Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus vs. Colin Cowherd

Don Imus vs. Rutgers: Haven't weighed in on this since it happened. Should he be fired? Given his vitriol over the years (delivered under the armor of the "just joking!" defense), probably not. But I agree with the many analysts who say that if Imus tones down his schtick/bigotry after this, he'll lose the very millions who made him popular by listening for the same stuff. For a guy like Imus, irrelevancy is a fate worse than termination. (Update: Suspended? Yeah, that makes sense, too.)

And yet, no punishment for Colin Cowherd. Well, beyond being publicly humiliated by an ESPN ombudsman on her first week on the job, who doesn't know that much about ESPN yet but knows enough that Cowherd is a schmuck. (Yes, "schmuck" IS very technical journalistic jargon.) It is absolutely astonishing to see the level of sports-blog solidarity in rallying around The Big Lead -- and recognizing how out-of-bounds Cowherd truly was.

It's the same old story: If mainstream sports media covered themselves in the same way that they covered athletes, this would be a much bigger story. But that's how it has always been – and how it always will be.

And that's why sports-bloggers have become the counterbalance to the biggest mainstream sports media; the fragmentation of local traditional sports media has always undermined its ability, in aggregate, to cover "national" stories or connect with a "national" audience (which is quickly becoming the most important segment of sports audience).

Ironically, sports blogs – which are about as localized and fragmented and niche as you can get – work as one big distributed network to cover stories like this. And consumers are the better for it.

Cowherd did what he did because, down deep, he's afraid of the changes in his industry. Like Imus, what he fears most is his own irrelevancy. This incident -- and the blogger blowback -- isn't foreshadowing Cowherd's fears coming true; it's proving that they are here already.)

-- D.S.

(I highly recommend Gwen Ifill's must-read op-ed column about Imus in today's New York Times.)

UPDATE: I'm watching the Rutgers team do their press conference right now across every major news network. It's fascinating, and it's refreshing to see unrehearsed sincerity and candor where so much of the response from Imus and NBC has been.


CMFost said...

MSNBC and ESPNRadio are both jokes. Suspending Imus for 2 weeks probably with Pay is a joke. At least suspend him and make his salary for that time period go to a charity that the Rutgers women's bball team chosses. Cowherd should be at the least suspend but really should be fired. What he did what shut down someones business and there is no excuse for that. Hopefully the big lead has some good lawyers to get back any revenue and payroll they had to pay out to fix the problem back

Unknown said...

I thought Imus stopped being relevant years ago. Honestly, until this story broke last week, I had no idea he was still employed. The man is clearly an idiot, who sounds as though he doesn't believe he did anything wrong. If people stop listening to him, will he just go away?

1999 Officers said...

Blogs today are what newspapers and town criers were hundreds of years ago. The one difference? The news doesn't become diluted as it passed from one town/voice to the next. In our country of checks and balances, blogs just might keep big media in check. Look at the majority of the blogs out there today: sports, politics and technology. Arguably, these are the top three things Americans are passionate about. Anyway, nice post today Dan...it got me thinking. As for Imus, I think his 1st Ammendment rights are being violated, but in today's world..outside views-even if they are wrong-are no longer tolerated.

Dan Shanoff said...

Much appreciated, KegDoc. You all know I'm not very good with stories that have any sort of "gravitas." (I really want to work on that.)

Let me know what you think about this splitting up of the usual one-post Quickie into a "lead-item"-ish post, a Quickie-style post of everything else and a third post when there's something particularly interesting that deserves its own place.

Matt T said...

I don't think his 1st ammendment rights are being violated. He can say what he wants, but his employer does not have to employ him if he says things that they find inappropriate for his position.

I'm not 100% on that though.

I do like the splitting of the topics

The heroin sheik said...

I really don't see the big deal with the Imus. Listening to Howard Stern yesterday they replayed the entire thing and I think people are making a bigger deal out of it than they should. Yes he slagged them pretty badly but he also said that UT looked pretty sweet or something to that effect. Now if he had called them a bunch of dumb nigs or something then fire his ass but I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill. Anyhow who actually listens to that dude.

TJ said...

I like the splitting of the topics, and that's a nice analysis of these controversies, made better by the fact that you gave yourself a little breathing room in writing it.

Still, I think maybe it would be good to post the Quickie first, and then come back later in the morning and post the expanded stories. Give people time to comment on the Morning Quickie stuff, and then move on to the more analysis-heavy stuff. Just a thought.

m8r said...

I like the post format this way, but must disagree with your take on Cowherd and the ombudswoman. She took him to task.... while walking the company line. She mentions that there was a memo put out and she was fine with that, which i have a huge problem with. Her job should be to point out that ESPN should fire/suspend him for breaking the law and not just warn him. He knew he was wrong, knew what he was doing, and is not punished at all. She was OK with a warning for an offense that equaled shutting down a business because warnings were given. My full opinion is in my blog, I'm just tired of people saying she did her job when the illegality of it was never mentioned in her post.

Anonymous said...

no m8r, you just think the ombudswoman has more power than she does. Wagging a finger is all she can do..and she did a hell of a job the first time out.

I do always enjoy reading comments from folk who, well, just don't get it. "what did he say? it wasn't 'that' bad. it could have been worse.'
Could it? A racially charged negative comment isn't bad enough? Or is nappy-headed hos a common term amongst white women now?

Big Blog of Basketball Lists said...

This is the best thing that could ever happen to Imus.

I hadn't heard that name in years, and the only reason I had heard it was because Howard Stern loved to rag on him while he was still stuck on terrestrial radio.

Stern made a prescient point this morning: Imus should've just come out and said look, I'm old, I'm half-senile, I don't know what I'm saying. Pull a Billy Packer, instead of apologizing profusely.

Big Blog of Basketball Lists said...

Imus would be wise to drag this controversy out as long as possible.

After this dies down, you're not going to hear about or care about Don Imus again until CNN scrolls the headline that he's passed away.

Natsfan74 said...

Dan -- I like the split post (but would prefer you put the quickie at the top and then the follow-on posts below), and it is good that you are addressing something with such "gravitas", as it combines sports and society, making it relevant to all of us.

What Imus said was definitely politically incorrect, but (although I fought with my wife about this last night), isn't the huge offense Al Sharpton wants us to believe it is. While the expression was offensive, it is not something we haven't heard Chris Rock say hundreds of times. So, I guess like a lot of other slang expressions, groups can use it internally, but the words are off limits to outsiders. Imus has taken the appropriate steps to reconcile -- making a public apology, offering to meet with the Rutgers players and their families, and even going on Sharpton's radio show to be bashed publicly by the guy making the biggest deal (and most money) off of this kerfuffle.

As for ESPN radio, I think that the ombudsman did as much as is practical/ appropriate at this juncture. But what I would like to see in the next few days are the steps ESPN has taken to make amends. If Thebiglead had to spend money to repair servers or systems, or if they lost money because of their outage, I think that ESPN should make financial restitution.

Neither of these issues are first amendment issues. They are employment issues. I could walk up and down the halls of my building all day screaming racial epithets and claiming I am protected by the first amendment. While that would classify as protected speach, if my actions could be considered outside the acceptable standards for the work place, I would still be subject to punitive actions from my company. These guys are radio personalities -- if their employers recognize a potential loss of revenue because of their actions, they should be fired. It's a business decision, not a 1st Amendment right.

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

Cowherd apologized yesterday at the end of his show with about 30 seconds left.

He said something along the lines of, "Last week I told you all to shut down a website. That was wrong. I'm sorry. I don't even know the guys who run the site. I wish them well."

It was rushed and was obviously forced.

TBender said...

I disagree with the idea that blogs don't dilute the news as it passes from site to site. Blogs are no better, and probably worse, than a game of telephone. That said, it is easier to backtrack via blogs to find the source.

Cowherd apologized only because what he did could have him facing criminal charges.

Anonymous said...

I have never really listened to Imus so it is hard for me to gauge but his offense didn't seem too egregious to me.

Comedians make fun of people in the news. He decided to make fun of the Rutgers women's hoops team. He was trying to play on the fact that they look tough and mean in his opinion compared to Tennessee. What he said was insulting and mean spirited no doubt. However I don't agree with all the rabble rousers that he was being racist and should be fired.

The way I see it is that this is great for him. He takes two weeks off without pay - big deal I am sure he has the money. Then he comes back to larger ratings for the next couple of weeks than he has had in a long time. He didn't lose one fan and probably even gained some with his notoriety.

Maybe you can get this blog more publicity if you can piss of Jesse and Al Dan?

TJ said...

@natsfan, great post.

I think you nail the issue on both of these controversies. To me, Cowherd is the bigger offender because he actively screwed with someone's business.

bLiNdLuCk said...

Imus is an idiot, but Cowherd is a dangerous idiot.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, legal issues arise from this incident.

Inciting terrorists acts perhaps? Isn't that what Cowherd did by asking his listeners (all 3 of them) to attack The Big Lead?

Unknown said...

If anyone cares to read it, One of our writers on Highbrid Nation actually worked wit Imus over the last few years at WFAN and had some really interesting things to say about the whole situation with Imus and he also has some inside info that the media hasn't mentioned about the whole story.

Anonymous said...

all i know is that Imus is one ugly dude.

and I also only remember him from Stern's movie. heh

Anonymous said...

Just read the link to your post Michael. Interesting but nothing really that new.

What was the more offensive, "nappy-headed" or "hos". I have heard women call other women hos as a derogatory term not only meaning promiscuous but also a general put down regarding fashion, etc. I have also heard it used about people of different races so by itself is not really an insult.

Now Nappy usually refers to afro hair that is unkempt and dirty and formed into clumps like you see on a homeless person. I think making fun of a woman's hair is the much worse offense. Being married for 17 years, I know, making fun of a woman's hair is off limits.

Ken Dynamo said...

why does anyone, let alone the rutgers women's basketball team care if don imus calls someone or some people nappy headed hos? its a dumb insult from a washed up loser. the fact that al shaprton is defneding them rpetty much means the whole thing is a joke. maybe if he came up with a clever insult or soemthing. what a total non-BFD. wake me when someone calls them the n-bomb c-words, otherwise i think its pathetic that its even being covered at all. we are way past this as a society. unfortuntely, some people make a living off exploiting racial tension in the media (shaprton et al). also jemele hill wrote the most predictable and boring response to imus on page 2. what a slut.

MindRiteSports said...

If you’ve ever heard Don Imus on the radio, you can tell that he is one-half intelligent, well-rounded and well-informed, and the other half makes you think of the stereotypical old white grandpa who can’t be taken out in public because they believe things should “be how they used to be.” It took a Jesse Jackson protest and a Reverend Al Sharpton face-to-face lashing for MSNBC to finally drop the hammer. Shame on them for letting others beat them to the punch. Even Al Roker (I can’t believe he’s got a freakin blog too! Hurry and save the RSS feed! … yep …) is campaigning for the man’s ousting. While every idiot with a mike shouldn’t be fired for every outlandish insensitive line they use (Thank you, 1st amendment), a swift punishment should be automatic, no question.

On a side note, not many people are saying this but Imus deserves some credit for withstanding the eye of the backlash storm, going on Sharpton’s radio station for a face-to-face LIVE, on-air. Now that takes onions.

He's still wrong and it may be time for him to head off to the sunset.

Cowherd - what an insecure loser. Love the ombudswoman for staying on top of things and the bloggers who brought it to her attention. He should be suspended... and fired once TBL (hopefully) brings legal action to the table.

MindRiteSports said...

Blog Plug: www.mindritesports.com

Anonymous said...

People ask Gwen Ifill for her autograph?

m8r said...

rafael, you post on my blog and disagree and post on here and disagree, the point is that I do understand her job, and I feel that she did not go far enough. She said all she could to make it LOOK like she was taking a stand, but without mentioning the legal aspect and that he should, without a doubt, be suspended, she did not go far enough. She toed the company line, and as an ombudsman, she should be calling out the company if they do not handle something properly. Not mentioned in all this, with Imus being all over ESPN.com, is that ESPN.com had no mention of Cowherd's actions. Is that fair journalism? Isn't her job to mention when ESPN is not reporting fairly? 2 things she failed at, mentioning the legal/suspension aspects, and mentioning ESPN's coverage/non coverage of the issue, and you say she did a hell of a job. You work for ESPN rafael?

cseguin said...

I know this is a few weeks old, but still felt compelled to comment...here is the list of things Cowherd has done in the past couple of years on his show:

1) Ripped off an idea from a blog, sent nasty reply emails to those who thought up the concept, before finally (sort of) apologizing.

2) Linked Eddie Guerrero's death to steroids, on the air, with no proof.

3) Had "The Big Lead" shut down, with no apology.

Any other journalist who did those things would be fired; the plagiarism alone would be enough to get most journalists suspended, at the very least. I know what he does is for entertainment, but others on ESPN Radio are able to entertain, even be controversial, without crossing the line.