No one expects NBCSP Philly to have the experts that break news the way they do on the ESPN. But can’t they, at the very least, seem to know what they’re talking about without gazing down at the laptop right in front of them.
Really, Brian Roberts? Can’t Comcast do better than subjecting this first-rate sports town to a fourth-rate sports network? Unless, of course, you are actually trying to be this bad. Sort of like the TV version of tanking. Without the draft picks that will elevate your product.
By Theodore N. Beitchman
So, I was watching the NBA draft coverage a few weeks ago on ESPN.
Jay Bilas was informational, as always.
So were Rece Davis and Chauncey Billups.
Likewise Rachel Nichols and Brian Windhorst on ESPN2.
Those folks really know their pro and college hoops.
Then, in a commercial break, I switched to NBC Sports Philly for the local coverage — and comic relief.
Just as the Sixers made the pick of Nova’s Mikal Bridges at 10.
With a great interview that included his mom, the Sixers’ head honcha of HR.
A truly feel-good moment in the making.
Followed by a Bridges presser all by himself, wearing a Sixers cap and a wall-to-wall smile, befitting a local kid who starred at national champ Villanova and was coming to the NBA with the Sixers.
Then, as everyone knows, the Sixers quickly traded Bridges’ rights to the Suns for the rights to Zhaire Smith and an unprotected 2021 pick.
In this case, the feel-good Philly story became a “this is a business” story.
Which I understood.
As anyone who follows pro sports understood.
But not NBCSP’s Amy Fadool, Mark Jackson and Mark Zumoff (above).
The tone on the set went from ecstatic to funereal.
Which is an apt metaphor for just how bad NBC Sports Philly is as a network.
It represents the difference between a real sports network, ESPN, and a wannabe replica.
No one expects NBCSP Philly to have the experts that break news the way they do on the Worldwide Leader.
But can’t they, at the very least, seem to know what they’re talking about without gazing down at the laptop right in front of them.
Really, Brian Roberts?
Can’t Comcast do better than subjecting this first-rate sports town to a fourth-rate sports network?
Unless, of course, you are actually trying to be this bad.
Sort of like the TV version of tanking.
Without the draft picks that will elevate your product.
Amy Fadool typically talks at warp speed.
Which comes in handy because she usually has nothing to say, so you’re really not missing much on “Philly Sports Talk.”
Unless you like hearing about Kentucky basketball (her alma mater), or her pained attempts at humor with Jessica Camerato, who was recently let go after “covering” the Sixers for a couple of years.
You can’t understand much of what she says. Including her name when she racesthroughherscriptasifshewerebeingpaidbytheminute!
But on draft night, she was unusually mute for a couple of seconds.
It was jarring.
I half-expected her to start boo-hooing on the air.
It was pathetic.
But at NBCSP journalism takes a back seat to the hype.
Especially for the Flyers, who are owned by Comcast too.
The agenda of ESPN’s draft coverage and NBCPH’s was different.
I get that.
ESPN is staffed by real journalists who have honed their craft so that viewers know that what they are getting is the real deal. They all knew who Zhaire Smith is, and what his upside would be to the Sixers.
NBCPH is staffed by hometown glove puppets who must think that they have to reflect the bias most associated with patrons of a sports bar.
Fadool is benign enough.
But her fawning coverage of the Sixers was dreadful.
And after she got over the shock of Mikal Bridges trade, she tried to impersonate a journalist instead of a fan:
“We’re going to have to wait and see what Brett Brown has to say about this. We want to know!”
As if by magic, Brown appeared for his post-draft presser and explained why Bridges was traded for Smith and a 2021 No. 1:
Smith is a lockdown-defending-guard, which the Sixers sorely needed in the playoffs against the Celtics, whose Terry Rozier ran amuck, and the pick was important for a future pursuit of a big-time free agent.
What was Fadool’s response?
“I was really impressed with Brown’s ‘realness and ‘upfrontness,’” words that she must have coined on the spot.
To be fair, Mark Jackson knew how Smith would fit in, which was a welcome contrast to Mark Zumoff, who remarkably admitted that he didn’t really know much about Zhaire Smith since he doesn’t follow college basketball that closely.
Props for honesty, Zoo.
But what the hell were you doing on this draft show!!!???
The business of television is changing as fast as you can say “cord-cutting.”
Young people are just not ponying up the monthly fees to buy a Comcast sub the way their parents and grandparents did.
So, there is less money at the bottom line, which explains Comcast’s wholesale firing of Marshall Harris, Molly Sullivan, Dei Lynam and Jessica Camerota.
None of these folks ever broke any news and rarely were they entertaining. So they were expendable.
Youth is one of the reasons Michael Barkann was transferred to the elephant graveyard of pre- and post-game Eagles, Phyllis, Sixers and Flyers shows.
In theory, the youngish Fadool and Marc Farzetta should appeal to a younger audience.
NBCSP Philly used to be called Comcast Sports Philly.
The name change represented a branding decision.
Not one based on content.
And so often what appears on NBCSP is reminiscent of “Wayne’s World” production quality that you have expect Mike Myers and Dana Carvey to show up.
Is it too much to ask that when interviews are done with “experts” from out of town that they get to a studio rather than rely on Skype, which is great for talking to your friends or kids but hardly broadcast quality. Especially when there is six-second delay between the picture and the sound as there was last week with John Gonzalez?
Skype is a lot cheaper.
Or is it too much to ask that talking heads who know something about the sport in question get gigs instead of admitted know-nothings like Mark Zumoff?
How about the ex-Daily News college basketball seer Dick Jerardi?
Or would he have cost too much to bring in from the bullpen?
NBCSP does have a handful of informational insiders: Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman on the Phils, the great Ray Didinger and Derrick Gunn on the Eagles, not to mention Seth Joyner and Ed Rendell on Eagles Post-Game Live. And John Boruk knows his Flyers stuff, but he is a butt boy who never criticizes. And neither does Al Morganti on the pre- and post-game shows.
Cost, and the bottom line, seems to be the common denominator when it comes to NBCSP Philly.
The latest round of firings included Harris, who seemed competent enough but was so enthusiastic that it seemed he was hopped up on Red Bull; Sullivan, whose hoops knowledge was questionable; Lynam, who had the pedigree (her father is the legendary Jimmy Lynam) but little else; and Cameroto, who transferred here from Boston and always seemed uninformed on the subject she was assigned to — the Sixers, not the Celtics.
The bottom line is important to any business.
But so is the quality of the telecast.
Last season, when the Sixers were playing the Celtics in pre-season, the Philly broadcast crew didn’t make the trip, so we were subjected to the Celts’ announcers, who naturally skewed everything Boston’s way.
How much does it cost to send Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby on the road?
Too much, evidently, for chintzy Comcast.
I understand the bottom line and its effect on content.
But for too long we have been subjected to the “expertise” of John Feinstein, whose knowledge and judgment are spot-on when it comes to college hoops, golf, tennis and Navy football, but adds nothing to the Philly convo.
John Gonzalez is an inside joke.
Someone at NBCSP must think Gonzo knows more about the Sixers from his perch in Santa Monica than any kid on the Net here who just watches the games and forms an opinion. And his ramblings on the Ringer.com are incomprehensible, and tediously anti-Sixers. But he must come cheap. At least I hope so.
I regard Mike Missanelli as by far the best sports talkmeister in town.
On the Fanatic.
Which is a radio station.
His simulcast on NBCSP Philly between 2 and 5 p.m. is terrible television.
Mikey Miss is a solid, low-key guy who just sits there and talks.
It doesn’t work for me.
Better than the mop infomercials he replaced — barely.
For a talk show to work on TV, it’s got to have an outsized personality like Howard Cosell, or a couple of guys with a shtick, like Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser on PTI.
It’s no secret that when Comcast Corp. buys something, like NBC Universal, it likes to pay in stock and not cash.
Which may explain why it came up short when it went all hostile to buy Disney in 20o4 and this year with 21st Century Fox.
They both failed.
Maybe for the same reason NBCSP Philly fails:
Comcast is basically a cheap-ass owner.
That might work with the Wall Street analysts.
But it results in a fourth-rate regional sports network in this first-rate sports town.
Sam Hinkie has become a god in Sixers Nation.
Everywhere you go, you hear fans chant or tweet:
“Trust the Process!”
“Sam Died For Our Sins!”
Which is quaint.
And very odd.
Especially considering he was thought of as a complete bust just two years ago — before he resigned ignominiously as Sixers big boss when Bryan Colangelo was inserted above him on the management depth chart.
Hinkie was hired in 2013 to kick down the barn. Any fool can do that, former House Speaker Sam Rayburn said. But it takes a carpenter to build one.
Hinkie was great at tearing down the Sixers barn, but as a carpenter he was inept and strangely almost sociopathically worse.
The team had been stuck in NBA mediocrity for at least a decade — ever since Allen Iverson was traded away.
So the tear-down was a long-overdue Step 1 that had been exacerbated by the woeful management of Ed Snider who hired bobos Billy King and then Ed Stefanski as general managers.
Those two were stuck in neutral.
Hinkie was decidedly not.
The first thing he did was take Michael Carter-Williams, a good college guard, with the top pick in the 2013 draft. If Hinkie or any Sixer scout had seen Temple run rings around Syracuse and MCW in December 2012 they would have known this was a terrible pick. Though MCW did win Rookie of the Year because some rookie had to, it was clear he couldn’t shoot or distribute the ball and he was traded.
CALL DRAFTING MCW A HINKIE FAILURE.
Oh, and also in that draft Hinkie bit on Nerlens Noel, who ruined his knee during his freshman season at Kentucky, trading for him at 6. None other than the always-wrong Bill Simmons said he would have been the overall top pick in the draft if he had been healthy, so Hinkie believed that BS. Noel turned out to have good knees when he finally played but a non-existent offensive game, which even for a rim protector is a prerequisite. He was traded to Dallas for a warm body, Justin Anderson, and now Noel is barely hanging on in the NBA, scuffling for a job.
THIS WAS A COMPLETE BUST FOR HINKIE
I write in praise of Bryan Colangelo.
That sounds odd, on its face.
After all, the Sixers are the hottest team in a hot town and a hot NBA, making the playoffs for the first time in six years, going from 10 wins to 28 to 52 this season.
He has been big boss since April 2016, and you might think he were the Unibomber, so reflexive and vicious has been the criticism.
True, the negativity has largely been coming from the amen corner of the NBA uninformed — Michael Barkann, Angelo Cataldi and CrossingBroad.com.
But please allow me to set these dumb-asses straight.
The general consensus of his critics is that Colangelo has not been sufficiently responsive to the meme of the day, which seems to be that he hasn’t been immediately contrite for not turning the dead-as-a-church-mouse Sixers into an NBA champion.
After all, his predecessor, Sam Hinkie — “he died for our sins” is his common descriptor in the low forehead media — was doing such a swell job of that!
This is a memo to all the Sixers-haters who are jumping off the ledge or the bandwagon a few days after the brooming of big boss Bryan Colangelo, fired because he either promulgated team secrets on Twitter or he allowed his wife to do so.
Get a grip!
No NBA free agent — let alone LeBron James — gives a rat’s ass who the general manager is. And coach Brett Brown’s sterling rep around the league will hold the Sixers in good sted for the draft and free agency, which begins on July 1.
There are so many misconceptions floating around Sixers Nation, thanks to the lame-ass Amy Fadool and Marc Farzetta and CrossingBroad.com — that I feel compelled to set you straight.
When the Sixers ran off 16 straight wins to end the regular season — eight of them without the injured Joel Embiid — lots of the lame-ass Philly media were filling your heads with sugar plums about visions of the NBA Finals.
You know who those dopes are:
Their names rhyme with Michael Barkann and Amy Fadool of NBC Sports Philly, who might as well carry pom-poms for the local teams whenever a sliver of positive news occurs.
That’s called hyping for the numbers/ratings.
Except for the Flyers, which they hype non-stop because they share a corporate owner.
In fact, 16 straight wins is impressive, no matter who you’re playing, even if the oppo is the Little Sisters of the Poor, which was the Sixers’ sked as the season wound down.
And 52 wins is damn impressive, too, especially coming on the heels of 28 and 10 in the prior two seasons.
So let’s dig deep into the Sixers now and what they may be next year and beyond.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are worth-the-wait superstars in the making. Their maturity in 2018-19 will come naturally — Embiid will be in better shape and ditch the mask that impeded his vision during the playoffs; and Benny will develop a shot to go with the rest of his Magic-like game.
Remember, Magic Johnson never had a jump shot, only a shot-put-like set shot, and his career turned out okay.
Dario Saric is a wonder, and has been since he left Europe and came to Philly for the 2016-17 season. He’s a combo of Tom Heinsohn toughness, Luke Jackson offensive rebounding and Larry Bird court sense and passing. He also has improved his 3-point prowess that makes him even more dangerous.
Robert Covington is a mystery, inside a riddle, wrapped in an enigma. I have always loved Roco since he came to Philly in 2014 after walking on as an undrafted free agent in Houston. He has a big shot, but it’s erratic, witness his performance against the Celtics in the playoffs. And he is a great defensive player, witness his presence on the NBA’s All Defensive first team. But he was a non-event against the Celtics in the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him packaged in a trade, perhaps for Kahwi Leonard.
I also love T. J. McConnell, who probably makes fewer mistakes per minute on the court than anyone else in the NBA. He’s another walk-on, and he has developed a low-key swag that comes from his big balls. He drives into the lane, and for some reason this little guy has been effective doing that. Plus, he’s not afraid to take a shot when the clock is winding down.
The jury is out on Markelle Fultz, but if I were on that jury I would be leaning toward being impressed by the 19-year-old who missed 68 games due to injuries and played the last 10 games of the regular season with a taste in the Heat series. Only time will tell, but I have high hopes that this kid will be a contributor for many years to come. Maybe more than a contributor.