WHITT’S END: 2.25.22
Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …
*Maybe the Texas Rangers’ move across the street wasn’t such a good idea after all. COVID diluted the team properly christening Globe Life Field in 2020. Last season they trotted out a 102-loss team that was nine games under .500 in Arlington.
And now – barring a Major League Baseball labor agreement by Monday – one of the most anticipated season openers in franchise history will be canceled.
Five weeks from today the Rangers are supposed to host the New York Yankees in the second game of a four-game series that will commence with Opening Day on March 31 and unveil free-agent signings Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
*Been friends with Troy Aikman for 33 years, since the days ghost-writing his “Aikman’s Angle” weekly column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. This isn’t about our relationship, or his Hall-of-Fame football career. It isn’t even about his comical over-reliance as a TV analyst on the word “job.” (Do a shot every time he says it, dare ya.)
This, instead, is about the insanity of TV networks paying upwards of $20 million per season to analysts that call about 25 games per year and – for most of us – have little or no impact on whether we watch an NFL game. After 20 years at Fox, Aikman is rumored to be headed for ESPN and a spot in its Monday Night Football booth. His new contract’s salary should be in the neighborhood of what CBS awarded to co-former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo: 10 years, $180 million.
What. The. What?!
For what it’s worth, I believe NBC’s Cris Collinsworth is by far the best NFL analyst. But that’s insignificant, because I am also convinced they are all wholly overrated. Seriously, would you turn off a Cowboys-Rams season opener because you didn’t like the announcers? Or, for that matter, turn on a Texans-Jets game just because your favorite analyst was behind the mic?
(Truth be told, the only time an analyst entices me to watch a game I otherwise wouldn’t is when Bill Walton calls a late-night college basketball game from the Maui Invitational each November.)
Again, nothing against Troy. I like him. Erin Andrews likes him. Everybody likes him. Good for him and a career in the booth that’s suddenly rivaling what he did on the field. But here’s why ESPN breaking the bank for Aikman is irrational: If announcers were so dang important and ESPN’s booth needed a makeover, then how did MNF’s widely panned trio of Steve Levy-Brian Griese-Louis Riddick have a banner year in 2021?
ESPN’s prime-time games earned their best ratings since 2013. The simple – obvious – answer is that what attracts viewers isn’t the men calling the game, but rather the men playing it. Jason Witten was a train wreck in the booth and Emmitt Smith even worse on the sideline, but neither made me stop watching MNF.
Another reason the financial courtship of analysts doesn’t make sense: They don’t compete against each other.
When Aikman called a featured Sunday, holiday or playoff game on Fox, it’s not like he went up against Romo on CBS or Collinsworth on NBC. Have all three on the air calling games at the same time and then maybe their salaries would be justified. But in today’s NFL lineup they each get their time in the weekly spotlight, unencumbered by one another.
Look, I get it, your favorite analyst can enhance your enjoyment of a game. Or vice-versa. But, let’s say you love hamburgers, and on your street side-by-side-by-side is a Whataburger that’s open from 1-4 p.m., a Burger King from 4-7 and a McDonald's 7-10. If you’re starving at 5, you’re eating at Burger King. Whether Troy Aikman is working the counter or not.
*This week’s handshake-line melee at Michigan has tentacles reaching back 20+ years to the Dallas Mavericks. We all saw Wolverines’ head coach Juwan Howard take a swing at a Wisconsin assistant and get suspended for the remainder of the regular season. But few realize that one of the assistants that will step up in Howard’s absence in Ann Arbor is his former teammate on one of the Mavs most memorable teams.
Howard and Howard Eisley both played in Dallas’ iconic Game 5 playoff win over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City in May of 2001. That upset ended a 12-year drought of playoff success and launched – with a little help from a guy named Dirk Nowitzki – the golden era of Mavs hoops.
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Eisley is Michigan’s offensive coach and will take on a more prominent role (behind fill-in head coach Phil Martelli) while Howard learns his lesson.
Which is: If Howard doesn’t want an opposing coach calling a timeout in the waning seconds of a blowout, he shouldn’t be pressing the opposing coach’s walk-ons in the waning seconds of a blowout. You’d have thought Don Nelson would have taught him better in 2001.
*Went to a photo shoot this week and bumped into a reunion. Turns out that working with me on the same Cowboys “project” is none other than my old 105.3 The Fan radio partner, Greg Williams. We’d talked on the phone a couple times in recent years, but it was the first time I’d seen him face-to-face since the day we were fired almost eight years ago.
Some things never change: Greggo was bitchin’ about his flip phone going kaput because AT&T killed 3G technology, and betting me that Romo winds up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Oh yeah, and the mustache.
*Former Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee has made headlines all season by interviewing Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Leave it to Michael Irvin to turn the tables. On this week's The Michael Irvin Podcast, the former Cowboy has McAfee as his guest, touching on topics from Rodgers' future, Carson Wentz's dead end and their agreement that Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is indeed a future Hall of Famer.
*Again, remind me how flawed Ron Washington isn’t in the Rangers Hall of Fame, but flawed Josh Hamilton is? The both – warts and all – played huge roles in getting the Rangers to consecutive World Series 2010-11. Shameful.
*Despite warnings and promises of dire consequences and, well common decency, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine Thursday. What kind of American could possibly support a dictator Hell-bent on overthrowing Democracy while shrugging off civilian casualties as collateral damage? While Russia’s military aggression sends American stocks plummeting and gas prices rising, who could possibly stoop so low to label Putin “genius”, “wonderful” and “savvy”? This guy, that’s who, better known as the former President of the United States.
*Some of us were holding out hope the Mavs were going to get a playoff-push boost by signing long-time Luka Doncic pal Goran Dragic. Air ball.
*When I moved into my new place a year ago I was regularly awakened by songbirds, serenaded by uplifting Cardinals, Doves and such. Now, they’ve been drowned out and/or run off by Grackles. These harsh crowers start their annoying, grating calls at 5 a.m. Is it illegal to … never mind.
*Cowboys have been looking for a playmaking safety since, oh … Darren Woodson? Here we go again. The three safeties who played the most snaps in 2021 – Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker – are all free agents. Maybe they’ll look to the Jets for help?
*Our supply chain breakdown has a grim side-effect in DFW as police report a 31-percent uptick in auto theft early in 2022. The culprit? A shortage of software chips that make stolen cars easier to track. The No. 1 targeted vehicles: 2016-18 GMC pickups.
*Wait, this survey of NBA fans says the Mavs have the 13th-worst fans for … being too loud? Stranger, it ranks Jason Kidd No. 1 as the worst-behaved coach in the league. I know he has soda-stained blemishes in the past, but this year he’s been a relative prince.
*If you go to the gym but drive around in circles searching for a parking spot closer to the front door, just stay home.
*Forget on-the-court stuff, it was a monumental All-Star Weekend for the Mavs. When LeBron James compares Luka to himself and when Giannis Antetokounmpo cherishes being on stage with Dirk more than Michael Jordan, it says your franchise must be doing something right.
*I kinda wanna go on the Dark Web to see what’s what. But I don’t dare, out of fear I’ll never come back.
*This Weekend? Let’s head to Austin to hang out with friends new, and old. As always, don’t be a stranger.