A few more snorts on this idea (today’s column linked here) about the prudence of ABC, and the NBA, agreeing that maybe it’s not such a wise idea to let Jeff Van Gundy work the game analyst role for the finals starting Thursday:
The very thing that makes Jeff Van Gundy worth tuning in for on an ABC/ESPN NBA telecasts has turned out to be the same thing that has put him in a precarious position — his honesty.
And honestly, the network, and the league, is in need of an attitude adjustment.
Our call to take Van Gundy off the call — after he’s come public and admitted he’s pulling for his brother, Stan, and the Orlando Magic to win the championship over the Lakers — stems from the perception that apparently enough people are comfortable with: There’s an open bias, and there’s no way for him not to hide his feelings at this time, but we can live with it.
Don’t be so sure.
He’s proud of his older brother. He’s asked his superiors if they think it’s best for him to not do the telecast. But they’re willing to actually use this — exploit it? — and draw viewers into the broadcast now to see how Van Gundy reacts. It’s become a sideshow, in a sense, to the actual game. Again, if more people are willing to tune in now, dissect everything Van Gundy says and try to see how he’s slanted one way or another, that benefits the network. It gets no benefit by asking him to step aside. So when Van Gundy did the noble thing and asked his bosses if he should step down, he probably knew the answer: What, and waste this great opportunity to promote our telecast?
Perhaps the most interesting, best-intentioned adjustment ABC should make was presented by USA Today’s Michael Heistand in Monday’s column (linked here): They could have handled this “more creatively” and moved Mark Jackson to the studio and brought in Magic Johnson to sit courtside with Van Gundy and Mike Breen. Van Gundy and Magic could then “spar like two passionate fans — albeit ones with expertise.”
That would be somewhat awkward for Jackson, but probably the best working situation.
Breen, speaking to reporters yesterday, said they’re going to bust Van Gundy’s chops as much as possible on the telecast, having fun with this situation rather than trying to dance around it.
After admitting that his brothers have also been “having a great year” — my brother, John, a policeman in Yonkers, plus Joe and Tom and Pete — Breen said that “we’ll needle Jeff as much as possible … our goal is to make Jeff uncomfortable.”
Too late. He already seems to be.
Yes, we’re fully aware of the fact that Bill Walton did some games that involved the Lakers and his son, Luke. And Bob Griese did a Rose Bowl in a contest where his son, Brian, led Michigan to a victory. But neither had come out before the game and proclaimed their alliegiances. Not that they were probably lying, but once you let that honest admission out there for public consumption, the rules change. No matter how hard you try to be unbias, the water has already been tained.
And Van Gundy himself somewhat address that aspect of it with Neil Best at New York Newsday (story linked here): “The myth of media objectivity is just that – it’s a myth.” Although, in that context, he was talking about the media’s account of the verbal sparring that Shaquille O’Neal had recently with Stan Van Gundy.
How about some second (and fifth) opinions:
== Someone wrote in the comments of the story above — a “reader” named “Such a Non Story” from Port Orange, Florida, that he is “Cancelling this garbage paper as we speak” because this is such a, well, non story. Thanks for the update. We weren’t sure how the circulations numbers of the Los Angeles Daily News were doing on the East Coast, but the fact they’ll drop one less informed reader is something we’ll just have to stomach and move forward. We regret not having you along for the ride.
== AwfulAnnouncing.com (linked here) adds: “I really think Jeff will be fine, and this whole thing wouldn’t have an issue if he didn’t make it one to begin with. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but he’s been around the booth long enough to handle himself in a situation like this.”
== And one more quip from Jeff Van Gundy: ‘”All I’m doing is stating what I think would be the obvious, is that I want my brother to win. Other than that, I don’t really see it as anything unusual. I’m grateful that he’s there and I’m grateful with the time that I’m going to get to spend with him.”
Too late. It’s already out there. And you’ll just have to tune into Game 1 to see how it plays out … just as ABC planned.