Monday, August 11, 2008

In search of civility in sports talk

There was little chance that Sunday viewers of CNN's "Reliable Sources" were going to learn anything new from the short segment about that week's media coverage of Brett Favre.

Hardly anyone should be turning to host Howard Kurtz for nuanced NFL talk. But things promised to be interesting with popular sports media personalities Will Leitch and Gregg Doyel as panelists on the segment.

Leitch and Doyel were certainly interesting. But for all the wrong reasons.

Both men seemed intent on cramming as many insults and snarky remarks as possible in their brief appearance on Kurtz's show. Elevating the discourse or providing honest critique about the media coverage, they were not.

Doyel made several references to Favre's low Wunderlic score (a general test of problem-solving ability given to prospective NFL draftees) from the long-ago days of 1991. Doyel neatly summed up his complaint about Favre's offseason flip-flop thusly: "I really get sick of people that behave like losers."

Ok. Thanks for coming. I'm sure Howie had some nice parting gifts.

Leitch was a tad more coherent in his appearance but went out of his way to take a shot at ESPN on a question that was about, specifically, the Tampa Tribune's embarrassing gaffe. It's important to note that in Leitch's most recent book, "God Save The Fan," there are at least four chapters about how much ESPN sucks, including one titled "Ten Examples of How ESPN Is Ruining Sports."

Kurtz, somewhat predictably, failed to gain control of his guests. No one could have possibly learned anything about Favre or the Green Bay Packers or the media coverage of both. It was a disappointing effort all the way around.

All things considered, I have a lot - a lot - of respect for Leitch and Doyel. But they missed a great chance to go beyond the snark and crude soundbite that the new sports media leaders are sometimes renowned for. Instead they came off looking small and petty and mean.

And I really hope that's not the lesson that "Reliable Sources" viewers took from the show.

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