As I carve out three hours of "me time" Saturday night to watch the Houston Rockets shimmy to the NBA Finals on TNT:
If television really is supposed to serve the "public interest" as our Founding Fathers intended (it's in the Bill of Rights, No. 3, I think), shouldn't ESPN and TNT be forced to show the NBA as one?
I love TNT's studio show, with Ernie, Shaq — who recently caught up with SportsMap — Chuck, and Kenny. Although, Kenny Smith is croutons, the Ringo Starr of that show (nice to have around, a nice piece, but a gravy-trainer who really wouldn’t be missed). When Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley get into it, it's genuinely hilarious. Ernie Johnson is the Mills Lane of studio shows, breaking up clinches and keeping Shaq and Charles punching.
But then it's jump ball, and the TNT game announcing team takes over: Marv Albert, Reggie Miller, and Chris Webber. Thud! Back when in New Jersey, Albert was the radio voice of the New York Knicks. Friends and I would sit in our cars in the White Castle parking lot, heater on, radio on, listening to Albert's play-by-play. He was incredible.
It was like taking the bus to Madison Square Garden — without window-shopping the hookers by the Port Authority Terminal, who’d lift their skirts to show us they were, in fact, women. (Looking back, not sure that proved anything. They were so nasty, proof of gender would have been far down on our list of concerns. Would have been...we didn't. We were "nice boys.")
Marv may have lost his fastball these days, though. The excitement isn't in his voice. And Game 5 was pretty amazing excitement. If Kenny Smith is the Ringo Starr on the studio show, then Reggie Miller and Chris Webber are Carson Daly on The Voice. Why are they even there? They add very little and next to nothing. I keep hearing Rockets fans say that Miller hates us.
(Yeah, I watch The Voice. I like the heat between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. It's like Shaq and Charles, minus 300 pounds, which may be putting it lightly.)
Over at ESPN, which is airing the Celtics-Cavs series, it's the opposite. The studio show is a dud — an F in chemistry between Michelle Beadle, Chauncey Billups, Jalen Rose, and Paul Pierce. They're so serious. But, really, who cares? It's like listening to people in line at Target talk about last night's game. Stop talking already, have your money ready and let’s move this thing.
ESPN's game announcers: excellent. Mike Breen is all business, our own Jeff Van Gundy is brilliantly funny and introspective. I used to eat breakfast a few tables over from him at the Edloe Deli. Mark Jackson is just plain nuts — "Mama, there goes that man again." I tried Googling, what does that even mean? Nobody knows for sure.
Back to the "public interest." If ESPN could hand over Breen, JVG, and Jackson to TNT — or Ernie, Shaq, Charles, and Kenny switch to ESPN — the public certainly would find that interesting.
I know, it's never going to happen, that ESPN and TNT would join forces, give us only their best and trim the fat (or keep it in the case of Shaq and Charles). Just like a half-gallon Neapolitan ice cream (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) is never going to get rid of strawberry and replace it with the rightful flavor, chocolate chip.
Are you TeamTNT or TeamESPN? Let Ken know in the comments, or on Twitter.