There was no doubt in my mind when I woke up this morning that Colin Cowherd was going to be a major topic of discussion across Big Blue Nation. After his idiotic comments from Friday (where he basically said all UK players in the NBA were either disappointing or “underwhelming”), the batch of young UK pros had a spectacular weekend at the NBA All Star game. Jamal Murray was named MVP of the “Rising Stars” game, Anthony Davis MVP of the big game and Demarcus Cousins was traded to New Orleans to create a Brow Boogie show the basketball world can’t wait to see. In three days, all the insane ramblings of Cowherd had been proven silly and dismissed by performance, as all reasonable arguments should be. A rational sportscaster interested in fairness and normalcy would have come on the radio and admitted he had just taken a “L” and then tried to laugh it off for the future. We all make mistakes, just as I did when I insisted last season Villanova couldn’t win a title. Reasonable people know sports is ultimately irrelevant in the world and thus when we are wrong, we move forward to the next topic. It is what makes sports conversation great.
Colin Cowherd of course chose the opposite approach. When faced with facts (and criticism) showcasing his points were inane, Cowherd doubled down and went even deeper, criticizing the UK program, its history, players and fans. He turned his entire show into an anti-UK rant and got some in the BBN into a frenzy with his nonsense. The reason is of course obvious. It doesn’t matter whether Cowherd genuinely believes his drivel or not (my guess is he doesn’t). He knew it would get attention and having found a morsel of relevance in a post-ESPN landscape where often his words go harmlessly into the ether, he had to pounce. Cowherd is now a story in the largest college basketball fan base and more people sent me links/reactions to his comments in 1 hour than have collectively in total over the past year-plus since he has moved to FS1. In a modern sports media world filled with non-stop, ubiquitous content, Cowherd had found a way to break through…even on a very small, regional level. He had to pounce and more flaming takes were inevitable.
It is always a struggle here at KSR when national commenters troll the Big Blue Nation. On the one hand, the simplest solution would just be to ignore their comments. Over the years I have leaned towards this policy and it is why the names Jeff Goodman and Pat Forde are read less and less on this site. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, did it fall? Since Goodman has moved to the “Insider” section of ESPN and Forde when to the nether regions of Yahoo Sports, their most relevance in the world of UK Basketball is when we bring them up. If we don’t feed the trolls, they can remain in anonymity talking A-10 Hoops or covering random swimming meets. It is objectively the best solution.
However sometimes you can’t help it. Sometimes comments are so ridiculous and platforms so large (such as the 2nd largest national sports network and one of the loudest radio personalities) that “not feeding the trolls” simply doesn’t work. Plus, there is the reality that KSR isn’t above the marketplace as well. Crushing terrible takes and spotlighting the worst opinions of those on the other side is terrific for the bottom-line of every media organization. There is a reason that Fox News finds the dumbest liberals to put on TV so that O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson can crush them…their (conservative) audience LOVES to see them bite the dust. It is the same reason liberals love watching Jon Stewart (or John Oliver) make mince meat out of the most simplistic versions of conservative principles…it is fun seeing those you disagree with take losses. So by highlighting the dumbest anti-UK takes, like the one Cowherd articulates, KSR gets traffic, my radio show gets buzz and we have a collective enemy for us all to hate. In reality, everyone wins.
Scratch that…everyone wins, except those of us that like sanity and rationality. What bothers me about Colin Cowherd is that he represents the worst of what sports (and political) media is becoming. Because there are so many outlets, voices and methods for people to get their information and opinion, the main way to stand out is to say something outrageous. It works in politics (see that dude Milo), it works in Entertainment (see Kanye), it works in sports (see Skip Bayless’s entire “Lebron is Overrated” schtick). Sometimes the outrageousness is based on sheer stupidity. That doesn’t bother me as much. I genuinely don’t get upset when people that I think honestly believe their idiotic statements give them on television (think most celebrities who talk politics, Kyrie Irving on the Earth being flat or the cast of “Fox and Friends” on basically anything). As Forrest says, “stupid is as stupid does” and it isn’t the individuals fault their opinions are dumb…it is our fault for caring what they say. But what really bothers me is when otherwise intelligent people KNOW that what they are saying is ridiculous, but do it just to get attention and make noise. Being ill-informed is unfortunate, if understandable, but being fraudulent is indefensible.
This seems to be the current modus operandi of the hiring right now at FS1. I went to FS1 last year for a tryout and I find the people that work there to be really creative and interesting. They have been innovative with some of their programming choices and I think in the long run, they will find more success. But in the short term, it is clear that their hiring practice is to get relatively smart people (or in the case of Clay Travis, very smart) and have them say things they may not even believe to (a) make waves and (b) cater to the uniformed click bait masses. That is what is so disappointing. Colin Cowherd is not stupid…he knows his points are ridiculous as showcased by how he Yuks it up when Calipari and others confront him. He is very talented on the radio and while he isn’t always my cup of tea, like talents as wide ranging as Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, I can appreciate his talent. When he gets on a subject that he treats with respect and humor, I find him to be one of the best radio hosts in all of sports. But then there is the trolling side.
Faced with the realities of the current marketplace, Cowherd has to troll to rise up the public eye. He says these comments like his UK rant because no longer on ESPN, he has to make noise. He doesn’t have the advantage of being the first “great” show doing opinion in a given field (think Bill O’Reilly on politics or PTI on sports…both shows that paved the way for an entire flock of less talented copycats), so to make noise he has to be outrageous. He knows his opinions about UK are insane (no one who has risen as far as he is can really believe John Wall is permanently immature and a bad human being because he danced during Pregame warmups six years ago), but he has to say them so someone, anyone will pay attention. When you don’t have the top dog platform (ESPN), you aren’t the originator that built the first loyal following (PTI) and you can’t do anything insanely unique (it is sports talk radio after all), you have to create fake outrage. Cowherd does it, we respond, rinse and repeat.
I wish I could say that the next time Cowherd or someone likes him makes an outrageous anti-BBN statement, we will ignore it. But the reality is I can’t. We all live in this new media world and if you don’t adapt, you die. I remember when KSR started, the mainstream media used to roll their eyes and make fun of us for photoshopped pictures, Live Blogs, “Fans of the Day”, being on social media, mocking media members, embedding goofy videos and everything in between. Now they all do it. Why? Because it works. The same thing is true with Cowherd’s trolling. He does it because it works…the unfortunate thing is he could do better. Alas poor Yorick, he won’t.