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Ten Worst Moments in Sports TV History

And by Worst, Sometimes We Mean Best

New Nike NFL Jerseys Now Available!A lawyer friend once told me that in court you never ask a question when you can’t predict the answer. Because when your case is on the line, you can’t afford to be surprised by someone on the stand.

In broadcast journalism it is quite the opposite.

Like most industries, there are planning meetings, executive committees, strategy sessions, brainstorming lunches and a plethora of other time-wasting endeavors. But the truth is, most decisions are made on the fly and even concepts that have had months of planning often end up being brutal once executed.

Today we celebrate the ten worst moments in the history of sports television, because it’s the mistakes that help make sports on TV the unpredictable adventure we all glue ourselves to.

10: “Scooter” the Animated Baseball on Fox Sports (2004-2006)scooter animated baseball graphics on fox sports mlb

Fox Sports Chairman David Hill is regarded as a genius in broadcasting circles, heralded for his fearless adoption of technology and innovation, but I’ll never forgive him for “Scooter” the animated baseball.

In an attempt to appeal to a younger generation of fans, play-by-play man Joe Buck would toss to “Scooter” throughout the broadcast to help explain a curve ball or a two-seam fastball (Buck was spotted off-camera feverishly taking notes).

They were about as effective of grabbing a younger demographic as Herman Cain was explaining the situation in Libya.

9: Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction (2004)

The real tragedy of the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction at Super Bowl XXXVIII is the host of geriatric bands that the NFL has trotted out ever since. Now the odds of Katy Perry having a wardrobe malfunction are about as slim as Tim Tebow skipping church next Sunday.

8: Jimmy “The Greek” opines on Black athletes (1988)jimmy the greek nfl on cbs

For 12 years Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was a major part of The NFL Today pre-game show on CBS. He was a former Las Vegas bookie transformed into a prognosticator fans swore by. Until it all came crashing down after this comment to WRC-TV reporter Ed Hotaling:

“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade’n the big… the owner… the slave owner would, would, would, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have ah, ah big, ah big, ah big black kid see…”

Needless to say CBS and “The Greek” parted ways. Even Tina Fey couldn’t make this sound funny.

7: Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann’s leg (1985)

This doesn’t exactly fit the criteria, but any time three million people throw up at the same time and Skip Bayless isn’t involved, it has to go down as one of the worst moments in Sports TV history.

6: Carl Lewis Sings the National Anthem (1993)

At least he got all of the words right.

5: Joe Namath Hitting on Suzy Kolber During Monday Night Football (2003)

I really wish I could have been inside Joe Namath’s head during this interview with Sports TV Jobs favorite Suzy Kolber. He’s like a drunken seventeen-year-old kid that thinks their beer breath is undetectable.

In his head: “Some of my best work has been piss drunk, this is nothing”

Out loud: “I believe anything… that anyone else has watched… [pause]…Chad play, has impresses me the same thing impressed them”

In his head: “Uh oh”

Out loud: “I want to kiss you. I couldn’t care less about the Jets struggling.”

In his head: “I think that went well, should I slip her my room key?”

4: Rush Limbaugh on ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown (2003)

Certain things just don’t pass the common sense test.

A sitcom based on Tony Kornheiser’s life? Rocky V? A political talk show host with a penchant for painkillers on the set of Sunday NFL countdown?

In fairness, ESPN had 10% higher ratings after bringing Rush Limbaugh and Michael Irvin on set in 2003, but c’mon man this was destined to fail. It took until just week four for Rush to put his foot in his mouth, lambasting the sports media in a racially-toned rant towards then Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb.

His career on ESPN lasted about as long as Michael Douglas does when he’s not hopped up on Cialis.

3: Heidi game (1968)

If you ever hear the words “We interrupt this football game to bring you Justin Bieber on Ice” you’ll know exactly how Raiders and Jets fans felt back in 1968.

2: Jim Gray’s interview of Pete Rose at the MLB All-Century team announcement (1999)

Journalism 101: You are not the story. Jim Gray must have been too busy staring at a picture of himself to make it to that class.

Gray had every right to ask a question or two about Pete Rose’s past indiscretions that resulted in his ban…but ten questions? Ten questions, each becoming more antagonistic than the last. Unnecessary. Unprofessional.

Jim Gray wanted to be the story, to be the tough guy interviewer and a defender of baseballs traditions. Sorry Jim, you came across about as mature as a 13-year-old who had their Nintendo DS taken away.

1: “The Decision” (2010)

“The Decision” is one of the most polarizing hours of television in recent broadcasting history. Some defend ESPN by touting its 7.3 ratings (for perspective, the Fiesta Bowl between Oklahoma State and Stanford got an 8.4). While others accuse them of “checkbook journalism”, broadcasting an hour long-charade with only 30 seconds of value, just to make as much money as possible.

At least a veteran Sports Journalist was at the helm ready to probe deep into the psyche of “The King”:

Jim Gray: “Are you still a nail biter?

King James: “I have a little bit. Not of late.”

Lets face it, this was the most self-indulgent, gluttonous money grab since Celebrity Apprentice.

I think Will Leitch’s take in New York Magazine sums it up perfectly:

‘It felt like everyone involved — LeBron, ESPN, Bing, the University of Phoenix, Stuart Scott, Jim freaking Gray — treated the millions of people watching like stupid, mindless consumers, empty lemmings ready to follow Sport into the abyss. Here, here are the Boys & Girls Club props. Here, here is your search engine. Here, here is your online college, Here, here is your Athletic Hero. Eat. Eat. Consume. You like it. You love it. You’ll always come back for more.”

"Jim freaking Gray" … couldn’t have said it better myself.

Honorable Mentions:

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