February 10, 2010
UPDATE AT THE END
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 »
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 »
March 16, 2009
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 »
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 »
January 26, 2009
During last week’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game, ESPN’s color-commentator Jimmy Dykes went on a brief but impassioned rant about the state of the SEC. Seemingly without provocation, Dykes took exception to the lack of national respect given to SEC teams. He rhetorically asked the audience if they really believed that the quality of basketball in the SEC is inferior to that of the more heralded conferences, specifically the ACC and Big East. If we did believe this to be the case, Dykes said, then we are crazy. He vouched for the caliber and athleticism of SEC basketball players, and cited Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, and Arkansas as teams that should be considered as good as any non-SEC team in the country.
Dykes’ tone was generally unpleasant and overly confrontational, but he raised a fair question. This college basketball season has revealed the overall quality of the ACC and Big East conferences, which has in turn taken publicity and ranked spots away from a declining SEC. Dykes questioned the very classification of the SEC as “declining.” Let’s check the validity of his complaint
It behooves us to begin by looking at the college basketball rankings themselves. The ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll includes no SEC teams in its top 25. Florida and Kentucky missed the cut, receiving 59 and 50 votes, respectively. The AP Poll has Kentucky slotted at #24, with Florida falling out of the top 25 (small consolation for this shellacking). Neither poll shows any votes for Tennessee, LSU, or Arkansas. Dykes would be unsurprised by these findings, and would probably point to them as further evidence that the SEC is getting less respect than it deserves. Now that we know the current landscape of respect, let’s take a look at each team Dykes mentioned in his argument. Read the rest of this entry »