A plea to Charles Barkley: Drop the celery, forget the comeback and return to your previous goal of achieving corpulent bliss. It's not that we wouldn't enjoy seeing you and Michael make a playoff run next season, but if you forsake the studio for the hardwood, you will deprive fans of the most fun to hit NBA coverage since, well, since there has been NBA coverage.
By adding you to its Ernie Johnson-Kenny Smith team this season, TNT has produced a free-flowing, often hilarious take on a league that has seen better days, the sports equivalent of Blind Date. When Turner Sports president Mark Lazarus hired you, he said he wouldn't censor you; happily he has been true to his word. Every night it has been Chuck Unplugged, with you telling us things like, " Seattle is so bad they should get Gary Payton out of the building and blow the rest up." Isaiah Rider? You correctly pointed out, "He's an idiot." Rasheed Wallace? You didn't hesitate to call him "a knucklehead who hurts his team." It's one thing for a talking head to make such statements; it's another for a surefire Hall of Famer (and friend of Wallace's) to do so, especially when you might be lining up against Wallace next season.
Understand, without you behind the mike (and with no Jayson Williams hiring on the horizon), the only guy left who tells it like it is will be blustery Bill Walton. We get a revealing contrast when Peter Vecsey joins Johnson and Smith on TBS. On April 24, for instance, Johnson and Smith reverted to their corny jocularity of last season, and Vecsey, a good reporter but not much of an entertainer, failed to fill the Barkley void. No wonder Vecsey has called you (in his New York Post column) Charlatan Barkley and said of you, "Any career move that gets him away from Turner Sports's audience gets my seal of approval." Jealousy, it seems, can generate a whole lot of venom.
So Chuck, please don't go. We need the Fat Trak and your picks for the Oscars, your one-liners and your on-set attempts to break the Guinness record for sit-ups. More important, we need you to remind us that this is still just a game, and games are meant to be fun.