The latest Sports Media Misery Index, with focus on the Uncomfortable Thanksgiving Gathering Edition. Where any degree of discontent might not be smoothed over by a whipped-up slice of Don Cherry pie:
• A cartoonish version of ESPN debater Stephen A. Smith already exists in real life. Yet on “The Simpsons,” it’s a recurring character named Anger Watkins.
Popping up on Homer’s television, Watkins’ loutish shtick partners with Skip Angry — the yellow-ized version of Skip Bayless. Watkins and Angry also have a live but somewhat dormant Twitter account to help promote their faux show “Anger vs. Angry.”
There are only so many ways to conjugate our own anger management.
Smith reportedly just signed a five-year contract extension that pays in the neighborhood of $8 million annually, tops on ESPN’s payroll. Bully for him. Now there are rumblings Bayless, who once left ESPN to cash in on the Fox Sports chatterbox enterprise, might reunite with Smith again on ESPN’s “First Take.” Bully for us.
Let’s connect some more synergetic dots and dismal decimal points.
This new Disney+ internet streaming service launched last week, with many ESPN personalities doing over-the-top social media to promote the parent company’s pet project.
Disney+ includes archive access to the trove of “The Simpsons” episodes since Disney purchased 20th Century Fox earlier this year.
What if Disney could milk “The Simpsons” platform and nudge the real “Anger vs. Angry” back into the reality of an art-imitates-life train wreck?
Smith, a former newspaper columnist whom ESPN has already hired, suspended and fired for caustic verbiage, hasn’t really reinvented himself. He’s simply worn us down to a point of mild acceptance and distraction, although a recent essay in TheRinger.com spins this as a “personality formerly known as the Most Hated Man in Sports Media” who now demands our “strange new respect.”
Quite frankly, we respectfully decline that premise. It feels chock-full of the same toxins and byproducts in the beef jerky Smith shills for in his current sponsor portfolio.
• A quote by ESPN Major League Baseball analyst and New York Mets special general manager advisor Jessica Mendoza buried at the end of a story posted by The Athletic implies she feels stuck in some journalist purgatory, singled out by teams like the Dodgers who don’t want to give her access to their locker rooms because of her role with a rival team.
“I want to know where the sport stands,” Mendoza said. “That’s where I think my frustration is. … There was no objection when I took the job. Then all of a sudden, it’s become an issue. … I do want some clarity from the sport that I’m covering.”
Let’s keep it simple in today’s Houston Astros/sign-stealing era: You may be told you can have it all, but you actually can’t have it both ways. This should be a universal policy of restrictive access to all potential conflicts of interested parties.
• Did you hear the one about the guy in Vegas who put down $20 on a 12-team parlay for a $50,000 payout? He hit on 11 and just needed (fill in the blank) to win — but it didn’t come through! Gee whiz, if only. …
The more states that legalize sports betting, the more yarns like this appear — ESPN.com had that one above. The intended consequences of trying to normalize gambling by framing it as a human interest piece is that it borders on irresponsibility. The reality is many more cautionary tales, a byproduct of the odds stacked against anyone who partakes in it.
We get it. You almost won. You didn’t. That’s why it’s called a gamble.
(Also for what it’s worth: Just saw a screening of the upcoming Adam Sandler movie “Uncut Gems.” If that doesn’t prevent anyone from thinking they’ve got the glamour life of sports gambling figured out … )
• The 50th season of “Monday Night Football” has just a few weeks left, thankfully. The ESPN trucks pull into the downtown L.A. circumference one last time for the Rams-Baltimore contest at the Coliseum on Monday night.
This season’s duo of Joe Tessitore-Anthony “Booger” McFarland isn’t addition by subtraction. It might battle each week with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for top-rated cable show, but we’re not sure which show title most accurately fits the program. It can still be fixed for the next half-century. Especially if ABC/ESPN might want to hire Tony Romo from CBS.
• Lindsey Vonn has experienced enough degrees of miserableness. We find new respect for the retired Olympic skier with the HBO documentary “The Final Season” airing 10 p.m. Tuesday, narrated by Liev Schreiber. It’s beautifully shot with an emotional climax allowing the 35-year-old to come to grips with how injuries shouldn’t define her. It’s just part of the deal. The fact it’s revealed that she wrote an essay at age 8 describing how she wanted to be the greatest skier of all time will hopefully provide her comfort and resolution.
• Few, if any, live Twitter feeds that exist on a college football Saturday are better than John Walter’s Medium Happy, feeding into his MediumHappy.com blog and pieces for The Athletic. Another splendid performance this season for the former Newsweek, NBC Sports and Sports Illustrated writer who has found happiness waiting on tables.