I recently wrote an article on five reasons why NBA fans should tune in to watch the NHL this season; however, I never belittled the NBA in any way, or tried to make a claim that hockey is an overall better sport than basketball. I never claimed that it was a talentless sport, or that the sometimes lack of physical play leads to a belief in basketball players not being top tier athletes.
The NHL has always sat in the back seat of ESPN’s highlights. When a coach in the NFL gets fired, there is a five minute argument over whether the decision was right, who should replace him, etc. When an NHL coach is fired, they’ll just say “so and so has been fired…” Next topic. Even while the NBA was suffering in a lockout, there was more repetitive, meaningless coverage of that league moving nowhere than there was of NHL highlights. For the entire 60-minute program, hockey fans are lucky to see highlights of one or two games, and maybe one goal or save that appears on the top 10, which will always be overshadowed by a routine dunk. It sickens me, but that’s how ESPN has operated since the NHL lockout cost them the entire 2004-05 season. It bothers me, but I have gotten over it.
Over the last week however, I have been sickened by the amount of publicly slandering remarks made toward the NHL, and toward the sport of hockey as a whole. I am used to the almost daily, ridiculous comments made by Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, but the main problem is that they are teaching the millions of ESPN viewers that it is okay to belittle hockey. Colin Cowherd commonly makes negative remarks toward the NHL mainly to generate ratings. His co-host, Michelle Beadle, dated NHL analyst Matthew Barnaby for over a year (they broke up in June), and is a huge ambassador of the game. She loves it, and she always defends it.
Linda Cohn is another great example of somebody who has commonly had to defend the sport, live on the air, against other anchors during Sportscenter. Cohn played hockey her whole life, growing up in New York – she was talented enough to make her high schools boys hockey team, and was the goalie for the college hockey team at SUNY at Oswego.
Steve Berthiaume, another New York native, is another ESPN anchor who has come to the support of the game. Although he is commonly known for his reporting on the sport of baseball, Berthiaume has the ultimate respect for all sports he covers, which is something that could be taught to all of ESPN’s personnel.
Now on to what is making me absolutely livid:
It all started on Tuesday, when during what seemed like a normal show of NFL32, a remark about hockey came into play. Herm Edwards immediately laughed at the inquisition, and then came up with the following quote: “Please, I’m here to talk about real sports.” Look Herm, I have all the respect in the world for the NFL, I really do. The least you can do is have a little respect for a sport that is followed by tens of millions of people.
The most awkward part of the whole thing was that the question was steered toward hockey after a fight broke out in a football game. There used to be a debate at which sport was tougher. You can’t compare football and hockey in terms of toughness, but you can compare the NFL and the NHL in terms of toughness. In today’s NFL, if you touch the quarterback, or make a big hit – it’s a penalty. If you push a guy after the whistle – it’s a penalty. If you punch a guy in his helmet – it’s a penalty, a fine, and an ejection. Bottom line is I am sick and tired of NFL analysts belittling the fact that there is still some grit left in the NHL. Sure, Shanahan has stiffened suspensions this year, but fighting has gone up, and physical play is still maintained as the most successful way to shut down top lines.
I almost lost it when Edwards said that, but hey I’ll give him a break. He’s as respected as a guy gets in the world of the NFL. Sure, it drove me crazy to listen to an NFL analysts say anything negative about a sport that I will absolutely guarantee he knows nothing about. I guarantee he doesn’t know how to skate, and I would be shocked if he could tell me what icing or offsides is.
I tweeted my frustrations (@ShaneDarrow), but I eventually got over it. I figured it was a slip of the tongue, and considering the environment he was in, it was socially acceptable at the time. Then yesterday happened.
I try to watch Sportsnation every time I can, it really is an informative show and I enjoy the common debate between Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd. Their jokes are usually pretty weak, but the show is entertaining because they go over all sports, and every issue surrounding them, and there is a lot of viewer participation. They usually bring on a guest to help host the show, and yesterday they brought on Mark Schlereth. Here is how the show ended:
During the three tears segment, the last clip was an unbelievable fight between Aaron Asham and John Erskine, two of the best fighters in the league. The last time these two teams played, Asham knocked out Jay Beagle, who hasn’t played since, so it wasn’t surprising to anyone that Erskine was going to step up and go toe-to-toe with him. Here’s the clip of the tilt:
While showing the clip on Sportsnation, Beadle showed her usual support for the fighting aspect of the game. Surprisingly, Colin Cowherd wasn’t really belittling the fight, but he still showed his absolute lack of knowledge for the sport. To paraphrase, he said that they were throwing haymakers, and if the guy in the red landed one, then the guy in the white would have been in trouble. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine if they said that about two players in the NFL? When Ndamukong Suh stomped Evan Dietrich-Smith (see how I actually know their names Colin?), imagine if someone said “Oh man, the guy in the blue is probably going to get suspended for kicking the guy in the white.” The analyst at hand probably would have lost their job.
That wasn’t the end of it. As the camera panned out, Beadle called out Cowherd for his lack of knowledge on not knowing who neither Asham nor Erskine was (even though Michelle said both their names 15 seconds earlier). It was a fun poke at Cowherd, and Beadle played it perfectly. Out of no where, Mark Schlereth looks at Colin and says the following, “I agree with you, that sport is just dumb.”
Mull that over.
WHAT!? You were a guard in the NFL, and you were drafted in the 10th round. If the standard 7 round draft was in play today you probably wouldn’t even have a career in sports right now. Mark, you have absolutely zero knowledge of hockey, and no one even asked for your opinion! Just sit at your table, and keep your mouth shut until somebody asks you whether or not Tim Tebow should be in the pro bowl. Better yet, sit there until someone asked you how to block, because that is all you did your entire career. I couldn’t believe what I heard, I mean I had to rewind it on DVR about ten times to make sure that what I thought I heard, I actually heard.
This is the point I want to make:
You can have your opinion on how you feel about sports. Different people have different opinions about different things, and I will do nothing but respect your passions as long as you respect mine. I am personally not a huge fan of soccer, but I would never publicly belittle the sport, because that is the respect you give to other sports fans who love it. To say that I have lost a tremendous amount of respect for Mark Schlereth is an absolute understatement. The immense amount of classlessness that has been shown by ESPN analysts when referring to the NHL is absolutely unacceptable for an on air anchor, especially those with no knowledge of the sport to begin with. The immaturity shown by Schlereth during Sportsnation was even taken back by Cowherd, who usually closes out the show but was left in an awkward silence after realizing what was just said.
I would love for Mark Schlereth to read this and find a way to explain to hockey fans everywhere what compelled him to say that on the air. I would love for Mark Schlereth to get in an educated argument with myself or any other enthusiast of the game, and have him explain his reasons for why he finds the sport I grew up loving “dumb.” I would love for Mark Schlereth to issue an apology on behalf of the tens of millions of people that were taken back by his comments. I would love to see someone from ESPN call him out, and have him realize that when he is an anchor for the “world wide leader in sports,” he should probably take in to consideration the other sports that the station represents.
Will any of these ever happen? Of course not. Would somebody with the arrogance to call the entire sport of hockey dumb, live on the air, take the time out of his day to respond to an aspiring sports writer who has the integrity to call him out for his inexcusable actions? No.
There are hundreds of different junior, collegiate, and professional leagues in North America alone. Every single beauty that has ever laced up a pair of skates is effected by comments like those of Herm Edwards or Mark Schlereth.
Will the slanderous comments of the NHL end any time soon? Probably not, but I couldn’t stand in silence any more. It just absolutely disgusts me.
Have you ever heard Matthew Barnaby or Barry Melrose say anything negative about the NFL, NBA, or MLB? No. Because these men have class. They were raised on a sport that taught them that.
Oh and Schlereth, if you apologize to me personally I will wish you the best of luck in your acting career. Seriously, your role in the soap opera Guiding Light really moved me… Absurd.