Most people in the world don’t have to have an opinion, well-informed or no, about the sports columnists at CBS Sports. I suppose that I don’t really have to have an opinion myself, although the fact that CBS is one of my regular visits when I’m doing The WSJ Daily Fix Thing means that I am at least familiar with who those columnists are. So this gives me a really uncool edge on everyone — and it’s probably more or less everyone — who can be all, “Um, I know there’s definitely Shannon Sharpe. Or Sterling Sharpe. And also I think Hugh Downs and Sherman Alexie? And is Summer Sanders still doing that blog?” It’s one I would trade to you for pretty much anything. But it does enable me to have opinions on things that are transparently unimportant and none too interesting. To wit:
So CBS Sports has a bunch of columnists, more or less all of whom are at the very least Fix-usable and three of which — the very great Ray Ratto and the very better-than-serviceable Dennis Dodd and Gary Parrish — are pretty good. All of them have really terrible column photos, though: Parrish’s gel-and-loosened-tie look is uncomfortably Frat Semi-Formal, Dodd looks like Mitch Pileggi doing a SlimFast ad and Ratto looks like a skeptical walrus. Again, it takes nothing away from any of them, and Ratto — it bears mentioning again — is one of the most consistently wry and wise and overall excellent writers out there who types about sports. But the picture atop Gregg Doyel’s column is actually exactly right, and maybe even pretty flattering considering Doyel’s past mohawk photos. But the sour, puckered-up face Doyel is making in his column photo — it’s atop this column, which I’m going to write about in a moment — is just so right for him. It’s a picture of someone losing his train of thought mid-scold; it’s a photo of the worst dad at a Little League game suddenly realizing that he has to go to the bathroom, number two, and pronto. It’s pretty representative of Doyel’s writing, too.
(It’s worth mentioning, parenthetically, that Doyel may not actually be the worst columnist at CBS Sports. The hilariously, relentlessly anodyne Mike Freeman is just as predictable, but his dull, dutiful columns — here’s one about how the Mariners’ knowing acquisition of rape-y former Rangers prospect Josh Lueke represents baseball’s declining commitment to moral players — aren’t nearly as gripping as Doyel’s equally dull but much more in-your-face troll bait. Also, Freeman loses points for forgetting about legendary Raw Talent Ambiorix Burgos. And one should never forget about Ambiorix Burgos, if only because he’s presumably going to get out of jail someday)
Anyway, Doyel’s an ulcer. I mean, I don’t know what he’s like in real life, but given how eager he is portray himself in columns as a guy who enjoys screaming disgustedly at his television — see here — it would seem unkind not to take him at his word. Of course, taking Doyel at his word would mean accepting his own self-assessment as a fearless truth-speaker, forever willing to take big names to task in near-unreadable columns that make for easy SEO-stack headlines. And it would mean ignoring the fact that he’s obviously working the WWF Heel angle pretty hard — drawing fire, drawing comments, hopefully drawing links and hits and ad-views or whatever. He shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
And yet, while I sense he gets his own Heelery at a level that’s probably not entirely unconscious, it’s occasionally amazing to see how far he will go for a sell. The premise of the piece itself is straight comment-and-link-bait all by itself — Doyel is “asking” Boise State to lose to Virginia Tech tonight. But even knowing that he’s playing up the whole Gregg Doyel thing as per usual in the grafs I’m about to quote, even knowing that he’s fishing for “Doyel UR retard!!1!!” comments on his piece — even knowing that, isn’t this a bit much?
It’s nothing personal. Honest. I don’t dislike Boise State or Boise State coach Chris Petersen, even if some of you in Idaho might recall a brief confrontation I had with Petersen last year on a conference call. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, congratulations: There’s another conspiracy for you. In addition to the SEC connection here at CBS — plus I attended the University of Florida! — Petersen and I butted heads, briefly, on a phone call last year … so this year I’m getting even by rooting against the Broncos.
Problem with that theory is, I have notoriously bad phone etiquette. I also butted heads once on a phone call with Mike Krzyzewski. So the conspiracy theory falls apart there, because Krzyzewski coaches Duke and Duke beat Butler for the 2010 national basketball title and Boise State has been called the 2010 football season’s equivalent to Butler, and since I once butted heads with Coach K that means I should, um … now I’m confused.
So how about this. How about we just stick with the facts here? And the fact is this: If Boise State beats Virginia Tech, the Broncos almost certainly will play for the national championship this season, and that’s going to kill me.
See anything there you don’t like or find annoying? Say it in the comments, please. And on your blog, and especially on, like, Huffington Post and Bleacher Report, please. If Doyel is in earnest, he’s got to be a pretty miserable guy. If he’s not, then it seems like he’s wasting what could be a pretty cool gig on what must be an exhausting and unsatisfying bit of play-acting. I’m starting to think that picture might be a candid.