How Jimmy Dykes Is Insulting Your Intelligence

February 10, 2010


As I’ve mentioned with some frequency, I’ve been trying very hard over the last year or so to change the tone of my blogging. Initially, the content was snarky and malicious. It wasn’t above name-calling and other sorts of juvenile attempts to demean and persuade. I stand by what I wrote, and I believe that there were legitimate points to be made in every case, but I’m now fully aware that the tone was an impediment to being taken seriously. By writing more open-mindedly and with greater care, I really do feel like the quality of the blog has dramatically increased. I’m very proud of many of the things I’ve written (whether they’ve gotten four hits or 400) because I believe that these discussions are truly intelligent, perspicacious, and interesting. I’m enjoying this new and mellow approach to writing, and I think the quality reflects that.

Sometimes, however, I have to remind myself of why this blog emerged from the depths of my cranky imagination. Fan Interference began because a friend and I were really tired of the stupid things that sportswriters and analysts would write or say. They would write or say things that were disingenuous, narrow-minded, or factually incorrect, and it was annoying. And while I’ve tried to get away from posts that are no more than incredulous mockeries of ridiculous statements, it’s still the rock upon which the blog was built. So, right now I’m going to return very briefly to the basic purpose of this blog: pointing out and correcting the stupid things someone who is paid to analyze sports has said.

There is no more deserving recipient of the old treatment than ESPN’s college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes. Dykes is an incredible and unique case because every time I watch a basketball game to which he’s been assigned, I know with absolute certainty that he is going to say something so outrageously and insultingly stupid that it’s going to make me legitimately angry at his continued employment. Not even Joe Morgan has this effect on me. Dykes is so blatantly incompetent, so aggressively dumb, so obviously misguided that I’m confident that he is the worst analyst I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering. The fact that he is paid to educate us about basketball is a prolonged joke at best, and a devious insult at worst. I thought all of these things as far back as last March, but in compliance with the self-imposed moratorium on crude behavior, I simply kept them to myself. His commentary during last night’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game (go ‘Dores!), however, combined with some of his recent and more stupid than usual analysis to push me over the edge. Read the rest of this entry »


About Devan Downey

January 27, 2010

Like most fans, I was expecting Kentucky to beat South Carolina handily last night. I suppose Kentucky’s youth and questions about road performance are going concerns, but the Wildcats are roughly fives times more talented than the Gamecocks, so victory seemed like a pretty sure bet. Also like most fans, I was surprised to see Kentucky leading by only three points at the half. So I booted up my laptop, connected to something called the “Nunez network,” and caught the second half of what was an exhilarating game.

As you probably know by now, South Carolina ultimately pulled off the upset, ostensibly on the strength of a Herculean, 30-point performance by Gamecocks’ point guard Devan Downey. I know this is the reason why South Carolina won, because other than the occasional praise for Kentucky’s young talent, it was the only thing that commentators Jimmy Dykes and Brad Nessler talked about for an entire half of basketball. Ignoring the fact that the production team kept putting up graphics revealing Downey’s dismal field goal percentage (he finished 9-29, which my calculator tells me is 31%), Dykes and Nessler relentlessly praised Downey for his “great individual performance” and “his willingness to carry his team on his back.” In the waning moments of the game, Dykes said that “Downey is now in the discussion for National Player of the Year.” And while the fans were rushing the court, he offered his big finish:

“It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen as good an individual performance on the big stage as I did from Devan Downey tonight.”

I did and still do have some pretty heavy cognitive dissonance about Downey’s performance and its lofty praise. On one hand, it was clear from watching that South Carolina could barely be described as a basketball team for the two minutes that Downey wasn’t on the court. They were terrible without him. On the other hand, Downey’s 9-29 effort did contribute mightily to the team’s 34.4% shooting for the game. It’s hard to argue that shooting 31% on 29 shots is helping your team, no matter how incompetent your teammates might be. I still don’t know what to make of this conflict in analysis. Read the rest of this entry »

Jimmy Dykes Completes Journey To His Inevitable Fate, Is Totally Wrong

March 25, 2009

First, Jimmy Dykes whined about the lack of national respect given to Southeastern Conference basketball. He called us crazy if we truly believed that the basketball teams in the 2008-2009 SEC were generally inferior to those in the other major conferences. Based on nothing but regionalism and selective memory, he assured us that teams like Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, LSU and even Arkansas could compete with any team in the more highly-touted conferences. “Just you wait and see,” he said.

Time passed, and college basketball somehow managed to survive without any nationally ranked SEC teams. Unquestionably driven to his wits’ end by this inconceivable development, he promised us that five SEC teams would make the NCAA tournament – three from the SEC East, one from the SEC West, and a fifth from some magical faraway division. It was not the prediction itself that was ridiculous (at the time, it wasn’t), but the total lack of justification for making such an assertion. His guarantee wasn’t born of the careful merging of subjective (scouting) and objective (data) analysis, but of unprovoked defensiveness and regional bias. Dykes’ statement read less like useful insight and more like propaganda issued by a desperate leader as his regime is about to fall. Sure enough, three SEC teams made the NCAA tournament, including one that never would have been considered if not for winning the conference tournament.

Then, the coup de grace. In the same broadcast, Dykes claimed that not only would these five unnamed SEC teams make the NCAA tournament, but they would also thrive. Perpetually walking the line between self-assured and vague, he told us to wait and see how many SEC teams made it past that first weekend into the Sweet 16. Because – and this is a direct quote – “that’s how you really tell what the good teams are.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jimmy Dykes Is Half-Way To Totally Wrong

March 16, 2009


Staggeringly wrong about the SEC, but you'll never hear him admit it.

Staggeringly wrong about the SEC, but you'll never hear him admit it.

As you may know, ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes’ continual vouching for the quality of the SEC has been a small but interesting story this season. Both his crusade and my coverage of it began in late January. Dykes disputed the absence of ranked SEC teams, and went on to confuse this very understandable omission with a lack of respect. I concluded that his outcry was unwarranted since only Kentucky was even remotely deserving of a ranking. A few weeks later, inspired by another Dykes-authored defense of the SEC, I checked in with the teams that he had previously described as competitive by any standard. Even with a bigger sample size, the conference appeared to have just three teams worthy of any consideration for a national ranking, and even that was a stretch. Dykes’ impassioned touting of the SEC remained without much credibility.

Shortly after this check-in, Dykes made his most declarative statement regarding the maligned conference. He predicted – in no uncertain terms – that the SEC would get five teams into the NCAA tournament. Specifically, he predicted that the SEC East would get three teams in, the West one, and a fifth would sneak in there from some undisclosed location. I was both deeply skeptical of this prediction and irritated by Dykes’ utter lack of explanation as to his thinking. I promised to return in March and see how his forecast fared. Well, it’s March. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerald Henderson Deserves More Credit For His Shooting Ability

March 9, 2009

During tonight’s Southern Conference championship game, broadcasters Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes discussed the selections for the All-ACC First Team. Dykes turned his attention to its three backcourt players – Miami’s Jack McClinton, Florida State’s Toney Douglas, and Duke’s Gerald Henderson. In an honest attempt to enlighten the viewer, Dykes said the following:

“McClinton is going to be the best pro of the three, and Douglas… boy, can he stroke it. But I don’t think Henderson is going to come out early. He needs to stick around and work on his left hand and especially his shooting.”

As happens with some frequency, my internal “that sounds like it might not be right” alarm went off. I was skeptical of the implied gap between Henderson’s shooting ability and that of McClinton and Douglas. So, naturally, I looked it up.

  • Henderson: 47.9% FG, 53.4 eFG%, 77.1% FT, 54% 2FG, 34.3% 3FG
  • Douglas: 42.8% FG, 50.7% eFG%, 81.1% FT, 47.8% 2FG, 37.4% 3FG
  • McClinton: 45.4% FG, 58.7% eFG%, 88.5% FT, 46.1% 2FG, 46.4% 3FG

Dykes’ assessment isn’t wrong, but it’s not right either. Henderson clearly doesn’t shoot as well from three-point range as the others, but he takes those shots less frequently. Douglas and McClinton have each taken 181 long-distance shots this season, while Henderson has taken 93. One possible explanation for this is that he’s so darn good at making two-pointers, particularly for a wing player, that he doesn’t really see the need. To be fair, Henderson also lags behind the others in free-throw percentage. All things considered, they should probably be ordered as McClinton, Henderson, and Douglas in descending order of shooting ability.

Ultimately, the idea that Henderson’s shooting “especially” needs improvement is misguided. His shooting ability is comparable to the others’, mostly on the shoulders of his excellent two-point conversion rate. Also misguided is the subtle implication – pertaining to all three players – that their shooting ability will make or break their potential NBA careers. While it’s certainly very important, it’s not everything. Each player, not just Henderson, will have to make adjustments to improve his chances of success. Douglas will have to cope with the common problem of being a volume scorer in a point guard’s body. McClinton must learn to diversify his offense, particularly given his difficulties getting to the line. Henderson must translate his athleticism into a higher rebounding rate and improved defense. The one thing that all three do have in common is their shooting ability, making Dykes’ distinction not all that accurate.

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 »

Checking Up On The SEC

February 5, 2009

Last Monday, I wrote an expertly-reasoned post about the state of Southeastern Conference basketball. Its impetus was ESPN’s college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes, who had recently gone on an impassioned rant about the quality of the conference. After completing the post and disproving Dykes’ belief, I was happy to let a sleeping dog lie.

Then, as if baiting me personally, Dykes embarked on a similarly pleading campaign during a recent SEC game. I believe it was Kentucky-Ole Miss, but I could be mistaken. In any case, if I were a sleeping dog, Dykes is the guy poking me with a stick just for the fun of it. I could just open my eyes, shoot him a “seriously?” look, and then go back to sleep. But I lack the self-control to do that, so I’m going to wake up and chase him around the yard for a while. Read the rest of this entry »