ESPN: Whither Stephen A. Smith?

basketball1Even writing the name makes me want to take a hot shower. Stephen A. Smith. But give the guy credit: he does what ESPN asks him to do, and does it well.

And his job isn’t easy. He’s the loudmouth know-it-all at the bar or family reunion that nobody wants to be around, and for godssake doesn’t want jumping into the conversation.

His is the art of the “hot take,” basically, dismissively disagreeing with whatever you have to say. As hard as it must be to always have to be the asshole, of course it’s just as easy to be the “hot take” guy, because you don’t have to do things like, oh, for one, know what the eff you’re talking about.

For example, his “hot take” on ESPN College GameDay today about how college basketball needs to outlaw the zone defense. OK, Stephen A., you cover the NBA. So how about outlawing the zone in the NBA, where the zone has been legal since 2001?

We’ll give him a pass on that one, though, because you’d have to actually watch the games to know that the rule was changed allowing zones in the NBA 14 years ago.

And we’ll give another pass on picking Utah, a one-and-a-half point favorite, to “upset” Arizona tonight, because again, you have to kind of know what you’re talking about before you say things on national TV, and nobody expects Stephen A. to know what he’s talking about.

Because that’s not what he’s paid to do. He gives us the “hot take,” remember?

Antagonizing college basketball fans by proclaiming the game to be unwatchable is a bit rich, considering he tells us in the same breath that he doesn’t watch, but again, “hot take.” Twitter blew up over that one.

I want to hate Stephen A., but I’ve never met the guy. (Not sure that I want to.) But he could end up being a decent guy who just stumbled into this drunk-uncle shtick that has really worked out for him, and honestly, I get that.

I work in the media business, still waiting for my big break, whatever it might be, if it ever comes. I hope it doesn’t end up being something where I’m asked to play a buffoon. More than a few people out there reading this are thinking, Dude, you’re overqualified to play the role of a buffoon, you should be so lucky.

The issue to me isn’t Stephen A. Smith: it’s ESPN for thinking the cartoon character that is Stephen A. Smith makes for compelling TV.

Good Lord, what am I saying? This is the brain trust that wants to turn college basketball into NBA Junior.

Nevermind. Back to your next “hot take” on how we need to start using trampolines to make games more exciting.

– Column by Chris Graham