Jon Reed Goes Off On... July 2007
Thursday, July, 26 2007
Emmitt Smith - Hall of Fame Football Player, In-Over-His-Head "Analyst"
One of the headaches of the Internet Age: the blogosphere has reinforced the faulty notion that everyone has the right to an opinion. It’s a charming notion, but it’s not a belief I happen to share. I believe that everyone has the right to an informed, well-thought opinion. I don’t care if the self-appointed pundit in question agrees with me or not, but I do care that they have given thought to all sides of an issue, and I really care that they have bothered to inform themselves of the basic facts.
Nowhere is this problem more evident than in the case of the celebrity sports analyst. ESPN in particular has the habit of carelessly hiring “analysts” whose only credential is their previous on-field accomplishments. The most recent offender is Emmitt Smith, NFL Hall of Famer and new ESPN football “analyst.”
Now, I have a lot of respect for Emmitt and in the end, he may turn out to be an outstanding analyst. But early returns are not promising. The problem with the lifestyle of the professional athlete is that if they’re not careful, their years with their team and their “posse” will leave them with a pretty myopic outlook. This could be the case with Emmitt.
His problems may be compounded if he assumes that because he is one of the greatest football players of all time, that he might have some of the greatest opinions of all time. Judging from what Emmitt had to contribute to the Michael Vick dogfighting story, Emmitt has a long haul ahead of him, not just in terms of learning how to inform himself before he opens his mouth, but in terms of distancing himself from his impulsive desire to stand up for his fellow athletes when the “squeeze” is on.
Emmitt’s toe-stubbing “debut” as an analyst came when he appeared on the ESPN networks to offer up his misguided take on the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal. Emmitt evidently decided it would be interesting to be the first person to speak on the topic who had not only not read the indictment, but who had not read an article about the indictment either. It’s not clear that Emmitt knew an indictment had actually happened. The result gave the distinct impression of “Emmitt as Fool,” something we are not used to seeing.
“He's the biggest fish in the whole doggone pond right now so they're putting the squeeze on him to get to everyone else,” Smith said. “Now, granted he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe twenty times, may have bet some money, but he's not the one you're after. He's not the one you're after, he's just the one whose going to take the fall — publicly.”
Uhhh, but Emmitt, Michael is actually accused of helping to run dogfights and killing dogs afterwards. At the least, Vick owned a property where dogfighting took place. So, Emmitt, you don’t have to worry about betting on the fights when your people actually run them. Oh and Emmitt, Vick *is* who the feds are after. There are not squeezing him to get to somebody else. The reverse: they are now squeezing Vick’s co-defendants to get to him.
Perhaps that is unfair and that is the story. But for Emmitt, not only did he get his facts wildly wrong, but his whole theme, that Vick is being squeezed to get to the real target, is completely the opposite of what is actually happening. Perhaps Emmitt was under the impression that this Vick saga is actually a made-for-TV series on ESPN and that there is still time to rework the plot and the arc of the character to suit his Harry Potter fantasies of how mob stings ensnare athletes.
Now, I doubt Emmitt did much damage by these remarks. This story has gotten enough publicity, and Emmitt’s take is so wildly inaccurate, that only the terminally misguided could have been further misled. But Emmitt could potentially do more damage to less reported stories in the future if he continues to believe that running his mouth is the same thing as giving informed commentary.
I suspect Emmitt got a call from a man in a suit after this dopey segment, and the next time around he will probably sound like he didn’t just wake up from a long nap in front of his bust in Canton. I hope for Emmitt’s sake he prepares himself better next time. Otherwise, he will remain lumped in with all those who have deluded themselves into thinking their life experience automatically gives them a worthwhile opinion. Opinions are something you have to earn and maintain through self-education. If we all understood that and committed to it, the world would be a better place with better conversations.