Having lost in short succession his television show, his Philadelphia Inquirer column and most recently, his ESPN radio show, Stephen A. Smith has, in the words of the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman, gone “from having a liquor cabinet fully stocked with premium spirits to one containing a can of beer and a jar of Cheese Wiz.”
Granted, the beer and cheese is a high-profile NBA gig (that’s what he is left with), but you get the point. To those familiar with the faculty at Bristol Clown Community College, this isn’t surprising. This is part of a pattern in which ESPN brass takes a particular talent and assigns him multiple marquee gigs. Once the cat signs on the dotted line he is totally under control of the Worldwide Leader.
The “star” usually fades – or burns out – and, for whatever reasons, loses most of his glitzy portfolio. Smith should talk to his ESPN colleague, the great Bill Walton, and compare notes. They have much in common.
When Big Red arrived on the Bristol campus in 2002, ESPN’s first season airing the NBA, the Clown Community faculty made him its go-to guy. Not only was he the network’s No. 1 NBA analyst, ESPN produced a reality series about him.
Walton became overexposed and burned out. By 2004, he was busted down to a second-tier NBA analyst. Walton, who has been out of action with medical issues, is now part of ESPN’s NBA studio operation and often works with Smith.
Whether Smith wanted out of radio or ESPN served the eviction notice, or the network did indeed want him to focus on TV, is not worthy of debate. What’s sad is that a strong, entertaining voice is leaving the local radio scene.Anyone intelligent enough to get past the screaming shtick found a mouth with a conscience. A guy with a different perspective on things. There have never been that many black sports talkies in New York, but when one with a style such as Smith’s arrives, impact follows. Smith could infuriate, but when he did, what he said was not contrived, not telegraphed, like the drivel of many talkies on the scene today. In a time where sports radio program directors covet voices who can deliver sexual innuendo, while reciting on-base percentages, Smith injected social commentary into the dialogue.