistic OPS in the network’s baseball telecasts. Traditionally, graphical overlays have shown an individual player’s batting average (yuck), home runs (excellent), and RBI (gag). Now, it would appear that ESPN is attempting to make OPS an accepted part of our general sports lexicon by adding it to the preceding three statistics.

Having battled every urge to condemn this change as unacceptably tardy, I have decided that I admire the decision-makers for making this adjustment. Taking risks to affect change in the face of overwhelming cultural opposition is a bold act. This is especially true when that cultural opposition is the baseball community, which is not exactly known for its willingness to embrace new ideas. Those responsible for this change must have known that a sizable amount of their audience would look at this new statistic with confusion at best and indignation at worst. But they also probably wagered that there are people out there like me, or, more realistically, people who are comfortable with evaluating information that might conflict with their usual way of thinking. I give the network tremendous credit and my genuine appreciation for taking such a risk.

There are certainly problems with the way ESPN is using OPS, and even problems within the statistic itself. In the former case, the network shows the player’s OPS relative to his league’s average figure. For example, tonight’s Brewers-Indians telecast compared Asdrubal Cabrera’s OPS of .802 to the American League’s average of .759. The unfamiliar viewer could understandably look at this figures and conclude that Cabrera is a slightly above-average hitter, when in fact his OPS is quite good for a middle infielder. This lack of context is a fairly glaring weakness in the network’s admirable use of the statistic. Ideally, the production team would compare the player’s OPS to those of his positional peers. This easy change would impart some valuable context and, consequently, useful information to the audience.

With a little more thought, ESPN could have implemented this change more meaningfully. That should not, however, detract too much from the network’s bold effort to adapt to the changing sports landscape. The reason for this effort matters very little to me. What matters is that they’re trying, and really, what more can you ask of someone?


The Yankees Had A Better Winter Than The Red Sox

March 10, 2009

In recent months, I’ve taken a much more even-tempered approach to the decaying state of sports analysis. My blood pressure is very thankful for this adjustment. I smile more. I curse less. People seem to like me more, and I can still uphold Fan Interference’s fundamental goal of pointing out shoddy, lazy, or factually incorrect analysis in an effort to better educate you, the avid sports fan. That hasn’t changed, but the tone has. 

I mention this because this post will be decidedly in the “old style” tone. Jayson Stark’s recent column comparing the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ off-seasons has served as the impetus for this brief regression. The column heavily implies – if not outright asserts – that the Red Sox’ player additions are better than the Yankees’, despite the latter’s prodigious spending. It’s essentially yet another David versus Goliath analogy that, of course, sides with David (even though David is a Goliath too). To be clear, I’m not arguing that the Yankees are better than the Red Sox. I’m arguing that it’s lunacy to suggest that a team improves more by adding the current versions of John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Rocco Baldelli than adding CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett. I am putting my fan hat back on for this post, because quite honestly, Stark’s piece got my blood boiling again. Articles like this are the reason we started this blog in the first place.

Here we go, Fire Joe Morgan-style:

Read the rest of this entry »


Final Thoughts On Jimmy Dykes & The SEC… Until March

February 6, 2009

If you’re sick of me talking about Jimmy Dykes and his feelings about the Southeastern Conference, I understand. Feel free to go do something else – explore my blogroll, make yourself a sandwich, or whatever makes you happy. I have a hard time apologizing for revisiting this subject, however, because I think it exemplifies some important shortcomings in the sports media’s treatment of its subjects. Specifically, Dykes’ comments about the SEC highlight a lack of accountability and analysis from which sports journalism far too often considers itself exempt.

As fate would have it (and by “fate,” I mean “ESPN’s regional broadcasting assignments”), Dykes and his partner Brad Nessler did the Alabama-Vanderbilt game last night. I greeted Dykes’ amiable visage not with loathing, but with bemusement, as I wondered to myself if the night held yet another impassioned endorsement of the SEC. I expected that Dykes would not oblige, because surely he would not risk becoming a caricature of himself; surely, he would not want to become known as “the paranoid guy who can be counted upon to defend the SEC during every one of his broadcasts.” I was wrong. Read the rest of this entry »


ESPN Sideline Reporter: “All Black People Are African-American”

January 20, 2009

Tonight’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game had few pleasant moments for Commodore fans. AJ Ogilvy was held to seven points on 1-6 shooting. Two promising freshmen fouled out. The team played no defense. It was an ugly game. There is, however, a demographic for which the game was even less pleasant: fans of accurate geographical and ethnic terminology.

As was probably inevitable, broadcasters Jimmy Dykes and Brad Nessler turned their attention to President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Ruminations on the historic nature of the day ensued, followed by the team throwing it to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards. Edwards then filed what is simultaneously the greatest and most discouraging sideline report of my young life: 

“I talked to Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli – who is from Nigeria – before the game about Obama’s inauguration. He told me that it isn’t as big of a deal to him as it is to most people, because all they have in Nigeria are African-American presidents.”

There was a pause. Then, my friend, couchmate, and fellow Vanderbilt graduate incredulously says “African-American presidents?” 

I am insatiably curious about who is at fault here. Did Ezeli actually say “African-American”? Or did he say “black presidents” and Edwards replaced it with the seemingly safer but completely inappropriate “African-American”? Forgive me for my skepticism, but I would bet that Edwards dropped the ball on this one. I have a hard time believing that the African-born Ezeli would call his country’s presidents “African-American.” 

Finally, because we leave no stone unturned here at Fan Interference, I can most assuredly tell you that all of Nigeria’s national leaders have been Nigerian.

EDIT: If you dare, you can venture into the ESPN conversation for this game to verify that I am not making this up. Look at the second comment made at 10:30. Then leave quickly before your brain cells start deteriorating.


Assorted Thoughts From An Epic Day Of Basketball

January 18, 2009

Sometime around 1:30 yesterday afternoon, as the Georgetown-Duke game was about to tip off and the Notre Dame-Syracuse affair came to a close, my friend and I articulated a common sentiment. We decided there was no excuse for any self-proclaimed sports fan to miss such a day of basketball. The usual exceptions applied; employment, family obligations, and medical issues counted as excused absences. But given the cold front sweeping across half the country and the exceptional lineup of games, my friend and I decided that any unoccupied sports fan worth his salt would be firmly planted in front of the television set for at least one contest. Yes, this was quite obviously self-congratulatory, but we were too busy enjoying the day to confront the vain nature of our proclamation.

Here are some assorted thoughts and observations from this amazing day.   Read the rest of this entry »