A plea to Charles Barkley: Drop the celery, forget the comeback
and return to your previous goal of achieving corpulent bliss.
It's not that we wouldn't enjoy seeing you and Michael make a
playoff run next season, but if you forsake the studio for the
hardwood, you will deprive fans of the most fun to hit NBA
coverage since, well, since there has been NBA coverage.
By adding you to its Ernie Johnson-Kenny Smith team this season,
TNT has produced a free-flowing, often hilarious take on a league
that has seen better days, the sports equivalent of Blind Date.
When Turner Sports president Mark Lazarus hired you, he said he
wouldn't censor you; happily he has been true to his word. Every
night it has been Chuck Unplugged, with you telling us things
like, "Seattle is so bad they should get Gary Payton out of the
building and blow the rest up." Isaiah Rider? You correctly
pointed out, "He's an idiot." Rasheed Wallace? You didn't
hesitate to call him "a knucklehead who hurts his team." It's one
thing for a talking head to make such statements; it's another
for a surefire Hall of Famer (and friend of Wallace's) to do so,
especially when you might be lining up against Wallace next
Understand, without you behind the mike (and with no Jayson
Williams hiring on the horizon), the only guy left who tells it
like it is will be blustery Bill Walton. We get a revealing
contrast when Peter Vecsey joins Johnson and Smith on TBS. On
April 24, for instance, Johnson and Smith reverted to their corny
jocularity of last season, and Vecsey, a good reporter but not
much of an entertainer, failed to fill the Barkley void. No
wonder Vecsey has called you (in his New York Post column)
Charlatan Barkley and said of you, "Any career move that gets him
away from Turner Sports's audience gets my seal of approval."
Jealousy, it seems, can generate a whole lot of venom.
So Chuck, please don't go. We need the Fat Trak and your picks
for the Oscars, your one-liners and your on-set attempts to break
the Guinness record for sit-ups. More important, we need you to
remind us that this is still just a game, and games are meant to
May 6, 2001
By adding Barkley, TNT has produced a free-flowing, often
hilarious take on the NBA.