The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir joins the condemning chorus of Will Leitch, Bob Raissman and virtually everyone else who watched Steve Phillips pretend to be a big league GM on “SportsCenter” last week. And while said segments are impossible to defend, I prefer to dwell on the positive. For instance, ESPN has announced no plans for a 4th series of “Dream Job”.

There they were, some of ESPN™s best reporters Jeremy Schaap, Sal Paolantonio, Karl Ravech and Buster Olney and a studio full of extras eagerly standing and raising their hands to ask questions as if Babe Ruth had walked onto the podium and not Phillips, an ESPN analyst whom the Mets fired in mid-2003 as their general manager. There were even cameras flashing, for some type of phony visual verisimilitude, to convey the gravitas of these well-attended œevents, which were taped during a single day in a Bristol, Conn., studio.

Why didn™t someone ask an uninformed question, an inevitable event at virtually every news conference I™ve ever attended? And, as if many crucial areas on inquiry were left uncovered in Friday™s showing, the assembled horde shouted questions at Phillips as he left the podium, all seemingly channeling Sam Donaldson shouting questions at Ronald Reagan.

On Friday™s œSportsCenter, ESPN followed the final Phillips œnews conference with Dick Vitale (above) playing himself speaking to soldiers at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Whatever you think of the war in Iraq, Vitale™s admiration for the soldiers and his prayers for their safe future were real. The juxtaposition was jarring: counterfeit news conferences clashing with an over-the-top basketball analyst™s genuine and heartfelt emotions.

I happened to catch Vitale’s address to the troops and while I don’t question his sincerity one iota, he’s an intensely creepy individual — surely the men & women of the US Air Force have been through enough without Dickie V’s “don’t thank me, THANK YOU!” hystrionics.

Then again, not everyone has a subtle touch.