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The Columnist Manifesto


Sentinel Columnist and bald fatty Mike Bianchi

If there’s one thing I feel strongly about, besides the fact that Raising Arizona is the best movie of all time (I’ll now casually sit back and wait for a hundred message board posts about how it’s not, and how I’m terrible), it’s the fact that Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m beginning to think, as well, that if you have access to an index card, a laminating machine, and a lanyard, you too can walk right into the Sentinel’s offices, sit down at a desk, and type out your own column for the next day’s issue (I’m looking at you too, restaurant critic Scott Joseph).

You all remember Mike Bianchi, right? In case you don’t, he’s the writer in Orlando who hates you. And hates me. And hates all UK fans and all of their bellyaching about their cute little “dynasty” that doesn’t hold a candle to the rich tradition of the University of Florida. Never mind the fact that Bianchi’s far-flung accusations have compared the Gators’ basketball legacy to that of the Wildcats. Never mind that he used his esteemed post to pen a silly, weird “write to me NOW, punks!”-themed column baiting UK fans after Florida won another SEC Tourney. Never mind the fact that he spends his evenings all balled up on the couch in his sweat pants, eating Hagen-Dazs and watching Ally McBeal reruns. Probably.

Bianchi, a few months back, promised fans that Billy Donovan would never, “ever, in a million zillion years” leave Florida. Then, two weeks later, wrote a post begging him to stay, clearly showing that a million zillion years is sooner than one might think, and lending an existential credence to the fact that our time on this earth is merely a drop in the bucket when compared to a greater universal scheme. For opening our eyes to that greater awareness, Bianchi should be commended. But as a columnist, Bianchi’s more wishy-washy than Andy Katz deciding on the color of the new “primping room” he’s currently adding onto his home.

Take, for instance, Bianchi’s column of June 1, a mere three days ago, in which he takes back everything he’s ever said about the Orlando Magic after the word was released that they’d landed Donovan, calling the management “genius!,” heralding that “anything is possible!,” and exclaiming that the Magic have a “new lease on life!” We know he’s serious because he uses a lot of words spelled out in all capitals, which we all know is how serious writers get their points across.

Cut to three days later. As soon as Donovan’s meteoric rise to the top of the Magic cooled, and he was reportedly ready to return to Florida, Bianchi wrote his next column, wherein he calls Magic fans “the Sleeping Suits,” points out that there are “no big games in Orlando,” and asserts that if Donovan joined the Magic he would become “just another NBA coach with a mediocre team.”

Man up, Mike. I’m not a paid sports columnist by any means, and I can appreciate, being a writer myself, that coming up with new topics week to week, sometimes day to day, can be an arduous and daunting task. But in this new era of blogging, televised analysis from everyone and his brother, and more sports entertainment outlets than ever before, sports pundits are changing their tones almost daily. Andy Katz is all over the board, and our formerly-beloved Dick Vitale, who has always staunchly supported the Wildcats, was seen on TV in March speaking on how Donovan would be crazy to take a job in Kentucky, where expectations and fans are ridiculous. Even Kentucky’s own newspapers (and you know who you are) are on again, off again. One day they’re behind the team, the next day they’ve given up. There’s more regularity in Wilford Brimley’s morning routine.

That’s not to say there aren’t great columnists out there who have made – or who are making – great names for themselves (cheers, Pat Forde and Hal McCoy), but why should we invest ourselves in one of the many pop-sportsters who’s gainsaying himself every few weeks to keep an audience? I don’t know about you guys, but where I’m from we have a name for people who argue with themselves in public. And we don’t pay them for it. In fact, we usually move to the other side of the street.

But you gotta sell papers, I guess. And to be fair, I’m just making Sentinel the example. Bianchi, to his credit, has segued his Sentinel fame into his very own web-only telecast folksily entitled Keep’n Score One on One, which is both a glaring example of what happens when two people can’t agree on a title and a PTI-style arguing match featuring Clocky the Clown, who comes out to hilariously alert the hosts when time is up. No, seriously.

Maybe that’s what Bianchi’s plan has been all along: television. After all, it’s clear to see these days that he, and countless other columnists around the country, are switching channels as frequently as we are.

Article written by C.M. Tomlin