The Pundit Tree: Mike Francesa is Blowing It, Monday Night Football Hoping for Addition By Subtraction


Ever since I was a small child growing up during The Great Depression, I’ve longed to achieve the pinnacle of gigs. That’s right, a dot-and-dash newspaper column on the internet. An essentially dead medium can never die. Each week I’ll take a look at some of the media stories that drew headlines and garnered blog posts.

And away we go.

Have we considered the possibility of Mike Francesa is stuck in a Brewster’s Millions type situation in which he has to spend all his remaining credibility before retiring again? The Sports Pope has been on quite a roll, from blaming a Giants draft pick for getting shot to calling into a competing show and melting down.

They say never meet your heroes. Adapting that to the sports media space: never have your heroes wear the cape long enough for people to realize there’s nothing special about them. This is what happened to Francesa. He was God, now he’s merely a jester, a sideshow.

Everyone knows it except him. He still thinks he rules New York, along with Howard Stern. But the industry has moved on. Francesa is a dinosaur, a relic of antiquated time when it was easier to be loud and wrong without meaningful repercussions.

It’s plainly obvious that this guy’s best years are behind him. The @BackAftaThis account, in many ways, has proven just how effective it can be to hold a mirror up to our bloviators and amplify their message/mistakes. This is a very new-media problem but arguably would have made a big difference in the way we perceive the radio legend had a similar thing existed back in his heyday.

There’s absolutely zero chance Francesa finds a graceful coda. The trainwreck is good content. It’s hard to look away.

It’s no surprise that ESPN opted to go with the two-man booth of Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland after Jason Witten’s departure. The lust for Peyton Manning is so strong that any other analyst has been pushed far down the depth chart. The leaner broadcast should be better than last year’s shaky chemistry experiment. McFarland grew as the season went on and needed the microphone more. Ditching the misguided BoogerMobile will help.

What is surprising — or would be to a person studying the commentator ecosystem two years ago — are all the big-names who supposedly wowed behind the scenes who have yet to catch on. Joe Thomas, Kurt Warner, Greg Olsen (who has some pretty robust standing offers, but is expected to play again). All seemed more viable than Witten and certainly McFarland at the time.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there the next time a big opening becomes available. Perhaps the lesser-heralded option on paper is the one likely one to happen. If McFarland continues his steady performance, he could serve as the blueprint for networks in the future looking to secure a more stable future.

It will be interesting to see how Urban Meyer juggles his three jobs this fall: assistant athletic director at Ohio State, serving as the focal point of Fox’s ambitious Saturday morning pregame show, and focal point of high-profile coaching rumors. Guess we’ll find out sooner rather than later as his co-hosts Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are already actively recruiting him for the currently-filled USC gig.

ESPN The Magazine will cease printing in September. The publication debuted in 1998 and has an illustrious history of journalism. Its financial return has been less than ideal in recent years so the shuttering is no surprise. Its legacy may be the incredible amount of talent that made its ESPN inroads through the pages. Print storytelling used to be a conduit to on-air storytelling. Times have turned that linear progression into a far blurrier line.

Prestige television has spawned the golden era of next-day recaps and devoted podcasts. Sunday’s much anticipated episode of Game of Thrones was thrilling, but also had some obvious defects. Some people enjoy seeing what’s happening on their televisions. Alan Sepinwall, for my money the best in the game, had a perfectly balance review.

This is not a criticism per se, but it was interesting to see just how positive Binge Mode and The Watch — both of The Ringer — were toward the episode. Part of me wonders if Thrones has any realistic chance of fulfilling high expectations and if the ecosystem is zigging negative more than warranted. Look for things to get even more fractured in the court of public opinion as the show finishes out its epic run.

Three top editorial members at the G/O Media, formerly known as Gizmodo Media Group, are out shortly after the sale to Great Hill Partners. The Daily Beast reported Susie Banikarim, Alex Dickinson, and Tim Marchman were among 25 or so departing. The news came shortly after new CEO Jim Spanfeller told Vanity Fair he didn’t anticipate layoffs.

NOTEBOOK: Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller is joining NBC Sports’ Kentucky Derby as a lifestyle correspondent … Former Sports Illustrated scribe John Walters penned a beautiful first-person piece on life after sportswriting … Ratings for the NBA Playoffs are great for the Golden State Warriors and distressing for every other teamESPN joins Barstool Sports, Joe Rogan and others in pulling their podcasts off Luminary …. David Kaplan has re-signed with NBC Chicago, meaning the coveted Cubs TV channel opening is still open.

ONE MORE THING: Fox Sports Detroit had to move on from Mario Impemba and Rod Allen after their physical confrontation last year. Through the first month, the new broadcast has left me wanting. New play-by-play man Matt Shepard has been fine, but the misguided Players Only shows are painful, a glorified back-in-my-day gabfest seemingly tailored to Boomers longing for better days. At some point, Detroit sports fans will tire of living in 1984. Guess that time hasn’t come yet.