Late last week, Mark Cuban shot out a tweet about Skip Bayless discussing basketball, and how Cuban's two year-old knows more about the NBA. Bayless shot out a tweet challenging him to come on to First Take to debate the issues if he wasn't scared. Cuban accepted, and what followed was a spectacular verbal beatdown. I've embedded the video at the end of this post.
In the debate, Mark Cuban uses his airtime to criticize Mr. Bayless and sports media in general. A brief summary of his central thesis would probably be something like this: the major media outlets, of which Skip Bayless is representative, relies too heavily upon generalities and sports clichés rather than substantive evidence and rational argumentation.
His argument is absolutely compelling. Even better than the thesis is the manner in which he asserts it. I'm not a huge Basketball guy; I know just enough to not seem stupid. The ways that Cuban broke down how he thought his team won last year, however, were clear and concise. But more importantly, they were still complex enough that they were worth saying. I, a Basketball ignoramus, could follow his statements, and they were valuable and insightful.
The contrast really made Skip Bayless look, well, foolish. His intense and cocky attitude totally deflated. I don't think I have ever seen a segment of analysis in which Bayless talked this little. Normally he is quite the blabber.
As Admiral Adama would say in the face of imminent danger: Jump!
First off, I would like to laud Mr. Cuban's efforts. By and large, I thought it was an altogether impressive appearance by a sports owner on a show. Most owners can get away with just spurting clichés. Cuban is clearly no stranger to controversy because of his words - sometimes to his detriment - so it comes as no surprise that he would be the type of owner to do such an interview.
But I want to beg owners, GMs, coaches, and other sports figures of similar authority to follow in Cuban's footsteps. Take your knowledge of the game and school some undisciplined, ratings-whoring fools who blither and blather their way through segments!
There is no other real way to hold the national media accountable. Ethically, I think sports journalism has adopted the very generalities Cuban rails against as the norm. They are just a part of the institution. I can't necessarily fault some of the journalists for using them, since that is pretty much the only way to get air time. It really does make me mad, though. It does not produce intelligent conversation and debate.
Now, this isn't to say that there aren't some incredibly smart people at the national level - particularly writers. Off the top of my head, I think Joe Posnanski is the cream of the crop, especially when it comes to anything Baseball (this article on Willie Mays still gives me the chills to even think about). For Football, a big name on the national level that deserves respect is Peter King. The guy has some faults (pride being a major one, but his horrible love of Brett Favre being the worst), but I contend that he writes well and intelligently, even if being a national writer occasionally makes him seem a little ill-informed.
But men like these are not numerous enough to keep the national media in check. They cannot serve as ethical watchdogs. Nor should they - the institution of journalism itself should. But clearly the institution has been rewarding mediocrity and scandal. How do we fix this? I'm not necessarily sure, but I think that having real sports authorities go on shows and absolutely embarrass those who refuse to think is a darn good start.
A darn good start.