WASHINGTON — Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk teed off on the growing rash of “hot take artists” metastasizing throughout national sports programming.
The Big Lead published a collection of the “30 Most Powerful Talents in Sports Media Today,” which was headlined by Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, and ESPN’s Stephen A Smith, in the top three spots, respectively.
Florio, too, made the list — coming in at No. 11 — though he dismisses it as possessing “no objectivity” and prefers to ignore it and keep moving along.
“I tend to think that these hot take artists are frauds,” Florio told Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan. “That they don’t believe the things they say to fill that vacuum, because they’re in a very narrow range of things that they actually will bloviate about.”
“They don’t get into esoteric points,” he said. “When you are covering all sports, you don’t understand the nuances of any one of them. Now, [Smith] may understand basketball a heck of a lot more than the average all-sports person, but I take a very dim and cynical view, and skeptical view, of the Skip Baylesses, Stephen A. Smiths, Colin Cowherds, anybody who tries to pretend that they are experts on every single sport.”
“I know from how hard it is to maintain a level of expert knowledge and understanding of one sport, you can’t just slide in and out,” he continued. “And what you are going to give your audience is a cookie-cutter, least-common denominator. I was watching Colin Cowherd today because I wanted to see what other particular stuff he was going to say about Thursday Night Football, because he was pushing the argument yesterday it’s actually of better quality — not as good as Sunday, but actually better than Sunday.
“And one thing I realized about Colin Cowherd, and I don’t mean this as disrespect, but this is the genre. I have an issue with the whole genre, the more that I do what I do, and I do three hours of radio per day that’s focused only on football, he can take a point that he could make in 90 seconds and draw it out for nine minutes. And, okay, maybe it’s entertaining to some people, but I tend to say, ‘Okay, fine. You made your point. Now talk about something else.’
“But I don’t know how many arrows you can put in the quiver in any one day when you are on that platform dealing with the broad brush, every story that comes up in sports, touching on every team, every sport. You know, you’re in a niche market where it’s easier to focus on… it’s different sports, but it’s one team and you know that team, and you can talk about that team, and you can interview the players and the people who know that team.”
“When they’re painting with a broad brush nationwide on every sport, I think we end up playing the hits over and over again,” he said. “And if you pay any attention to these guys over any period of time, you realize they’re saying the same stuff on a regular basis. It’s just lather, rinse, repeat.”
“Basically, it’s like background noise,” Dukes pondered. “Like, just take it for what it is. If you find it entertaining, fine, but there’s no reason at all in the world to take it as gospel.”
Florio takes particular issue when national sports pundits project themselves as unquestioned authorities on specific topics.
“What bothers me is when they act like they are authorities on specific issues that you really can’t understand the way you need to if you don’t live it,” Florio said. “And I live it. That’s one of the reasons why I tell you I don’t stop and think about criticism, I don’t stop and think about praise, because it takes everything I can every single day of my life, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that.”
“It’s not that I’m mining coal, or my body is in any way in jeopardy of grievous injury,” he said. “It’s not a difficult job, but you do have to throw yourself into it, and you have to have a thirst for knowing and understanding everything you can about the business aspect, everything about the sport. I know how hard it is to understand it, and when these guys do drive-by takes like Stephen A. Smith…”
“He and I got into it last June,” he said. “He had some stupid take on something that was uninformed and I called him out for it. He didn’t like that. And Colin Cowherd’s ridiculous take that Thursday football is better than Sunday football, I call him out for it because it’s uninformed, but it’s filling his three hours in his universe where you don’t have the time. When you’re dealing with all the sports, you don’t have the time to understand any one issue the way that you need to.”
Bravo, Mr. Florio. Bravo.