The Emmitt Endorsement
Smith tabs Obama, Winners and losers of the week
Posted: Monday February 25, 2008 2:23PM; Updated: Tuesday February 26, 2008 8:38AM
SI.com's Richard Deitsch checks in every Monday with the latest doings in TV, radio and the Web.
His oratorical flubs and gaffes were chronicled and logged befitting a man or woman running for public office. A PLEA TO ESPN, PLEASE GET RID OF EMMITT SMITH, cried the Awful Announcing blog. Asked one Orlando Sentinel staffer last week: "Am I the only one who struggles to understand the verb-noun constructions of Emmitt Smith?"
By any measure, be it judges from the mainstream media or the blogsphere, Emmitt Smith did not have a very good rookie season as an analyst on ESPN's NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown. Which made Smith's rousing speech last week in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama all the more surprising. He brought the house down at Reunion Arena, albeit in a town he led to three Super Bowl titles.
"This man [Obama] is what I believe in," Smith told the crowd. The endorsement marks the most public declaration by a sports broadcaster during this election season. Smith did not ask for permission from ESPN to speak at the rally -- nor did he have to do so based on network policy.
"We continue to evaluate what our policy should be in this area because historically these types of requests are very rare for us," said network spokesperson Josh Krulewitz. "It's something we're trying to get our arms around."
Networks have long allowed sports staffers to donate money to political campaigns. Among some notable examples: ESPN's Chris Berman donated money to Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, and both CBS Sports head Sean McManus and NBC's Al Michaels gave money to the Bush-Cheney re-election bid. Krulewitz said he was aware of no restrictions regarding ESPN staffers donating money to a political candidate.
The question is how will viewers react if on-air sports personalities such as Smith make known their political preferences? Historically, at least with print journalists and broadcasters who cover politics, public neutrality is a job requirement. Not so with two of the Smith's at ESPN, including Stephen A. Smith, who earlier this year referred to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani as a dictator.
"I knew he could play football," Obama said of Emmitt Smith. "I knew he could dance. But I didn't know that he could fire up a crowd the way Emmitt Smith fires up a crowd...I'm just glad he's not running for president."
Person of the Week
Darren Rovell, CNBC sports business reporter: Rovell initially made his bones at ESPN and ESPN.com and has found a nice niche as a sports business reporter. (His Sports Biz blog is best in show for the genre). He gets the nod here for being able to conduct a coherent interview with Michael Phelps while dressed in the same Speedo outfit the swimmer will be wearing in Beijing. (We advise journalism students not to try this home. The same warning goes for Tim Russert). Watch the last 10 seconds of the clip below for a deliciously awkward moment between Rovell and his colleagues.
They Wrote It
"Isiah Thomas should trade the whole damn roster at today's 3 p.m. deadline, including himself, after the Knicks nauseated all of New York last night in hitting a new low. Today -- we pray -- is Thomas' final trading deadline as chief of the Knicks. Thomas' jokers fell behind by a shocking 36 points at halftime to the mediocre Sixers and lost by 40 points, 124-84, in a rock-bottom, sickening showing at Wachovia Center that on its own should warrant his dismissal today at 3:01 p.m." -- New York Post basketball writer Mark Berman, not holding back on what he thinks of the Thomas tenure (2/21).